How do Digital Hearing Aids Work?

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Digital hearing aids work by converting sound waves into digital signals, which can be processed and customised to the person’s hearing needs. Here is a step-by-step explanation of how they work:

1. Sound Reception: The hearing aid consists of a microphone that captures the sound waves from the environment. The sound is then converted into an electrical signal.

2. Analogue-to-Digital Conversion: The electrical signal is then converted from an analogue format to a digital format using an analogue-to-digital converter. This conversion allows for more precise processing and manipulation of the sound signal.

3. Signal Processing: The digital signal is processed using advanced algorithms and signal processing techniques in the hearing aid’s microchip. This processing can include amplification, noise reduction, feedback cancellation, and other adjustments to enhance the clarity and quality of the sound.

4. Customisation: The digital hearing aid can be programmed and customised according to the person’s specific hearing needs. Our audiologists or hearing healthcare professionals can adjust various parameters such as volume, frequency response, and specific amplification for different listening environments.

5. Digital-to-Analogue Conversion: After the digital signal has been processed, it is converted back into an analogue format using a digital-to-analogue converter. This analogue signal is then sent to the speaker or receiver of the hearing aid.

6. Sound Amplification: The analogue signal is amplified by the hearing aid’s amplifier to a level appropriate for the wearer’s hearing loss. The amplified sound is delivered to the ear canal through a speaker or receiver.

7. Feedback Management: Digital hearing aids are equipped with feedback cancellation systems to prevent the occurrence of whistling or feedback sounds. These systems can identify and cancel feedback before it becomes audible to the wearer. Feedback is when the hearing aid can “hear” itself and makes the high pitched whistling noise, like when you tap a microphone.

8. Additional Features: Many digital hearing aids come with additional features such as Bluetooth connectivity, directional microphones, telecoils (for compatibility with hearing loop systems), and smartphone apps for remote control and customisation.

Overall, digital hearing aids provide more precise and customisable sound processing compared to analogue hearing aids. Digital and analogue hearing aids are performing the same function in this respect but, with digital technology, there is much greater processing available, resulting in better speech understanding for those with hearing loss.  They enable users to experience improved hearing and better adaptability to different listening environments.

At South East Hearing Care Centres, we have access to a wide range of digital hearing aid technology and can find the perfect solution for your needs. Book a hearing test and find the right digital hearing aids.

Digital hearing aids vs. analogue hearing aids

Digital hearing aids and analogue hearing aids are two different types of hearing aids that use different technologies to amplify sound and improve hearing.

Digital hearing aids use tiny, powerful computers to rapidly process sound by converting it into mathematical code called Bits and Bytes. Then, they manipulate the sound so it can be recognised more easily.

Analogue hearing aids use older technology to convert sounds into electrical signals. These are amplified by a linear amplifier, meaning sounds are amplified equally and pushed into the ear from the hearing aid via a tube and an ear mould.

Hearing Aid Programs

Digital hearing aids are much more bespoke and can program sounds to the shape of your individual hearing loss and use non-linear amplification. They can easily be programmed to an individual’s hearing loss and use frequency-specific amplification making it possible to react automatically and choose the best setting for any environment. Digital hearing aids have multiple channels that allow for customisation and fine-tuning of sound amplification based on an individual’s hearing loss. These channels are essentially separate processing units within the hearing aid that can be adjusted independently to address specific frequency ranges.

Each channel in a digital hearing aid is responsible for amplifying sounds within a specific frequency range. By dividing the incoming sounds into different channels, the hearing aid can apply different amplification settings to each channel, catering to the specific needs of the wearer.

For example, someone with hearing loss may have difficulty hearing high-frequency sounds like birds chirping or the sound of consonants in speech. In this case, the right hearing aid can allocate more amplification in the higher frequency channels to compensate for the specific hearing loss in that range.

By adjusting the amplification in each channel, the hearing aid can create a tailored amplification profile that matches the wearer’s individual hearing loss. This personalisation helps to optimise the audibility of sounds across different frequencies, ultimately improving speech understanding and sound quality.

Besides amplification, modern hearing aids can also incorporate advanced signal-processing algorithms. These algorithms analyse the incoming sound and automatically adjust the settings based on the acoustic environment. This feature, known as automatic or adaptive programming, allows the hearing aid to adapt to different listening situations, such as quiet conversations or noisy environments like restaurants or crowded streets.

Can you program an analogue hearing aid?

Analogue hearing aids are very rarely programmable and if they are, it is over just a few channels. They are very restricted in the amount of programming that can be achieved and not many can be programmed to match the shape of the hearing loss.

Here are some key differences between digital and analogue hearing aids:

1. Technology: Digital hearing aids use digital signal processing to convert sound waves into digital signals, which are then processed and amplified according to the user’s specific hearing needs. Analogue hearing aids, on the other hand, use analog circuitry to amplify sound without any digital processing.

2. Sound Quality: Digital hearing aids provide improved sound quality compared to analogue hearing aids. They can process and amplify different frequencies and volumes separately, resulting in clearer and more natural sound reproduction. Analogue hearing aids, on the other hand, amplify all sounds uniformly, which may result in less accurate sound reproduction.

3. Customisation: Digital hearing aids offer more customisation options compared to analogue hearing aids. They can be programmed and adjusted to match the user’s specific hearing loss profile, allowing for a more personalised and precise hearing experience. Analogue hearing aids are generally less customisable, with limited options for adjusting the sound settings.

4. Noise Reduction: Digital hearing aids have advanced noise reduction algorithms that can help reduce background noise and improve speech clarity in noisy environments. They can distinguish between speech and noise, selectively amplifying speech while suppressing unwanted noise. Analogue hearing aids do not have the same level of noise reduction capabilities.

5. Connectivity: Digital hearing aids often come with additional features such as Bluetooth connectivity, allowing users to connect their hearing aids to smartphones, TVs, and other devices for direct audio streaming. This feature is not available in most analogue hearing aids.

6. Cost: Digital hearing aids are generally more expensive than analogue hearing aids due to their advanced technology and additional features. Analogue hearing aids are typically more affordable but may lack the advanced functionalities of digital hearing aids.

Overall, digital hearing aids offer superior sound quality, customisation options, and noise reduction capabilities compared to analogue hearing aids. However, they are generally more expensive. The choice between digital and analogue hearing aids depends on individual preferences, hearing needs, and budget.

How Hearing Aid Programs Help Different Hearing Loss Types

Different types of hearing loss can benefit from the flexibility and programmability offered by digital hearing aids. For instance:

1. Sensorineural hearing loss: This type of hearing loss results from damage to the inner ear or auditory nerve. Modern hearing aids can be programmed to amplify specific frequencies affected by this type of hearing loss, providing targeted amplification and improving audibility.

2. Conductive hearing loss: This type of hearing loss occurs when there is a problem in the outer or middle ear that prevents sound from reaching the inner ear effectively. Digital hearing aids can compensate for the reduced sound transmission by amplifying the incoming sounds, making them more audible for the wearer.

3. Mixed hearing loss: This type of hearing loss is a combination of both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. Digital hearing aids can be customised to address both aspects of the hearing loss, amplifying specific frequencies affected by sensorineural loss while compensating for the reduced sound transmission in the conductive component.

How do hearing aids work with background noise management?

Digital hearing aids can suppress background noise or speech babble to make it easier to hear in the presence of noise. The more sophisticated the device, the better it is at picking out individual voices, making it easier for hearing and speech comprehension. Analogue hearing aids use a linear amplifier which also amplifies background noise at the same time.

South East Hearing Care offers a range of hearing aids from various brands, including:

1. Starkey Hearing Aids: Starkey offers a wide range of hearing aids, including those with advanced background noise management features. Their devices use sophisticated algorithms to reduce background noise and enhance speech clarity.

2. Signia Hearing Aids: Signia provides hearing aids with advanced background noise cancellation technology. Their devices use directional microphones and noise reduction algorithms to help users focus on speech in noisy environments.

3. Widex Hearing Aids: Widex offers hearing aids with background noise management features, such as their Zen program, which reduces the perception of background noise and enhances relaxation. Their devices also have advanced speech enhancement algorithms.

4. Unitron Hearing Aids: Unitron’s hearing aids have advanced background noise management capabilities. Their devices use features like speech enhancement and adaptive directional microphones to prioritise speech and reduce background noise.

5. Oticon Hearing Aids: Oticon provides hearing aids with advanced background noise reduction technology. Their devices use BrainHearing technology, which helps the brain focus on speech while suppressing background noise.

6. ReSound Hearing Aids: ReSound offers hearing aids with excellent background noise management features. Their devices use advanced algorithms to differentiate between speech and noise, allowing users to hear conversations more clearly.

7. Phonak Hearing Aids: Phonak provides hearing aids with sophisticated background noise management capabilities. Their devices use features like Speech in Noise and UltraZoom to enhance speech understanding and reduce background noise.

These brands offer a variety of options to cater to different hearing needs and preferences. It is recommended to consult with a hearing care professional at South East Hearing Care to determine which options work best for your new hearing aid.


Digital hearing aids offer various connectivity options that enhance the overall hearing experience for users. One of the key features of digital hearing aids is the ability to connect wirelessly to other devices using Bluetooth technology. This enables users to stream audio directly from their smartphones, tablets, or other Bluetooth-enabled devices to their hearing aids.

By connecting their hearing aids to their smartphones, users can enjoy phone calls, music, podcasts, and other media directly through their hearing aids. This not only provides a more convenient listening experience but also allows users to adjust the volume and settings of their hearing aids directly from their smartphones.

In addition to smartphones, digital hearing aids can also connect to other devices such as tablets, TV streamers, and remote and partner microphones. This means that users can stream audio from these devices directly to their hearing aids, making it easier to hear and understand conversations, TV shows, and other media.

Furthermore, digital hearing aids often come with a companion mobile app that allows users to control and personalise their hearing aids. The app can be used to adjust volume, change programs, and fine-tune settings according to the user’s preferences. This level of control and customisation gives users greater flexibility and convenience in managing their hearing aids.

Software updates

Software updates for digital hearing aids are a crucial aspect of their functionality and performance. These updates can be done by updating the firmware or software of the hearing aids. This process involves installing new software or making changes to the existing software to ensure optimal performance and address any bugs or issues.

The ability to update the software is one of the key advantages of digital hearing aids over their analogue counterparts. Analogue hearing aids do not have the capability to be updated or modified. Once they are manufactured, their technology and features remain unchanged.

By contrast, digital hearing aids can receive software updates that can improve their performance, add new features, or address any issues that may arise. These updates can be done by the hearing aid manufacturer or by a hearing healthcare professional, depending on the specific brand and model.

Software updates can provide a range of benefits for digital hearing aid users. They can enhance the sound quality, improve the performance in different listening environments, and optimise the settings for individual preferences. Updates can also address any compatibility issues with other devices, such as smartphones or televisions, ensuring seamless connectivity and compatibility.

Furthermore, software updates can extend the lifespan of digital hearing aids. As technology advances and new features become available, software updates allow users to benefit from these advancements without having to replace their hearing aids.

Overall, software updates play a vital role in keeping digital hearing aids up to date with the latest technology and ensuring optimal performance and user satisfaction. It is important for hearing aid users to stay informed about software updates and consult with their hearing healthcare professional to take advantage of these updates when available.

FAQs about Digital Hearing Aids:

Why does my hearing aid never work?

There could be several reasons why your hearing aid is not working. Here are a few possibilities:

1. Battery issues: Check if the battery is fully charged or if it needs to be replaced. Ensure that the battery contacts are clean and properly aligned.

2. Wax or debris build-up: Earwax or debris can clog the hearing aid, leading to reduced or no sound amplification. Regular cleaning of the device and the ear canal is essential.

3. Moisture damage: Hearing aids are susceptible to moisture damage, which can affect their functionality. Ensure that you are not exposing the device to excessive moisture or humidity.

4. Incorrect settings: It’s possible that the settings on your hearing aid are not properly adjusted. Consult with your audiologist to ensure that the device is set up correctly for your specific hearing needs.

5. Physical damage: If you have dropped or mishandled the hearing aid, it may have suffered physical damage. In such cases, it may require professional repair or replacement.

6. Ear-related issues: Sometimes, hearing difficulties may not be solely due to the hearing aid. It’s important to rule out any underlying ear-related problems such as ear infections or damage to the ear canal.

If you have tried troubleshooting and your hearing aid still doesn’t work, it is recommended to consult with an audiologist or hearing healthcare professional who can provide further assistance and resolve the issue.

Do I have to have two hearing aids?

It depends on your specific hearing needs. Some people with hearing loss may only require one hearing aid if the hearing loss is unilateral or significantly worse in one ear. However, if you have bilateral hearing loss (hearing loss in both ears) or if the hearing loss is similar in both ears, wearing two hearing aids is typically recommended. Wearing two hearing aids helps provide better sound localisation, improved speech understanding in noisy environments, and a more balanced hearing experience overall. One of our audiologists can evaluate your specific hearing needs and recommend the most appropriate solution for you.

Can digital hearing aids be customised for individual hearing needs?

Yes, digital hearing aids are highly customisable. Audiologists can program them to match the user’s specific hearing loss profile and adjust the amplification levels for different frequencies. This customisation ensures optimal sound quality and helps address the user’s unique hearing requirements.

What are some additional features available in digital hearing aids?

Digital hearing aids come with various advanced features such as noise reduction, telecoil compatibility for improved phone use, multiple listening programs to adapt to different environments, wireless connectivity to stream audio from devices, and remote control options for easy adjustments.

Are digital hearing aids suitable for severe hearing loss?

Yes, digital hearing aids can effectively address severe hearing loss. They offer higher amplification capabilities and advanced signal processing algorithms, which can help individuals with significant hearing loss to hear and understand sounds better.

How long do digital hearing aids typically last?

The lifespan of digital hearing aids can vary depending on factors like usage, maintenance, and technology advancements. On average, they can last between 3 to 7 years. However, regular maintenance, cleaning, and professional check-ups can extend their lifespan.

Can digital hearing aids be used by children?

Yes, digital hearing aids can be used by children. Many hearing aid manufacturers offer paediatric models specifically designed for children. These devices are smaller, comfortable, and can be customised to meet the unique needs of young users.

Can digital hearing aids be used in water or during physical activities?

While some digital hearing aids are water-resistant or have protective coatings for minor moisture exposure, most are not fully waterproof. It is generally recommended to remove hearing aids before swimming, showering, or engaging in activities that may expose them to excessive moisture or sweat. Consult the manufacturer’s guidelines for specific instructions regarding water resistance.

Book a hearing test

If you think you have hearing loss, or need new hearing aids, book a hearing test at one of our clinics in the south east of England.