Hearing Aid Features
Most hearing aids today are digital; they can be programmed using our computer software and fine-tuned to each person’s hearing loss, sound preferences, and requests. If the patient is not happy with the way the hearing aid sounds, or their hearing changes over time, it is recommended that the hearing aid be re-programmed to reflect any change in hearing that naturally occurs over time. All programming changes are verified using specialized test equipment to objectively confirm that the changes made to the hearing aid are appropriate and beneficial, relative to a patient’s hearing loss. There are many features in digital hearing aids today that have significant advantages for patients over older style, analog hearing aids. Some of these features include:
Smartphone and Bluetooth compatibility
Almost all traditionally worn hearing aids today come standard with Bluetooth technology. This allows the user to control and customize features of their hearing aids in real time, hear phone calls directly through both hearing aids, and stream music, movies, or other forms of entertainment from their smartphone, tablet, or other Bluetooth devices. Integrated Bluetooth technology now eliminates any need for headphones, earbuds, or specialized TV listening headsets.
Many hearing aids are equipped with microphones that can separate speech from background noise; this feature is very beneficial in noisy situations. Directional microphones amplify sound in front of you (typically speech from the people you’re talking to) more than sound behind you (background noise) to enhance your hearing in noisy situations. For example, while in a crowded restaurant, the directional microphone can amplify the conversation at your table, without picking up as much of the conversation coming from tables behind you. Some hearing aids are sophisticated enough to perform this task for you automatically, while others require you to manually adjust the hearing aid for this feature.
Most hearing aids are designed to constantly monitor your listening environment. When it detects the presence of background noise that might interfere with your ability to hear speech, special processing strategies in the hearing aid become activated and can reduce the amount of noise the hearing aid picks up to help you hear better and make listening more comfortable.
Feedback Reduction (Whistling)
A hearing aid should never whistle or buzz. If it does, there is usually ear wax blocking sound from getting into the ear canal properly or the hearing aid is not fit properly, which causes sound to leak out of the ear. That whistle occurs when sound from the hearing aid leaks out of the ear canal and gets picked up again by the hearing aid’s microphone. This is called “feedback.” Feedback reduction technology allows the hearing aid to detect when feedback is happening and eliminates it until you can have the problem evaluated by one of our audiologists. Feedback is one of the most common, but easily corrected, hearing aid problems.
Automatic Telephone Amplification
When you pick up the telephone while wearing a hearing aid, the hearing aid automatically detects and amplifies the caller’s voice without any feedback or whistling. This feature is also known as “Easy-Phone” or “Auto-T-Coil”. If you prefer, a manual T-coil is also available on most products.
Wind Noise Reduction
Wind noise can be bothersome for a hearing aid user, especially if you spend a lot of time outdoors. Golfers, gardeners, runners/walkers can all benefit from this feature, which automatically recognizes and suppresses wind noise when you’re spending time outdoors.
Occlusion (Echo) Reduction
Often when a patient is first fit with hearing devices, they will notice their voice to be more pronounced than when they were not wearing hearing devices. Hearing device manufacturers recognize that this is a phase most hearing device users go through in the beginning. Hearing devices can correct for this occlusion effect which happens with your voice until you can naturally acclimate to it on your own.
Automatic Program Changes
Hearing devices now come with built-in technology that is sophisticated enough to recognize what kind of listening situation you are in – quiet, background noise, traffic noise, music, etc. The hearing devices are constantly taking an “acoustic snapshot” of your listening environment and instantly making adjustments to help you hear better in whatever situations you transition to throughout your day. These changes are done automatically. For patients who prefer to have some control over their hearing devices, customized manual programs can be added to the memory of the hearing devices to be used as needed.
Some hearing devices can wirelessly communicate with each other. The greatest benefit of hearing devices that use this technology is that they convey what is happening from one side of the head to the other. Just as the brain works using two hemispheres, the same idea applies to this unique feature. The hearing devices are designed to make individual adjustments to deliver the best sound possible based on your listening situation. The best example of this would be riding in a car as the driver; the road noise coming to the left ear would be suppressed and the passenger’s voice would be easily heard.