DIGITAL HEARING INSTRUMENTS
The term digital is used for most of today’s current technology, from televisions to cell phones. Hearing instruments today are also digital, meaning incoming sound is converted into a series of numbers, which is then processed using mathematical equations. Digital processing enables very complex manipulation of sound, for example, to separate speech from noise.
The digital technology within hearing aids also allows sound to be separated into different frequency regions and amplified selectively, depending on the hearing instrument wearer’s hearing loss. The processing within hearing instruments also enables different amounts of amplification for soft, moderate, and loud sounds, so sounds are audible, but loud sounds are not uncomfortable or over amplified. Digital processing enables a natural sound with minimal distortion, resulting in excellent overall sound quality.
Digital hearing instruments are programmable, meaning the settings can be precisely fine-tuned and special features can be adjusted for each wearer by a hearing aid professional using special hearing aid software. Hearing instruments are programmed and customized for both the hearing loss and the preferences of the person who wears them.
In addition to basic digital hearing instrument technology, many hearing instrument manufacturers offer several levels of advanced features made possible by digital processing technology. Digital hearing instruments continue to advance and have become much more automatic. They are also equipped with sophisticated features for people who regularly encounter dynamic listening situations. Examples of some of these advanced features, what they do and how they benefit the hearing instrument wearer are:
- Directional Microphones – Applies preference to sounds in front of the wearer and reduced sound from behind the wearer. This technology has been proven in studies to improve speech understanding in background noise.
- Noise Reduction – Determines if signal contains unwanted background noise and reduced level of background noise if present. Background noise is less intrusive, and hearing aid wearer’s listening comfort is improved in noisy situations.
- Feedback Management – Reduces or eliminates whistling that can often occur with hearing instrument use. Hearing instrument wearer’s comfort is improved from annoying whistling.
- Wind Noise Reduction – Reduces the noise created from wind blowing across the hearing instrument’s microphone(s). Designed to improve comfort for persons who spend a lot of time outdoors.
- Data Logging/Learning – The ability of the hearing instrument to track and learn the hearing instrument wearer’s preferences in various listening environments. This information can assist the hearing professional in making future programming adjustments and allows the hearing instrument to adapt to the wearer’s preferences.
- Bluetooth Interface – Establishes a wireless connection between hearing instruments and Bluetooth compatible devices. This is designed to improve wearer convenience and use with devices such as cell phones, Mp3 players, computers, etc.