Virtually all hearing aids dispensed in the U.S. (95%) are digital. Digital sound processing allows sound waves to be converted into a digital signal that can then be adjusted individually for comfort and benefit. The old analog technology allowed for general adjustments where digital technology allows for more individualized fine-tune adjustments. Digital technology has allowed hearing aids to add features that assist in better hearing, more comfortable use and less annoying side effects. The most popular of these features include:
- Dual microphones: Having multiple microphones on the hearing aids allow for a more natural sound, better hearing in noise and less annoying background noise overwhelming the user.
- Open technology: Open hearing aids keeps the ear canal unobstructed allowing for a more natural sound quality. It helps to eliminate the “echo” or “hollow” sound some old style hearing aids created.
- Feedback Management: The majority of hearing aids use a feedback management system that controls and cancels feedback before it occurs and is noticeable. This means no annoying whistling when hugging loved ones
- Digital hearing aids can be fine-tuned using computer software to meet individualized needs.
- Wireless technology allows digital hearing aids to connect with cellphones, televisions computers, MP3 players for direct sound into the hearing aid and maximum hearing ability.
Hearing Aid Styles
Invisible-in-the-canal (IIC) & Completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids: The smallest of the hearing aid styles. IIC and CIC devices are cosmetically appealing, as they are seated completely in the ear canal with a custom made ear piece. Often times, these devices do offer the highest degree of technology due to the reduced size and position in the ear. IIC and CIC devices can only have one microphone and so many of multiple program advantages are lost.
In-the-Canal style hearing aids (ITC): ITC devices are still small devices that sit in the ear canal and opening of the ear. These devices are larger than CIC devices so enable multiple microphones and multiple programs if desired. The addition of multiple programs allows for full use of premium technology.
In-the-Ear style hearing aids (ITE): ITE devices are larger and tend to fit in the entire “bowl” area of the ear. These devices are also custom made for each individual, so fit and comfort is optimal. Since these devices tend to be a bit larger, they are easier to manipulate and can have both a program button and a volume control wheel. This is appealing to many users, and not necessary to others.
Conventional Behind-the-Ear style hearing aids (BTE): BTE devices have all the processing components and microphones are housed within the casing that fits behind the ear. Sounds enter the instrument, are amplified, and travel through a tube that is then connected to the ear canal by a traditional earmold, or small dome that sits in the ear canal. BTEs are durable, easy to handle and maintain, and can be easily adapted for use with the wide variety of assistive listening devices.
Open-Fit and Receiver In the Canal Style (RIC): RIC devices are similar to conventional BTE devices but are much smaller and discreet. The receiver portion of the device is not housed in the casing, but is housed at the end of a tube that sits in the ear canal. This makes for a much more discreet device with excellent sound quality. The devices tend to be light and airy, but can be appropriate for almost any degree of hearing loss.
Wireless Technology: New hearing aid technology allows hearing aids to connect directly to televisions, cellphones, personal listening devices and more. This technology allows for more versatility, improved hearing experiences and ease of use. Some devices can even utilize smartphones as remote controls.