DIGITAL: Nearly all Hearing-Aids fitted privately in the UK are now digital. Digital hearing aids simply break down the sound into little pieces represented by numbers (hence digital), amplify and process the sound before reassembling it to be played into your ear in a fraction of a second. Many manufacturers can now make digital Hearing-Aids as cheaply as their analogue counterparts. Digital hearing aids can be as big (BTE) or as small (CIC) as their analogue equivalents.
ITE: CIC: BTE: RITE: See our hearing instrument styles page here.
QUALITY: Hearing-Aids are also often sold having different levels of quality. In truth the most expensive makes use exactly the same components as the cheapest. There is one exception here: some NHS hearing aids use parts that fall outside the tolerances acceptable in the private sector. That doesn’t mean that the NHS aids are not perfectly usable products, but it does mean that their components would be rejected by our manufacturers due to issues like sound distortion and sensitivity.
OPEN: The latest Open hearing aid systems reduce the blocking effect (occlusion) in the ear to provide increased comfort and usability combined with some of the more technical features below.
DIRECTIONALITY: By using 2 or more microphones it becomes possible to focus the sensitivity of a Hearing-Aid to the front of the wearer. This can be either fixed or adaptive (to deal with moving speech/noise sources).
SPEECH SENSITIVITY: Some Hearing-Aids can recognise parts of speech and amplify this more than other sounds.
NOISE REDUCTION: Most digital Hearing-Aids are able to filter-out elements of steady-state noise.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: Some of the latest Hearing-Aids use A.I. decision-making in order to optimise their use of the processes above.
DATA-LOGGING: This process allows the aid to collect information about how much the aid is used, how many different noise situations are experienced and how the aid responds to these situations. It is a very useful tool in the rehabilitation process.
WIRELESS CROS and BiCROS: This system enables allows sounds to be passed from one ear to another ( for dead or very poor ears) to remove the presence of head-shadow effects.
WIRELESS DATA EXCHANGE: Some of the latest hearing systems are able to synchronise their settings automatically. This means that the aids will always be in the same program or noise setting.
Manufacturers will use many descriptions to explain what they are doing, but most of the processing is covered by the terms above.
Please also note that (with a balanced loss) in most difficult listening situations you will hear better with two moderately priced Hearing Aids than one expensive one.
In addition you might find that where there is a very challenging listening environment an inductive loop or FM system will provide the best way to hear the speech over the background noise.