The technology of hearing aids is throttling forward at a great speed. Companies have to come out with new products frequently to keep up and provide the best possible solution for hearing loss. One way to do this is to add additional hearing aid channels to new devices. Channels break frequencies into subcategories to allow the user to customize their sound. The more channels, the more options the user has with their hearing, but there is a point when the number of channels becomes futile.
Benefit of Multiple Hearing Aid Channels
Hearing aid channels allow hearing professionals to customize the earpiece. Since everyone has a different hearing experience with different needs, it is helpful for an audiologist to have the power to alter the sounds coming into the hearing aid. Having multiple channels also allows for greater clarity of sounds. The resolution of the sound increases with hearing aid channels, distinguishing speech from noise. With an increase in channels comes a greater determination of male speech, even greater than the discrimination of the female voice. With only one channel, the clarity decreases, as does the effectiveness of the hearing aid.
Technology of the Hearing Aid Channel
What is actually going on behind the scenes? Most of the technological parts of the hearing aid lie in the processor, or the CPU. The sophistication of the processor is what determines how well the hearing aid works. A sound enters the ear where the hearing aid breaks it down into numerically coded signals. Those signals then travel to the processor whose job it is to funnel the sound to the proper channel. Each channel is customized to amplify or muffle certain sounds. One example is wide dynamic range compression. This increases the volume of soft sounds to be greater than loud sounds. This channel would be used in conversations where the background noise cancels the sound of a person’s voice. Once the processor decides the proper channel, it can move the signals on to be decoded and formed back into a sound for the brain to process.
The More Channels the Better?
Customizing the hearing aid with different settings alters the frequency response. Increasing the number of channels actually increases the amount of time it takes to process a sound. In hearing aids with only one channel, the sound travels directly from the ear to the hearing aid to the brain. However, when the hearing aid has to funnel through different channels, there is a delay in the time it takes the sound to get to the brain. Some hearing aids are overly engineered to provide more channels, but the greatest benefit really comes when moving from one to two channels. Anything over six to eight channels tends to be redundant, which is why Audicus caps their hearing aids at a maximum of twelve channels. This provides plenty of specificity for particular situations without going overboard and adding more complication than necessary.
This is just one example of how technology of hearing aids has adapted to provide a better hearing experience for users. Need proof? Just compare a one-channel analog hearing aid to the more sophisticated digital hearing aid with multiple channels.