Digital hearing aids


Digital hearing aid has hit the market in a large quantity in the last five years. At last there are twenty-two manufacturers with the digital hearing aids marketed under 40 different model names. Manufacturers are moving towards to their third or forth generation digital products. Digital hearing aids first came to the market in 1987 with two manufacturers introducing hearing aids with digital signal processing before the end of the 1980s. While high-tech for their time, these hearing aids had little success and were soon abandoned due to their large size and high battery drain. Then nearly a decade later, two separate manufacturers introduced digital hearing aids. The technology by this time has improved so that the hearing aids could be produced in arrange of new and popular styles, from behind the ear to completely in the canal. Despite of their high cost clinicians and consumers received them all.

Advantage of Digital system

It was fortunate enough for both the dispensing audiologists and patients; there are features and advanced signal processing schemes available in current digital hearing aids that have significant advantages over those found in analog instruments. The most advanced feedback reduction schemes monitor for feedback while the listener is wearing the hearing aid. Moderate feedback is then reduced or eliminated through the use of a cancellation system or notch filtering. Digital noise reduction processing is intended to reduce gain, either in the low frequencies or in specific bands, when steady-state signals are detected. Although research findings supporting the efficacy of the systems are mixed, they do indicate that the system can work to reduce annoyance and possibly improve speech recognition in the presence of non-fluctuating noise. Digital speech enhancement systems act to increase the relative intensity of some segments of speech.

Digital hearing aids as signal generators

Since digital hearing aids have a DSP at their heart, they are able to generate as well as process sound. Current digital hearing aids use the capability to perform loudness growth and threshold testing in order to obtain fitting information specific to an individual person's ears in combination with a specific hearing aid. Sound levels can be verified through the hearing aid once it is fit. This technology has the potential both to increase accuracy of hearing aid fittings and potentially streamline the fitting process by reducing the need for some external equipment.

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