The Digital Advantage: Analog Vs. Digital Hearing Aids
You’ve probably been told that today’s hearing aids are “not your grandfather’s hearing aids,” or that hearing aid technology is light-years ahead of where it used to be, even as recently as 5 to 10 years ago. But what makes modern technology so much better? And what exactly can modern-day hearing aids accomplish that couldn’t be achieved in the past?
The short answer is, like the majority of consumer electronics, hearing aids have benefited significantly from the digital revolution. Hearing aids have transform into miniaturized computers, with all of the programming adaptability you would expect to see from a modern computer.
But before hearing aids became digital, they were analog. Let’s see if we can determine why the move from analog to digital was such an advancement.
Digital vs analog hearing aids
At the most basic level, all hearing aids do the job the same way. Each hearing aid comprises a microphone, amplifier, speaker, and battery. The microphone detects sound in the environment, the amplifier strengthens the signal, and the speaker delivers the louder sound to your ear.
Fundamentally, it’s not very sophisticated. Where is does get complicated, though, is in the specifics of how the hearing aids process sound, which digital hearing aids accomplish much differently than their analog counterparts.
Analog hearing aids process sound in a relatively straightforward manner. In three basic steps, sound is recognized by the microphone, amplified, and sent to the ear through the speaker. That is… ALL sound is made to be louder, including background noise and the sound frequencies you can already hear well. Put differently, analog hearing aids amplify even the sounds you don’t want to hear — think of the scratching sound you hear from an analog recording on a vinyl record.
Digital hearing aids, alternatively, apply a fourth step to the processing of sound: transformation of sound waves to digital information. Sound by itself is an analog signal, but instead of merely making this analog signal louder, digital hearing aids first convert the sound into digital form (saved as 0s and 1s) that can then be changed. Digital hearing aids, therefore, can CHANGE the sound before amplification by changing the information stored as a series of 0s and 1s.
If this seems like we’re talking about a computer, we are. Digital hearing aids are in essence miniature computers that run one specific program that manipulates and improves the quality of sound.
Advantages of digital hearing aids
Nearly all modern hearing aids are digital, and for good reason. Seeing as analog hearing aids can only amplify inbound sound, and cannot alter it, analog hearing aids very often will amplify distracting background noise, making it difficult to hear in noisy environments and nearly impossible to talk on the phone.
Digital hearing aids, on the other hand, have the versatility to amplify specific sound frequencies. When sound is converted into a digital signal, the computer chip can detect, mark, and store specific frequencies. For example, the higher frequency speech sounds can be classified and stored separately from the lower frequency background noise. A hearing specialist can then program the computer chip to amplify only the high frequency speech sounds while suppressing the background noise — making it effortless to follow conversations even in noisy locations.
Here are some of the other advantages of digital hearing aids:
- Miniaturized computer technology means smaller, more discreet hearing aids, with some models that fit completely in the ear canal, making them nearly invisible.
- Digital hearing aids tend to have more eye-catching designs and colors.
- Digital hearing aids can be programmed by a hearing specialist to process sound in various ways based on the location. By switching settings, users can attain ideal hearing for different situations, from a silent room to a noisy restaurant to speaking on the phone.
- Digital hearing aids can be fine-tuned for each patient. Each person hears different sound frequencies at different decibel levels. Digital hearing aids permit the hearing specialist to modify amplification for each sound frequency based on the characteristics of each person’s distinctive hearing loss.
Try digital hearing aids out for yourself
Reading about digital hearing aids is one thing, trying them out is another. But remember, to get the most out of any pair of hearing aids, you need both the technology and the programming mastery from an experienced, licensed hearing specialist.
And that’s where we come in. We’ve programmed and fine-tuned countless hearing aids for individuals with all types of hearing loss, and are more than happy to do the same for you. Give us a call and experience the digital advantage for yourself!