How hearing aids work
There are many cases of hearing loss and all of them are different. There are several sorts of hearing loss, several causes, and several degrees as well. All of these cases require specific and detailed diagnosis in order to find a solution. Hearing aid devices come in many shapes and each one of them adjusts to a different part of your hearing system and has distinct features. You need to find a hearing aid device that matches the root of your problem and the degree and specifications of your hearing loss.
Different hearing aid devices have different mechanisms. When the cause of the hearing loss is in the inner ear, a surgically installed set called cochlear implant can compensate the lack of perception, even in completely deaf people. Cochlear implants are complex and a bit risky since they are placed with head surgery, yet they have changed the lives of many people for the better. They have a circular piece that goes on the back of the head, which detects soundwaves like a microphone. It is connected to a processor inside the head, that transforms the vibrations into electric impulses. Finally, a series of electrodes take these signals directly to the inner ear, where the auditive nerves are connected.
When the cause of the hearing loss is in the middle or outer ear, other devices are required. These artifacts are similar to cochlear implants, as they have a microphone that absorbs sourounding sounds and transmits them. However, the main difference is that these are external devices that you can put on or off at will. They are simpler, and instead of being connected inside your skull to your ear they have a piece that fits inside your ear canal. These devices can be used combined with a cochlear implant.
There are different sizes of audiphones; some of them fit inside the ear canal, others in the ear, and a third type is placed behind the ear like a hook-shaped hanger. Differences between these models are mostly aesthetic, but smaller versions might not be as powerful or provide as many special features as larger and more visible ones.
Digital hearing aids
First audiphones were the analog type. The transmission of the sound waves was more direct and automated, like the first microphones or disc players. There was no data analysis or regulation, it was a very basic device, and as such, it had its limitations. Volume and tone could not be adjusted, which isn't convenient since, as you now know, not all cases of hearing loss are the same. Some people are more sensitive to a certain pitch range and need aid in another range. There are degrees of hearing loss. One size doesn't fit all.
Digital hearing aid devices work under the same basic principles of analog hearing aid devices, but when it comes to digital hearing aids versus analog hearing aids, the difference becomes evident. Digital ones are more technologically advanced and offer a series of features that analog ones don't have. As a matter of fact, clinical trials on both these devices clearly show how superior digital hearing aids are to their older versions.
Advantages of digital hearing aids
Digital hearing aids process sound waves with a little device located inside or behind your ear, depending on the model. These processes are very fast and can be quite complex. The purpose of this is to optimize the output of the audiphone, and therefore improve user's experience. These hearing aids can be programmed with digital filters and custom settings so the output adapts to the user's type of hearing loss. Sound can be equalized, volume can be regulated, and the settings may be stored in the device's memory for different sound environments.
Many of these audiphones also have a directional microphone, which is especially useful for understanding conversations in noisy environments. A directional microphone can be pointed forwards so speech is detected more loudly and clearly than background noise.
Since these audiphones are digital, they can be connected to other digital devices through a wireless connection. The TV, computers, telephones, radios and so on may be programmed to transmit the sound directly to the audiphone, ensuring maximum quality and fidelity.
The data analysis that digital devices run may cancel backround noise and interferences which are a common nuisance with analog audiphones. Feedback noise and whistling are no longer a problem.
Finally, many digital audiphones have a data logging function which collects information from your daily use and compiles it for your audiologist. This info is very useful for your audiologist to better tune and adjust your audiphone.