Some people continue to have a rather antiquated view when it comes to hearing aid technology.  They picture big and bulky contraptions that are only marginally effective, and oftentimes, not worth having.  Fortunately, with modern hearing instruments, that isn't the case.  Just like cell phones, computers, televisions, and a plethora of other modern marvels that make our daily lives easier and more functional, hearing aids are better than ever before.

Today’s hearing aids take advantage of a number of different features and technologies to help those with hearing loss improve their lives.   Below, we’ll take a look at some of the more popular features that make current hearing aid technology so beneficial.


FEEDBACK CANCELLATION:

If you’ve ever heard a high-pitched whistling sound emitted from a hearing instrument, then you know what feedback is.  Feedback occurs when some of the amplified sound from the hearing device that should be going through the ear canal travels back to the device’s microphone.  The sound is then reamplified and continually looped through the system, resulting in a loud tonal signal.  This is more likely to occur when the volume of the hearing aid is increased, when the hearing aid fitting is not in the proper position, or when the device is brought close to a reflective device, such as a mobile phone.  Adaptive feedback cancellation algorithms are used to identify that sound and cancel it out.


DIRECTIONAL MICROPHONES:

Many hearing aids now have both omnidirectional and directional microphones. Omnidirectional microphones pick up sounds from all around the listener, while directional microphones take into account what direction the listener is facing, thus resulting in the device emphasizing sounds in front over sounds from other directions.  This can be particularly beneficial when listening to speech while in a noisy environment, like in a restaurant.


MULTICHANNEL COMPRESSION:

A person with normal hearing can hear a full range of sounds, from soft to loud, in all frequencies.  Someone with hearing loss will hear a smaller range of sounds for certain frequency bands.  For these people, a hearing aid can squeeze, or compress, the full range of sounds into a smaller range that the user can actually hear.  The device must also take into account that the user will hear some frequencies better than others, and will often want to hear certain frequencies (such as speech) more than others.  The hearing aid can also adjust to incoming volumes, so soft sounds are amplified more than moderate sounds, and loud sounds may not be amplified at all.


MULTIPLE PROGRAMS:

Although many hearing aids adapt automatically to different listening situations, some users find it helpful to be able to manually adjust their hearing aid settings.  It is common for hearing aids to have two or three programs, allowing the user to switch between them with the push of a button.  For example, one program may work best for listening in a quiet environment, another may function better in noisy situations, and another may offer the preferred settings for talking on the telephone.


NOISE REDUCTION:

At any given moment, we our surrounded by many different sounds, and the fact of the matter is we may not want to hear all of them.  The idea behind noise reduction is that the hearing aid can analyze incoming sounds and differentiate speech from a broad-band noise signal (background noise), thus enhancing speech recognition in difficult listening situations.


TELECOIL AND BLUETOOTH:

A telecoil is simply a wire wrapped around a metal core, and it basically functions like a radio antenna built into a hearing aid.  While the microphone on a hearing aid picks up all sounds, the telecoil will only pick up an electromagnetic signal. It turns off the hearing aid microphone, picks up the signal and the hearing aid converts it to sound. This magnetic signal is created from hearing aid compatible telephones and other Assistive Listening Devices.

Most hearing aids utilize Bluetooth technology to allow the user to connect wirelessly to a variety of Bluetooth enabled devices, such as cell phones, GPS systems, computers, and FM systems.