A hearing aid is an electronic device that brings amplified sound to the ear. Hearing aids are helpful, but they do not restore normal hearing or eliminate background noise. There are several types of hearing aids. Each type offers different advantages, depending on its design, levels of amplification, and size. Hearing aids may be grouped by size and by the technology implemented.
A hearing aid must be appropriate in size to be effective. Your audiologist will help you determine which size is right for you.
Hearing aid technology has progressed over the years. Today, digital hearing aids are the most current and advanced level of technology available. Below is a brief description of digital hearing aids that will help you better understand the information your audiologist will discuss with you. Digital hearing aids have an amplifier known as a digital signal processor (DSP) which shapes and amplifies sound with the most flexibility. These are the most current and advanced level of technology available. A computer is used to "program" or finely tune the device to the user's hearing loss. Programming allows the audiologist to modify the hearing aids based on changes in the patient's hearing over time or changes in listening needs. These hearing aids provide "intelligent" amplification, meaning they amplify soft sounds more and loud sounds less. They also feature multiple memories for different listening situations and automatic volume controls. Digital hearing aids are capable of providing millions of calculations per second on sounds received at the microphone before they are amplified and sent to the listener, creating a "cleaner" replication of sound. Many of the hearing aids use special noise reduction technology or microphones to improve understanding of speech when background noise is present. Digital hearing aids are also able to reduce or eliminate feedback or whistling. Digital hearing aids come in four different technology levels:
With each increase in the level of technology, the hearing aid offers more advanced performance in difficult listening situations.