Top-of-the-line sound processing and frequency response
All hearing aids process sound, which means that when sound arrives into the hearing aid, it has to be sectioned into bands of sound (sometimes referred to as “channels”) and digitized before it can be amplified. The better the hearing aid, the more flexibility it has to band sounds that are amplified for your unique hearing loss prescription. For example, if you have only high-frequency hearing loss, a better-made hearing aid can amplify only those sounds within that band, whereas a lower-end model might amplify mid- and high-frequency sounds. This customization of the hearing aid is called its frequency response.
Bluetooth compatibility is a wireless feature that enables hearing aids to connect to mobile phones and other devices that use Bluetooth, often through an intermediary device. Bluetooth technology has the ability to improve the signal-to-noise ratio and eliminate feedback from the microphone because the signal bypasses the microphone and directly enters the hearing aid’s processor. A Bluetooth connection is also less likely to experience interference. Some hearing aids stream the signal to both hearing aids and use the microphone of the hearing aid to collect your voice during a phone call. The only negative to this is that due to the extreme sensitivity of the microphone the person listening to your voice will also hear some of the environmental sound around you.
Some hearing aids have a feature that allows them to “learn” your preferences, a type of AI or artificial intelligence. By logging volume control settings and program preferences for certain sound environments, the hearing aids can begin to make these changes automatically when the environment is detected. Over time, this reduces your need to make manual adjustments. You are now also able to create favourite programs on your phone app for specific situations where you are able to change the balance between low and hight frequencies and also make changes to the microphone features of the hearing aid. This will allow for better hearing in specific situations that are unique to your life environment.
Many of today’s advanced hearing aids come with smartphone apps, allowing the user to adjust the hearing aid, contact their audiologist, and monitor battery life. Most importantly, some of them work like assistive listening devices, by routing phone calls or other sources of sounds directly to a user’s hearing aids. This is a feature that is available on even the lowest level of technology hearing aids.
Increasingly, hearing aids come with rechargeable batteries, allowing a person to charge the hearing aid daily. This takes away the need to change the battery and for patients with dexterity of eyesight problems is a solution to a very difficult procedure. Most hearing aid companies have rechargeable options on all their technology levels.
Tinnitus masking features
Most hearing aids come with tinnitus masking features. An audiologist or other hearing care provider can program them to emit sounds that mask the tinnitus or ringing in your ears. (But for many people with tinnitus, simply amplifying the sounds you’ve been missing with a hearing aid can help minimize tinnitus, which often develops when a person experiences age-related hearing loss.) It is important for you to speak to your audiologist about this condition to ensure a correct diagnosis and treatment for your tinnitus is found.
This feature is often (but not always) available on basic hearing aids, too. Binaural processing means a pair of hearing aids communicate wirelessly with each other. This technology mimics the brain’s ability to process information coming from both ears and helps reduce manual adjustments. It is most commonly used to keep the hearing aids operating synchronously (such as switching from program 1 to 2 at the same time) or to stream auditory signals from one hearing aid to the other. This also assists in the analysing and classifying of the sound in your environment to allow for the best result in more noisy environments.
Directional microphone systems
Directional microphone systems are designed to boost sounds coming from the front of the wearer and reduce sounds coming from other directions. Different system designs block out more or less of the sounds coming from behind the wearer. These systems improve speech understanding in background noise. Satisfaction is higher for hearing aids with directional microphone systems than for hearing aids without them. In some of the more advanced hearing aids you are also able to change the focus of the microphones to the back (for passengers in the back of a car) of to the either side (for a person sitting to the side of the driver). The advances in the technology allows the wearer to cope in situations that has historically been very difficult to solve.
Digital noise reduction
Digital noise reduction systems analyse the signal to determine if it contains unwanted noise. If this unwanted noise is detected, this system reduces the level of noise. This feature can be adjusted by your audiologist to allow for more noise reduction in different situations. This feature makes the background or environmental noise less annoying and increases your listening comfort.
Impulse noise reduction
Similar in purpose to the digital noise reduction, impulse noise reduction improves listening comfort. This system detects any transient loud noises, such as car keys rattling, typing on a keyboard or dishes rattling, and softens them instantly.
Wind noise reduction
Although fairly specific in its application, wind noise reduction can make a world of difference for those who spend time enjoying outdoor hobbies, like golfers and boaters. Wind noise reduction detects the impact of the wind blowing across the hearing aid microphones and avoids or reduces the amplification of it.
Feedback management systems
Feedback management systems combat the inevitable feedback (whistling) that occurs in a hearing aid. These feedback loops create an annoying whistling sound that can get in the way of your comfort. Feedback management algorithms can be implemented differently for basic hearing aids or advanced hearing aids. Basic feedback management systems may reduce the overall amplification to remove the whistling. Advanced feedback management systems reduce or eliminate whistling without affecting overall amplification of the hearing aid.
Data logging is a feature that stores data about the listening environments in which you wear your hearing aids and your preferences for programs, volume levels and other features. The information can be accessed by your audiologist when you return for a follow-up appointment. The information gathered by your hearing aid about your listening situations and the amount of time spent in them, will provide your audiologist with valuable information to enable her to change the settings of your hearing aid to optimize your hearing in those situations.