The term DIGITAL is used so often today, it can be confusing. When the term “digital” is used while referring to hearing aids, it generally means the hearing aid is 100% digital.
In other words, the hearing aid is indeed a “complete computer”. 100% digital hearing aids have been commercially available since 1996 and are wonders of modern technology. 100% digital hearing aids can process sound using incredibly fast speeds such as 100 to 200 million calculations per second.
Interestingly, most 100% digital hearing aids have analog components, such as the microphone and the receiver. 100% digital hearing aids transform analog information into a digital signal and process the sound to maximize the speech information you want to hear, while minimizing the amplification of sounds you do not want to hear.
Digital technology is tremendous and it allows the audiologist maximal control over the sound quality and loudness of the hearing aid. Importantly, digital technology allows the audiologist to tailor or customize the sound of your hearing aids to what you need and want to hear. In summary, if you want the best technology– get 100% digital hearing aids.
There are several types of hearing aids. Each type offers different advantages, depending on its design, levels of amplification, and size. Before purchasing any hearing aid, ask whether it has a warranty that will allow you to try it out. Most manufacturers allow a 30- to 60-day trial period during which aids can be returned for a refund.
There are four basic styles of hearing aids for people with sensory neural hearing loss:
Those are hearing aids fit completely in the outer ear and are used for mild to severe hearing loss. The case, which holds the components, is made of hard plastic. ITE aids can accommodate added technical mechanisms such as a telecoil, a small magnetic coil contained in the hearing aid that improves sound transmission during telephone calls. ITE aids can be damaged by earwax and ear drainage, and their small size can cause adjustment problems and feedback. They are not usually worn by children because the casings need to be replaced as the ear grows.
They are worn behind the ear and are connected to a plastic ear mold that fits inside the outer ear. The components are held in a case behind the ear. Sound travels through the ear mold into the ear. BTE aids are used by people of all ages for mild to profound hearing loss. Poorly fitting BTE ear molds may cause feedback, a whistle sound caused by the fit of the hearing aid or by buildup of earwax or fluid.
They fit into the ear canal and are available in two sizes:
The In-the-Canal (ITC):
It is hearing aid customized to fit the size and shape of the ear canal and is used for mild or moderately severe hearing loss.
A Completely-in-Canal (CIC):
It is hearing aid largely concealed in the ear canal and is used for mild to moderately severe hearing loss. Because of their small size, canal aids may be difficult for the user to adjust and remove, and may not be able to hold additional devices, such as a telecoil. Canal aids can also be damaged by earwax and ear drainage. They are not typically recommended for children.
Hearing Aid Technology
The inside mechanisms of hearing aids vary among devices, even if they are the same style. Three types of circuitry, or electronics, are used:
The audiologist determines the volume and other specifications you need in your hearing aid, and then a laboratory builds the aid to meet those specifications. The audiologist retains some flexibility to make adjustments. This type of circuitry is generally the least expensive.
The audiologist programs the hearing aid with a computer and can adjust the sound quality and response time on an individual basis. Digital hearing aids use a microphone, receiver, battery, and computer chip. Digital circuitry provides the most flexibility for the audiologist to make adjustments for the hearing aid. Digital circuitry can be used in all types of hearing aids and is typically the most expensive.