• Automatic Directional Microphones
A directional microphone is considered automatic if it makes decisions on which sounds to amplify and which sounds to decrease without input or direction from the wearer of the hearing aid. With automatic directional microphones, the computer chip is constantly analyzing the environment and makes decisions on whether to amplify all sounds around the hearing aid wearer or to amplify only the sounds coming from a certain direction.
• Directional Microphones
Microphones are used in all hearing aids to pick up sounds from the environment. Current technology allows for microphones to be considered directional, or able to remain sensitive to sounds coming from some directions while suppressing noise coming from other directions. These directional microphones are actually two microphones, one front and one rear, that work together.
• Digital Processing
Today, hearing aids are primarily digital in nature. That means that there is a computer processor(s) inside the hearing aid that analyzes and changes the sound information to best suit your hearing loss. The processor allows the hearing aid to be programmed using a computer which allows us to set the aid to most accurately fit your specific amount of hearing loss.
• Increased Understanding in Noise
Most of the time, both microphones will pick up sounds from the environment to help the hearing aid wearer hear what is happening in his environment. However, the hearing aid wearer may not always want to hear all sounds in his environment at the same loudness level. For instance, if the hearing aid wearer is having a conversation in a noisy coffee shop with a friend, he will want to hear what the friend is saying but not hear all of the other noises that may interfere with the conversation. Directional microphones have the ability to boost the volume of the signal of interest (in this case, the friend’s voice) while decreasing the other distracting noises. In this case, the front microphone will pick up the friend’s voice first and boost the volume of that sound since it is what the wearer of the device wants to hear. At the same time, the rear microphone will be picking up noise from the environment and reducing the volume of that sound since it is interfering with the conversation. By increasing the volume on the signal of interest and decreasing the volume of the background noise, the hearing aid wearer is better able to hear his friend and is more satisfied with the overall outcome. By using the ability of the hearing aid to sense where sound is coming from, the computer in the hearing aid can be programmed to “tune in” to one microphone over another.
• Wireless Communication Between Hearing Aids
In recent times, wireless technology has become an integral part of hearing aid performance. Just as one is able to access the internet on a laptop computer without being plugged into a wall for service, hearing aids are able to communicate with one another without being wired together. When the hearing aids are able to communicate, the listening experience is much more flawless and natural. Should one hearing aid pick up high levels of background noise, it has the ability to send a signal to the other device to increase the gain, always allowing for the best possible signal to reach the listener’s ears. The availability of wireless technology in hearing aids has also brought about the use of accessories in conjunction with the hearing aids. Accessories such as remote controls, television adaptors, companion microphones, and connectivity to cellular telephones; all of which further enhance the listening experience of the individual. Please see our Accessories page for additional information.
• Multiple Programs
Here at Augusta Audiology Associates, we understand that most individuals seen in our office continue to remain active and find themselves in a variety of listening environments. Because of this, just one listening program is often not sufficient. Hearing aids can now be configured with certain preferences for various listening environments and just as one is able to change the programming on the television, programs can also be changed in the hearing aid depending on the listening environments in which our patients find themselves. These various programs, or memories, programmed into the hearing aid through our software set parameters to create the best program for listening in a variety of situations such as in noisy environments at a restaurant, church social or family gathering, quiet environments when relaxing at home, and even when listening to music.
• Low Battery and Signal
All electronic devices must have a power source to function and today’s hearing aids are battery-powered. Many folks question whether they will know when it is time to change the batteries in their hearing aids or worry that they will be in the midst of something important and have to stop to change a used battery. Our hearing aids are enabled to produce a signal or command alerting you that it is soon time to change the battery and another signal when the battery has completely depleted and the hearing aid is turning off. These signals can be made louder or softer depending on your needs and preferences to help you determine when it is time for a new battery.
• Active Feedback Cancellation:
Have you ever been talking with a hearing aid wearer and notice a whistling or squealing sound? If so, you are hearing “feedback.” Feedback is the result of a sound amplified by the hearing aid escaping from the ear and being picked up by the microphone again. This cycle, called the “feedback loop” causes this annoying whistling sound to occur. Historically, the best ways to reduce the whistling sound were to completely plug up the ear to stop amplified sound from escaping and being identified by the microphone or to reduce the volume of the hearing aids. Neither “fix” was optimal. However, current hearing aid technology has come very far in this area. Today’s hearing aids have the ability to be fit in such a way to leave the ear mostly open providing the patient with greater comfort and more natural sound while still providing them with the amount of volume necessary for their degree of hearing loss. The computer chip inside the hearing aid is now programmed to stop whistling. When initially fit with a hearing aid, a test may be run where static sounds and individual tones are played through the hearing aid. This test, called a feedback test, allows the hearing aid to sense the loudness of the sounds it is presenting to the ear and to make adjustments in the computer program so that whistling will no longer occur.
• Tinnitus Management
For hearing aid users that also suffer from tinnitus, or the ringing, buzzing, or chirping that some individuals perceive in their ears, special programs are created to help treat the symptoms associated with tinnitus and loaded into the hearing aid for everyday use by the patient.
Telecoils are made available in some hearing aids to allow for better hearing to various devices, the most common of which is the telephone. Telecoils pick up the magnetic field in the telephone and amplify the signal; allowing for better hearing through the device.
• High Frequency Transposition
Though the large majority of patients seen in our office are easily able to be fit with an appropriate device, there are a few patients that have so much high-frequency hearing loss that normal devices are not powerful enough to provide any useful information in the high-frequency parts of speech. For these patients, hearing aids with frequency transposition are considered. High frequency transposition is a method where high pitch sounds are moved down to a lower frequency region where the individual is able to analyze sounds.