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.

Read more about the prices of digital hearing aids.

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

by Patrick Freuler

8 responses to “The Digital Edge: Analog vs. Digital Hearing Aids

  1. As per comments above in favor of Analog aids, this was my Fathers Experience also, As a carer for Dad i assisted him with his hearing aids over the years(he has worn them since the 50’s). When he converted to Digital aids many years ago (in the80’s 90’s) he was always unhappy stating they were “missing something” particularly with music. He had purchased a few sets of quality “brand name” digital aids over the years (at great family expense)and was never overly happy. I managed to get one of his sets of old analogues repaired for him and he loved them! Unfortunately as the years went on he required much more powerful aids and the “in the ear” shells eventually fell apart (no one repairs them anymore! and too many sales sharks out there trying to flog you new ones instead!)so had to swap back over again..
    As a trained Electronics Technician in my opinion not all “new” things are necessarily better. They can be more discriminatory d(ue to filtering methods, DSP ect) and cost effective due to mass production (size,weight, modern materials) , but can also still be somewhat of a compromise. These audio filters can potentially chop out and mash up audio into discordant low bit-rate lagging digital hash which i have heard directly from some of Dads digital aids (No wonder he struggled!) Even within the digital audio realm you can have a low bitrate mp3 file (very portable/compact format, but quite average listening quality) VS a high bitrate CD .WAV file (Old large encoding format but quite good audio quality) So it may still be “modern digital” but potentially a real compromise on listening quality depending on the encoding technique. Whereas an analogue device passes its input as a larger generally unmolested output, without the double handling.
    Dad’s latest Digital Aids are the best you can get and i have to admit are pretty good due to their versatile personalized map programming, multi directional microphone system and more. But now conversations/ clear communication have become more important due to his dementia and i think that this is where digital may be better as they chop out a lot of background noise.
    My suggestion to anyone buying aids would be to check out a pair of analogues as an alternative if can find /afford them and you don’t need large amplification (as my Dad had severe to profound hearing loss which deteriorated over time) you may find that missing audio nuance. my ten cents!

    1. Thanks for sharing your father’s story Andrew. While we recommend digital hearing aids customized to your hearing test results, but it’s certainly important that those with hearing loss take action in general. We appreciate your story and insight!


      The Audicus Team

  2. Theses hearing aid manufacturers know that analog aids work better than digital. It has always been about the money, and always will be! Digital aids are much more advanced (yeah right ) so they figure they can sell them for much more! Oticon’s slogan ( people first ) should be honest, profit first! I too have been wearing hearing aids most of my adult life, and have always used anologs. I too have tried digital aids but can’t hear with them. Like others have mentioned,analog amplifies all sound ,not just speech. Digital aids just cut out to many natural sounds. I don’t want my hearing aid to think for me, I just want it to amplify ALL SOUNDS around me and my brain will do the rest! I think theses manufacturer’s are losing out on a huge opportunity here ,and they don’t even know it ,or as I mentioned ,maybe they just care about the big money they know digital aids can command,

  3. I too, don’t like digital hearing aids!!! I just bought it. NOTHING like Analog!!! Speech not clear. I have such a hard time hearing well with digital. My tech tried everything. I’m not happy & stuck with the digital hearing aid!! I’m going to try E-bay..if its in there. I’m going to get it!!!

  4. I agree wholeheartedly with the other comments here.
    Digital Hearing Aids are rubbish. I have tried four different digital models all high end and none performed as good as my analog aid. The processors are not fast enough and sound is quickly distorted, additionally the hearing aid manufacturers quote ‘Digital hearing aids focus on the sounds important to you’. They don’t know what sounds are important to me. I like to hear the rustle of leaves as I walk through the woods, the crowds singing at football games, and music at concert halls etc. but these sounds are suppressed by digital aids as unimportant. The suppression of sounds makes your whole environment like you’re sat in a soundproof booth. Your own voice is also suppressed which totally alienates you in conversations as you can’t judge the volume you need to speak at.
    I could go on all day about the negative aspects of digital hearing aids, let’s get the analog aids developed more and let the hearing impaired have the quality of hearing the manufacturers promise.

  5. Hi, I think that Analog is better than digital.. I am Profoundly deaf also… I try both of digital and analog… But analog win the race… It is because we also need to touch the natural sound which only possible in digital…. When someone speak loudly, we can understand someone feeling but in digital, all sound are same volume and same waves…….

  6. im stating to hearing something like when the music and up with laaaaaaah

  7. Sorry but you are wrong! Analog wins hands down. I’m profoundly deaf and to be honest, Digital hearing aids are utter garbage! I challenge anyone to take the test, try an Analog hearing aid and then try a digital one.

    Over 90 percent of people if they had a choice( If Analog hearing aids were still made)would pick an analog hearing aid and the reason is nothing can replicate the clear crisp loud amplified sound an analog hearing gives. Digital is not even in the race. Analog hearing aids give a person close to normal hearing experience while digital hearing aids are like sticking your head under water and trying to listen to someone speak. Don’t work I’m afraid!

    I urge everyone who needs hearing aids to boycott their hearing centers and by analog units off eBay, maybe then manufactures will get the message we don’t want this digital crap and will start making analog again.

    Hell maybe I should I go in business and start producing analog again, reckon I’d make a million or two over night with demand for them.

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