Programmable hearing aids
Advancing technology is affecting all areas of life. Improvement in computer circuitry has allowed miniaturization of many devices. Computer microchips, which are now used in programmable hearing aids, provide more options to better meet the needs of people with hearing loss. Programmable hearing aids contain microchips, which allow the hearing aid's response to be adjusted with a computer. Traditional hearing aids, by comparison, have controls that are set using a screwdriver.
Benefits of programmable hearing aids
Many programmable hearing aids have capabilities that traditional hearing aids do not. These capabilities result in more flexibility for the hearing-aid user and a more precise fit for their needs. Programmable hearing aid options may include the following:
Advanced Signal processing - Advanced signal processing adjusts the amount of amplification the hearing aid provides according to the loudness of the sound reaching its microphone. Traditional hearing aid circuits provide a set amount of gain regardless of the loudness of the sound reaching the microphone. This can result in softer sounds remaining too soft and louder sounds being uncomfortably loud. Advanced signal processing allows softer sounds to be heard more easily and avoids discomfort from loud sounds. This benefits hearing-aid users who experience loudness discomfort at softer-than-normal levels, known as recruitment.
Multi-channel Capability - The amount of gain a hearing aid provides at each pitch of frequency is called its frequency response. Some programmable hearing aids can divide the frequency response into two or more channels of control. Each channel can be adjusted independently so that different advanced signal processing schemes can be applied to each frequency region. This allows the hearing aid to respond differently for low-pitched sounds than for high-pitched sounds, better accommodating a hearing-aid user with recruitment. Because recruitment may be present only at some pitches, multi-channel capability provides more flexibility to meet this need.
Multi-Memory Capability - Some programmable hearing aids have memory, allowing them to store more than one frequency response or program. Multiple memories allow the user to choose from different frequency responses or signal processing schemes with a remote control or by pressing a button on the hearing aid. This is useful for those who communicate in many different listening situations or have fluctuating hearing loss. The audiologist and the hearing aid wearer together decide which hearing aid response to store in memory based on the wearer's most frequent and demanding listening situations.
Before obtaining hearing aids, an examination by an ear specialist is recommended. Then, an evaluation of hearing and listening needs will be completed. Based on this information, the advantages and limitations of traditional and programmable hearing aids will be discussed. The hearing-aid wearer chooses the style and special features that best suit their needs.
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