What are digital hearing aids?

The majority of today's hearing aids being manufactured are digital hearing aids. In 2008, approximately 97% of hearing aids sold were digital (HIA statistics) and this number will continue to increase as many hearing aid manufacturers no longer manufacture non-digital hearing aids.

Digital Hearing Aids

What does it mean if hearing aids are digital? This is a common question among consumers and is a question that comes up on all electronic devices, not just hearing aids.

Digital signal processing means incoming signals are converted into a series of binary numbers and are then processed using mathematical equations. The mathematical equations used in digital signal processing are called algorithms. Each hearing aid manufacturer utilizes unique algorithms to manipulate the signal, allowing a precise replication of the original signal with minimal distortion resulting in excellent sound quality.

Digital processing algorithms in hearing aids enable very complex manipulation of signals. A few examples are as follows:

  • Separate sound into different frequency regions and amplify each region selectively, depending on the wearer's hearing loss.
  • Enable different amounts of amplification for soft, moderate, and loud sounds, so sounds are audible, but loud sounds are not uncomfortable or over amplified.
  • Separate background noise from a desirable signal such as speech and reduce the background noise - improving overall listening comfort.
  • Detect and eliminate whistling from occurring to improve listening comfort.
  • Allow wireless communication between right and left hearing aids to allow hearing aids to work together and process sound in sync.
  • And many, many more!

The following is an interactive model of how digital hearing aids process sound, courtesy of Unitron:

The Future of Digital Hearing Aids

Digital signal processing has allowed hearing aids to come a long way in quality and wearer satisfaction. Hearing aid wearers can expect on going improvements and advancements in digital hearing aids as researchers and hearing aid manufacturers continue to improve and refine algorithms being used.

Bottom line? Digital hearing aids allow crisper, clearer sound, just as digital cable television and digital televisions have allowed crisper clearer pictures.


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