Digital Technology in Hearing Care
Over the past 25+ years, digital computer systems have dramatically reshaped our technological world. Sophisticated computer processing, programming, and functions are now possible that we might never have dreamed but half a century ago. When it comes to hearing healthcare, digital technology has led to dramatic improvements in our ability to evaluate, diagnose, and rehabilitate hearing disorders and losses. Additionally, digital technologies have become more popular for our hearing protection and listening enjoyment.
While digital technology has indeed led to great and cutting-edge advances, the use of the word “digital” in the name of a device does not equate to “high-end” or the “most advanced” technology anymore. In fact, the most basic devices you purchase (including hearing aids) are most likely to be digital because of how inexpensive it has become to produce digital components. Do not be fooled by advertising or a sales pitch on something that is “digital”–almost everything is now and some of today’s digital hearing aids may be of poorer design and capability than a good “old” analog device.
As with many other forms of digital technologies, there are an overwhelming number of brands, styles, options, advertising, and capability claims for hearing devices, particularly hearing aids. To say that it is a very difficulty task for even the most capable patient to sort through the confusion is an understatement. Unfortunately, manufacturers tend to coin terms for their own versions of technologies for marketing purposes which makes it impossible to compare “apples to apples” for even the best researchers. The end result is that patients/consumers often rely on professional and non-professional sources of information to help make choices. Depending on the education, experience, motivation, and credibility of the source, this will produce highly variable results (good and bad). To help solidify this concept, consider this analogy:
Digital hearing aids are a tool that your provider uses to accomplish an outcome (your improved hearing and communication) . Choosing the wrong tool for the job or putting the most expensive tool into under-skilled hands will both result in poor outcomes (think of building a house). Choosing the right provider for your hearing is as important (if not more so) than finding the right builder for your new house. Once you do that, great professionals will recommend the right tools for the job and lead you to a beautiful outcome.
To take this one step further, a great Audiology Doctor will maximize your communication success by not only attaining the greatest function and prescription from your devices, but also teach you valuable techniques and strategies that go beyond the hearing aid. Audiology Doctors, by nature of education, licensure, and scope of practice, are the “master-builders” of the hearing healthcare field.
In the following sections, I will present an overview of hearing aid anatomy, styles, features, and some of the corresponding advantages and disadvantages of each. Finally, I will give a brief discussion on the selection of hearing aid manufacturer (Brand).
Hearing Aid Anatomy 101
Hearing Aid Style
Sooner than later.
Hearing Aid Features