Hearing aids are a useful method for managing hearing loss and are constantly improving. Each technological innovation delivers more features and functions in a smaller space. One such innovation is the directional microphone. This device allows its users to have a more natural listening experience, making it a popular addition to many modern hearing aids.
The traditional standard for hearing aids was the omnidirectional microphone. When this style of microphone is in use, sound is amplified from all directions in equal measure. When used in a quiet setting (such as in the home), an omnidirectional microphone works quite well, but it is not as effective in noisy environments. Directional microphones make up for this by focusing on sounds that come from in front of the wearer. Users can focus more clearly on what the people in front of them are saying, rather than being distracted by background noise.
Because both types of microphones have their own advantages, many hearing aid designers will incorporate both into their devices. How you use these microphones varies from device to device. In some cases users can manually switch back and forth between microphones, usually through a small switch. Other hearing aids can automatically determine which method is most effective and switch itself to the optimum microphone.
A third type of hearing aid microphone is the adaptive directional microphone. This device offers variation in the direction of amplification, automatically picking up on speech signals and focusing in on the direction they are coming from. If the wearer is in an environment where many people are speaking, adaptive microphones can be troublesome, but they are usually accompanied by a switch that allows the user to access a “forward only” listening mode.
Hearing aids designed for children sometimes utilize directional microphones, but caution is needed when using these devices. Because kids develop much of their language skills from listening to the people around them, a directional microphone may cause them to miss out on an important developmental experience. It may also reduce a child’s ability to hear traffic while playing. Parents should be sure that their child’s directional microphone is only turned on in appropriate situations.
The advantages of the directional microphone outweigh its flaws, allowing it to dramatically increase its wearer’s ability to hear.