22nd September 2021

How Do Digital Hearing Aids Work?

Hearing aids are sound amplification devices and are designed primarily to amplify sounds so they can be heard more easily. 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. 

Modern hearing aids use the latest technology and are tiny, powerful computers, which can be perfectly adapted to individual needs. As well as being extremely comfortable to wear, they also come in attractive designs and colours.

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 at one of our Sussex locations today and find the right digital hearing aids.

How digital hearing aids work

Digital hearing aids offer an excellent solution to those with hearing loss. They work to reduce any background noise and offer amplified sound of speech, providing excellent listening environments. Here’s how they work:

  1. A microphone collects the analogue signal in the air and it passes through an analogue to digital converter. Once the signal has been changed to digital code, it is then processed by very smart computers to do all manner of things like taking away as much background noise as possible and enhancing the speech sounds. The changes to the input sound are made in accordance to each individual’s audiogram and need. 
  2. Once processed, the signal is passed through another AD converter to put it back into an analogue format to enable it to travel through the amplifier to make the sounds louder and down in the inner ear canal to vibrate the eardrum. The sound waves are either pushed through a tube through a mould into the ear, or through a receiver which is like a loud speaker in your ear. 
  3. Hearing aids are clever enough to learn on the job with artificial intelligence and can distinguish between speech and noise. Not only can they do this in an extremely short space of time, literally milliseconds, they can perform millions of operations per second to get the perfect listening level for the wearer.
  4. Updates can be made to both firmware and software which future proof the hearing aid.
  5. With a combination of digital technology and Bluetooth, a whole host of peripheral devices can be connected to your hearing aid to improve hearing in the most challenging situations.

Digital hearing aids vs analogue hearing aids

Discover the main differences between the types of hearing aids and the digital hearing aid benefits available to those with hearing loss.

How they process sound

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 programmes available

Digital hearing aids are much more bespoke and can programme 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.

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.

Background noise

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.

Analogue hearing aids use a linear amplifier which also amplifies background noise at the same time.

Connectivity

Digital hearing aids can connect via Bluetooth to smartphones, tablets, TV streamers, remote and partner microphones and can be controlled by an App.

Analogue hearing aids cannot be connected to by any Bluetooth or other devices.

Software updates

Digital hearing aids use the latest technology and can be updated with firmware and software.

Analogue hearing aids cannot be updated and are considered obsolete.

The benefits of digital hearing aids

There are two main benefits to digital hearing aids and they both make a huge difference to everyday wearers of hearing aids. These are:

Faster processing

The number one benefit that digital hearing aids bring is faster processing. The better the processing speed of the tiny computers in the hearing aid, the more operations can be performed each second without the wearer experiencing any delay in sound.

  • Background noise can be reduced
  • Unwanted speech and wanted speech can be distinguished
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning log and remember situations and know how to react when they recur

Connection to smart devices

Digital hearing aids can be connected to smart phones and peripheral Bluetooth devices enabling better signal to noise ratio which results in significantly improved speech recognition. With a simple tap, the hearing aid can become your personal assistant and behave like ‘Alexa’ or ‘Google Play’. Music and audio can also be streamed into hearing aids wirelessly from phones or tablets.

TV streamers can seamlessly transmit audio and music directly into your hearing aids at a level that has been adjusted specifically to your hearing requirements without adjusting the sound from the TV, allowing you to watch with others regardless of the volume level they want.

Remote microphones or partner mics can wirelessly send speech to your hearing aids. Someone beside you can wear a partner mic and everything they say can be wirelessly streamed to your hearing aids up to 10 metres away. The microphone can double up as a table mic and can be placed on a table, in a restaurant for example, and the voices around the table are streamed to the hearing devices in a similar way.

Everything your hearing aids can do or any devices they are connected to, can be easily controlled through a free App on a smartphone.

Book a hearing test

If you think you’re suffering from hearing loss, book a hearing test at one of our clinics in the south east of England. If you already have hearing aids but think you need to upgrade or change them, book a hearing aid fitting with our team of expert audiologists and we’ll find the right solution for your needs, lifestyle and budget

Book an appointment

What our clients say

Two members of my family have just received excellent advice and treatment at the Chichester Centre.

My husband for ear plugs advice and my 12 year old son, who has been suffering with excessive ear wax building up for the past year or so and being told by GP that can do nothing except keep putting drops in.

Within 15 minutes he had his ears safely unblocked, using micro suction and washing, something the GP said was not available. My son is like a different child and can actually hear again.

Thank You!

Mr J Llewellyn – Chichester patient