Hearing aids have three basic parts: a microphone, an amplifier/processor, and a receiver. When we talk about analog versus digital hearing aids, we’re really talking about the amplifier/processor — the part that processes the sounds sent by the microphone and makes them louder.
Analog hearing aids were the only option until the late 1980s, when digital models were introduced. Now, digital hearing aids are the most popular choice, dominating the market, but analog devices are still available and preferred by some users for a number of reasons.
Analog hearing aids have an amplifier which does just that — amplifies and outputs the sounds at a louder volume. These hearing aids are unable to isolate certain sounds from background noise, so all sounds are amplified equally. That said, they can be programmed with different environment settings that only amplify certain frequencies, but all sounds in that frequency range will still be amplified equally.
Because the sound is not digitally processed, some people feel that analog hearing aids provide a warmer, more natural sound than digital hearing aids. They’re often preferred by audiophiles and musicians because they’re better for listening to music. Analog hearing aids also tend to have a longer battery life and are less expensive than their digital counterpart.
Digital hearing aids feature a processor, which is more advanced than the amplifier you’d find in an analog hearing aid. The processor is basically a tiny computer inside the device that takes the sounds received from the microphone and converts them to digital signals. These signals can then be refined to perform a variety of functions and allows for more features in your hearing aid.
The biggest advantage of a digital hearing aid is its ability to filter noise. The digital amplifier constantly works to distinguish speech from irrelevant and distracting background noise. This feature makes it much easier to hear in challenging environments so you’re able to focus on the conversation.
Hearing aids with directional microphones take this one step further and focus on amplifying the sounds directly in front of you. Digital hearing aids with directional microphones are extremely helpful in noisy places like restaurants, large church services, or outings with friends. Even more advanced are automatic directional microphones which automatically adjust the noise reduction depending on your surroundings. As you move from a quiet setting to a loud room, the hearing aid adapts to the sound level without you having to do a thing.
Feedback cancellation is also a major advantage of digital hearing aids. Because hearing aids are so small, the microphone and receiver are close together, making them prone to feedback (that annoying whistling or squealing sound). Fortunately, digital hearing devices work to filter out wind and other audio feedback so you can hear clearly.
Advances in technology has allowed all kinds of devices—computers, cell phones, hearing aids—to become smaller. Thanks to its tiny, but powerful, computer chip, you can now wear a digital hearing aid that inconspicuously sits behind or in your ear. Their modern, sleek designs are so discreet, no one will even notice you’re wearing one.
Digital hearing aids offer more user-control and customization than ever before. Although analog hearing aids can be programmed with different listening settings, digital hearing aids allow a wider range of programs. In some cases, they can be fine-tuned for the specific user, either by an audiologist or by the user themselves.
As digital technology continues to develop and improve, the way we use hearing aids will continue to evolve as well. Bluetooth technology has presented a whole new degree of user-adjustability and personalization. With tablet and smartphone-compatible hearing aids, such as the LifeEar CORE, you can now optimize digital hearing aids for your unique needs from the comfort of home. Our companion smartphone app turns your phone into a remote, allowing you to discreetly control your hearing aid volume and settings.
Personalize your hearing aid experience from tablet or smartphone with the LifeEar CORE app.
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