Not All Digital Hearing Aids Are Created Equal: New Technology Options Offer Patients Greater Clarity

Thanks to recent technological advances, digital hearing aids offer greater comfort and audio quality than ever before. They are available in both high-end and entry-level models based on their features and capabilities. For some patients, however, the increased options have made the process of choosing a digital hearing aid very confusing.

At CornerStone Ear, Nose & Throat, our certified audiologists have the training and experience to help your patient choose the hearing aid and options that best suit his or her individual lifestyle, environment, dexterity and financial considerations. Unlike most retail hearing aid providers, our audiologists are not paid commission based on hearing aid sales or technology sold.

New Digital Hearing Aid Features

Extra options are typically available on both the entry-level and high-end hearing aid products. Following are some key features that are available:

Directional microphones: This feature makes it easier for patients to hear in noisy environments. On entry-level products, directional microphones reduce noise from one specific direction. In contrast, advanced technology has introduced adaptive directional microphones that automatically detect the specific location of the noise source and negate it without adjustment from the patient.

Multiple programs or memory slots: With entry-level devices, a button on the aid must be pushed to access the different program settings. More advanced hearing aids offer automatic program selection, where the hearing aid evaluates the surrounding environment and automatically adjusts accordingly.

T-coil or telephone program: This is a function created to improve hearing when a patient is on the telephone. T-coils are standard on most current digital hearing instruments. Entry-level hearing aids require the user to press a button to access the t-coil feature, while high-end products offer a touchless t-coil that will automatically switch to the phone program when the telephone is placed over the hearing aid.

Feedback managers: With newer technology, audio feedback does not occur as often as older models because most hearing aids are equipped with a digital manager that detects when the aid is producing feedback and automatically eliminates it. Entry-level hearing aids have a simplified feedback manager, while more sophisticated devices eliminate feedback while also preserving the needed amount of gain.

Noise reduction: The most common complaint from patients who wear hearing aids is that it is difficult for them to hear in the presence of background noise. The noise reduction feature, coupled with directional microphones, helps to reduce background noise so the patient can follow conversations. Entry-level hearing aids have limited noise reduction capabilities, with one setting that is either turned on or off. High-end digitals use noise tracking technology and more acute noise reduction systems. They also reduce steady state noises that the entry-level system may miss.

Extra Options Only Available On High-End Hearing Devices

Wireless (FM) system compatibility: A wireless communication system transfers the speaker’s voice directly into the patient’s hearing aid, making communication in very difficult situations much easier. This feature is especially useful for school-age children in the classroom or for business personnel who regularly attend large meetings.

Remote access: With this option, a remote or wristwatch can be used to adjust the hearing aid volume or change programs.

Bluetooth compatibility: Using this technology, any device that is Bluetooth compatible can be heard through the hearing aid, including laptop computers, cell phones, and MP3 players.

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