In recently years the assistive listening devices marketplace has been flooded with a huge number of new offerings in the way of digital hearing aids. At last count there were more than 40 different makes and models of these digital hearing devices that are manufactured by no less than twenty different manufacturers. And, while the popularity of digital hearing technology is unquestionably rising, many are left to wonder if digital is a better choice over analogue.
There is no question that we live in an era when most things that are digital are considered to be “state-of-the-art.” However, not everyone is convinced that digital necessarily equates with better, as seems to be a common assumption among many people. There are many people who claim that digitized hearing aids, while advantageous in many ways, are not necessarily always the best choice for everyone.
The first digital hearing aids were made available in the mid-eighties by two different manufacturers of hearing aids. Their units were the first to meld digital signal processing, known as DPS, with hearing aid products creating a cutting edge hearing device. However, these hearing aids were rather large, to accommodate the DPS, and therefore never gained in popularity.
About a decade later, two different manufacturers of hearing solutions reintroduced digitized hearing aids to the marketplace and this time they were much better received. This is because technology had advanced to the point that the DSP could be integrated into many of the most popular styles of these devices, including the behind the ear and in the ear hearing aids.
Even though these new digital aids were more expensive than their analogue cousins, they still enjoyed almost immediate popularity among hearing healthcare clinicians and also among consumers. This almost instant acceptance and success, combined with a promise of even more advanced signal processing in the future, quickly assured the marketplace that digital hearing aid technology had finally “come of age.”
But, the question still lingers for many: is the quality of the sound from digital hearing aids really better than the analogue versions? The answer really lies in the processing abilities that the digital technology provides and from that aspect the answer in a firm yes.
The experts say that digital hearing technology is not superior simply because it is digital. The advantage comes from the fact that the DSP give the manufacturers, the clinicians and the end users so many features and options for enhancing sound that analogue devices simply cannot deliver.
A few of the many advantages of digitized hearing aids over the analogue models include such things as: gain processing, which helps to lessen background noise while isolating conversational sounds; digital feedback reduction (DFR), which significantly reduces incidence of annoying, and often painful, feedback from the unit; digital noise reduction, which also helps eliminate background noise; digital speech enhancers; and, directional microphones. All of these features are virtually non-existent in analogue hearing aids.
Many experts in the hearing aid industry consider this era of advancements in digital hearing aids to be a very exciting time and they also expect that there will be additional breakthroughs and advancements in the years to come. As the digital technology continues to make better hearing available to more people, it is predicted that eventually digital hearing devices will completely eliminate the use of analogue aids.
Article By: Hearing Aid Labs