A Hearing Aid is an electronic device to help the Hard of Hearing to hear better, though the basic function or utility of the Hearing Aid remains the same, thanks to the advancing Hearing Aid technology we now have access to digital Hearing Aid technology offering us a lot more features than the earlier analog Hearing Aids. Manufacturers are offering various technology levels and plenty of features. Selecting the ones we actually need requires understanding of the features. We explain below the 6 Hearing Aid features which will help increase clarity of sound and user comfort.
Hearing Aids are prescribed by the Audiologist depending on the power requirement and the lifestyle of the person.
Must Have Hearing Aid Features in Digital Hearing Aids
Each feature has been explained for better understanding. It will help you to understand what to expect from your Hearing Aid
1. Multi Channel Hearing Aids
Digital Hearing Aids have the option of multiple channels. The frequency spectrum or the listening range is divided into channels, each channel processes the speech/sound signal as per the requirement.
Manufacturers offer Digital Hearing Aids from 2 channel to 24 channels. Since Hearing Aid technology is advancing rapidly, the number of processing channels will keep on increasing.
How Do Multichannel Digital Hearing Aids Help Me?
Though 2 channels are also sufficient, a basic Digital Hearing aid with 4 to 6 Channels or bands will perform better. A Higher number of channels gives the Audiologist better control to reduce background noise and fine tune for better the performance.
2. Digital Noise Reduction Hearing Aid Feature
Background Noise is one of the most common reason for rejection of Hearing Aid by the user. The Hearing aid microphone will pick up and amplify the speech as well as the surrounding noise, amplified noise irritates the user and masks the speech making it difficult to understand.
How Do Noise Cancelling Hearing Aids Help Me?
Digital Hearing Aids have a small microprocessor which is programmed to detect background noise and reduce it without affecting the Speech signal. Reduction of noise results in clearer speech for the user. This feature is very important and helps a lot in noisy situations like restaurants and public places.
3. Digital Feedback Reduction Hearing Aid Feature
Feedback is the squealing or high pitched sound a Hearing aid emits. All of us are aware of this sharp sound we sometime hear during live performances. It is caused by the microphone picking up the amplified sound given out by the speaker. Similarly, in a hearing aid, the amplified speech signal is again picked up by the microphone and re-amplified forming a continuous loop known as the feedback loop.
How Does Feedback Reduction in Digital Hearing Aids Help Me?
In a hearing aid, the microphone and the receiver (speaker) are quite close to each other, if the fitting of the receiver in the ear is not perfect the amplified sound leaks out and is picked up by the microphone and is sent to the amplifier for re-amplification. This results in a squealing sound. This squealing sound is louder than the speech signal so the Hearing Aid user is unable to hear any speech. The feedback reduction feature reduces the feedback or squealing noise.
4. Multiprogram Hearing Aid Feature
A digital Hearing aid is programmed or set as per the user’s Audiogram (Hearing Loss pattern), the Audiologist also has the facility of situation setting. A Digital Hearing Aid should have a minimum of 3 Hearing Programs, more Hearing Programs are an advantage.
How Does Multiprogram Hearing Aid Feature Help Me?
A multiprogram Digital Hearing Aid can be pre-set for different situations or locations. Generally, program 1 is set for Home settings where the background noise is less. Program 2 is set for outdoors where the noise level is high, the noise reduction by the Digital microprocessor is increased. Program 3 is generally kept for using the Telephone mode.
Advanced Digital Hearing Aids having more than 3 Program settings which can be pre-set for Restaurants, cars etc. The user has to change the program as per the location. Premium hearing Aids can detect the situation and change the settings without the user having to do that.
5. Directional Microphones In Hearing Aids
Digital Hearing Aids can have more than one microphone. The advantage of multiple microphones is that the Hearing aid user can also pick up speech if someone is speaking from behind.
How Does Directional Microphone Hearing Aid Help Me?
Earlier Digital Hearing Aids had only one microphone which was front facing, speech signals from the back were not picked up very well. Current Digital Hearing Aids have a front facing or on top and another rear-facing microphone. Depending on the source of sound the microprocessor in the Digital Hearing Aid decides which microphone signal has to be amplified more so the user does not miss out anything. This feature is very beneficial for people in the office environment.
6. Alerts or Warning Tone in Hearing Aids
A Digital hearing aid can give alerts in the form of beeps or in the form of spoken language, some Digital Hearing Aids also have multiple language features in which a voice in the selected language alerts the user.
How Do Alerts in Digital Hearing Aids Help Me?
An alert or warning feature in a Digital Hearing Aid is very helpful. Some basic Digital Hearing Aids give out a beep when the battery is about to get over or a program is changed.
In advanced Digital Hearing Aids, a pleasant voice in the desired language will give precise Voice alert to warn about low battery and Program setting. The user changes the program without removing the hearing aid, they locate the switch with their finger while the hearing aid is in the ear and press the program change button. Basic hearing Aids will give out a beep whereas in an advanced Digital Hearing Aids a voice will inform the program number.
Advancing Digital technology offers better features for better sound quality and ease of use. Advanced features like Bluetooth connectivity, rechargeable batteries, wireless connectivity, remote control and other features will be discussed in the next article.