Hearing aids now accommodate some of the biggest complaints consumers have with hearing aids: Feedback, Background Noise, and Unnatural Sound Quality

Hearing aids of the past had a tendency to whistle (called feedback), especially for people with more severe hearing loss. Technology today helps eliminate feedback in nearly all situations. Several hearing aids employ feedback cancellation to allow for greater power (amplification) without whistling.

Background Noise
Consumers of hearing aids in the past have struggled to hear in background noise (such as a noisy restaurant). Hearing aids today nearly always come standard with noise management and directional microphones. Both features help cut down on background noise while making it possible to have a conversation. Some hearing aids even do this automatically (others have a button to push).

Unnatural Sound Quality
Another great advancement in hearing aids is the ability to fit challenging hearing loss such as high frequency (high pitched) hearing loss. This hearing loss is very common in the older generation but can also be a result of noise-induced hearing loss found in all age groups. Previously, hearing aids had a tendency to “turn up” all frequencies (pitches) even if the wearer only needed help in the high frequencies. This often made hearing aids sound very unnatural. Today’s high frequency hearing aids allow for natural hearing while amplifying only the frequencies necessary for better hearing.

In addition to the above features hearing aids have even more flexibility with Automatic features, Datalogging and More channels/bands in the frequency resolution of the amplifier.

Automatic Features
Hearing aids can be ordered customized to your needs. You may want a hearing aid that automatically senses background noise and reduces it for your comfort. You may be looking for a hearing aid that will switch over to a phone setting automatically when the phone is placed up to the ear (no whistling). Or you may be looking for a hearing aid that can do both and more by sensing all types of sounds in the environment and making changes for you accordingly. This is a more expensive option, so make careful consideration of your needs for this type of feature. It may be more important for someone who is very active or needs to have use of their hands for other activities (and cannot be stopping to switch the hearing aid manually).

This feature, datalogging, is very new. The hearing aids on the market this year are introducing datalogging as a way for the hearing aid to keep track of your environment and the hearing aid’s activities. This eases the patient responsibility for remembering every time they changed a program or made a volume control adjustment. Because the hearing aid records all the activity on the computer chip, the audiologist can pull this information from the hearing aid and see how it was working for you from day to day and what type of environments you were in. This increased the ability of the audiologist to understand your needs and make adjustments to the hearing aids accordingly. Let’s face it, we don’t go around with a notebook all day and record our listening environments.

More Channels/Band
As the hearing aids advance they are better able to add clarity through increased numbers of channels or bands. This offers a better fitting aid because it can be more closely tuned to your hearing loss. Whereas the aids use to have one or two channels (low or high usually) now they can have anywhere from six to sixteen channels. Think off it as being able to choose how much low, mid and high pitch you want to a degree that is very fine tuned. In everyday terms, this gives you the ability to adjust the hearing aid to your best satisfaction.

What does “Digital” Mean?
With the move to digitization, most hearing aid on the market today are digital. You can compare this to your entertainment center. Try to think back to the quality of an audio tape versus a CD. Most of us probably agree that the CD offers better sound quality. Hearing aids also benefit from the change to digital technology with more stable sound quality and better utilization of extra features and programming. Digital means more possibilities, more possibilities means higher patient satisfaction

Please find other info enclosed. Be careful of the internet resources as there are many false claims online. If you ever have a question regarding these issues, it is best to contact your audiologist.

Written by: Suzanne Yoder, Au.D., HearWell Center

Suzanne Yoder, Au.D. is a doctor of audiology and founder of HearWell Center. She owns and operates a HearWell Center location in Forest Hills, PA (Pittsburgh). Please feel free to respond to this blog by emailing her at [email protected]. You can learn more about HearWell Center by visiting www.hearwellcenter.com