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The Digital Edge: Analog vs. Digital Hearing Aids

Inspector Gadget must have a digital hearing aid. A far cry from 17th-century ear trumpets, digital hearing aids were first introduced in 1987 and have quickly come to substitute analog devices and dominate today’s hearing aid market. According to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), more than 20 different digital hearing aid manufacturers have established their presence in the US. While newer isn’t always better, a closer look shows that digital hearing aids beat out the analogs in both form and function.

The Difference Between Analog and Digital Hearing Aids

What exactly makes a hearing aid “digital” anyway? Analog hearing aids basically take sounds and make them louder, just as cupping your hand behind your ear amplifies sound. Some analog hearing aids include a programmable microchip, but the functions are relatively basic. On the other hand, digital hearing aids take in sound waves (in itself an analog signal, for the techie folks out there), translate it into digital format (read: loads of 1’s and 0s), process, filter, distort, amplify and ultimately deliver a sound signal into your ear canal that is custom-tailored to your needs. In order to perform all these wonders, digital hearing aids contain a so called Digital Signal Processor (DSP) chip.

To better understand digital versus analog, consider the difference between analog vinyl records and digital CDs. Vinyl records require fairly simple methods for playback, and a simple turntable and needle will do the trick. CDs take a little more hardware, as the digital information has to be processed and reproduced. While there is a greater to do, CDs provide clearer, high fidelity sound. (Some people prefer the warm crackle of a vinyl record, but that fuzz simply won’t do when it comes to your hearing!)

Improved Speech and Noise Filtering in Digital Hearing Aids

Digital hearing aids are excellent multitaskers. These tiny tools can simultaneously perform a variety of sound processing tasks. In one important function, the hearing aid quickly distinguishes between speech-sounds and noise. As such, the hearing aid amplifies speech while reducing noise. As analog hearing aids amplify sounds less discriminately, a lot of noise can get in the way of a good conversation.

Digital Hearing Aids are Designed for You

Digital hearing aids can be programmed with a software to suit your unique hearing needs. Programmable analog hearing aids are available, but digital technology can provide a far greater degree of fine-tuning. Better programming means better sound processing in multiple sound environments – from a quiet library to a noisy restaurant.

In addition to wider programming options, digital hearing aids have the capacity for extra features, such as Bluetooth and telecoil technology.

Cut Down on Feedback in Digital Hearing Aids

Feedback reduction is one of the greatest advantages to digital hearing aids. In the same way digital hearing aids can distinguish between sound and speech, these nifty little devices can anticipate and reduce feedback. Digital technology allows the hearing aid to minimize or completely cancel out any detected feedback, so you can avoid onerous whistling sounds.

Smaller and Sleeker Digital Hearing Aids

As digital processing power continues to evolve exponentially, this means that laptops, cell phones and digital hearing aids are all getting smaller as well. To see just how sleek these hearing aids can look, check out in the canal Uno hearing aid, which contains the power of digital technology in a dime-sized device.

Drawbacks to Digital Hearing Aids?

While pretty much every source will attest to the superiority of digital devices, everyone also has the same complaint: the high price. But as a top-notch provider of digital hearing aids, Audicus Hearing Aids brings you high function at a low cost through its novel delivery method.

Sources: Audicus Hearing Aids, Healthy Hearing, Hearing Aid Lady, American Speech-Language Hearing Association

by Patrick Freuler

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