Hearing Aids: Revolutionary Technology Has Arrived

Significant changes in hearing aid technology is offering better quality sound, and providing a new universe of options for millions of people suffering from hearing impairment – especially with new developments in both analog and digital hearing technology, as well as totally new approaches, such as open-ear fitting devices which leave the ear canal open, and Bluetooth-compatible hearing aid components.

Hearing aid components are pretty much the same, regardless of the type of hearing devices used by patients. Every hearing aid has a microphone, an amplifier, a speaker, and a battery.

Analog technology has long been the industry standard for hearing aid construction. Analog technology essentially reproduces sound, much like a photocopier reproduces documents. As with a photocopy, the quality is much less detailed than the original. What’s delivered to the patient’s ear is all of the sound picked up by the microphone. In the past, because of older microphone construction, speech was frequently “lost” to background noise. Nowadays, much of that problem has been eliminated because the hearing aids can be programmed for specific environments, e.g. a loud stadium versus a quiet library, and then manually adjusted.

The other advances in hearing aid technology have been developed around digital sound reproduction. In a digital hearing aid, acoustics are converted into 1’s and 0’s, processed in the hearing aid and converted into an analog sound. Because the sound is digital, it can be reproduced without the degradation that can occur in analog systems.

Over the past few years, digital hearing aid technology has flourished, primarily because these devices offer more enhancements which, in turn, allow patients to customize their hearing aids to fit their particular needs and lifestyles. Some of the enhancements offered by digital hearing technology include feedback reduction, programming flexibility, directional microphones to better isolate sounds in the environment, as well as self-adjusting volume.

Open ear technology is one of the latest advances in hearing aid devices. Older styles of hearing aid require that the hearing device involves both the ear canal and outer ear. It was discovered that this design actually blocks some low- frequency sound. In the open ear style, the hearing aid apparatus is placed behind the ear with only a thin tube passing into the ear which, in turn, improves the range of hearing for the patient.

Yet another cutting-edge advance in hearing aid technology is in new designs which allow for Bluetooth integration. By wearing a small Ipod-sized gateway device around the neck, patients can hear their TVs, computers, and phones with much improved clarity.

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