A wide range of technology and a host of features are available in each hearing aid device. The cost of hearing aids generally depends on the technology and the number of features. Today’s digital hearing aids are typically offered in various levels, such as basic or entry-level to advanced or premium-level. Within each level, different technology and features are available.
Basic digital hearing aids generally require the wearer to make some manual adjustments in certain listening environments, such as turning a volume control up or down, or pushing a button to change listening programs. In contrast, a premium or more advanced hearing aid responds automatically to changes in the listener’s environment, making adjustments based on the signals detected by the hearing aid. However, the hearing aid wearer is not required to make any manual changes.
As the level of the technology increases in hearing aids, so does the availability of advanced features. Examples of some of the advanced features found in today’s digital hearing aids include:
- Directional Microphones: This applies preference to sounds in front of the wearer and reduces sound from behind the wearer. This technology has been proven in studies to improve speech understanding in background noise.
- Noise Reduction: This feature determines if a signal contains unwanted background noise and reduces the level of background sound, if present. Because of this feature, background noise is less annoying, and the hearing aid wearer’s listening comfort is improved in noisy situations.
- Feedback Management: Reducing or eliminating bothersome whistling that may occur with hearing aid use, this feature is optimal for many people with hearing loss. Because of this feature, the hearing aid wearer’s comfort is improved.
- Wind Noise Reduction: This feature reduces the noise created from wind blowing across the hearing aid’s microphone(s). This is designed to improve comfort for people who spend a lot of time outdoors.
- Data Logging/Learning: This is the ability of the hearing aid to track and learn the hearing aid wearer’s preferences in various listening environments. This information can assist the hearing professional in making future programming adjustments and allows the hearing aid to adapt to the wearer’s preferences.
- Telecoil/Auto-Telecoil: This feature picks up a signal from a compatible telephone, allowing hearing aid wearers to listen to the telephone without whistling (feedback). Some hearing aids require a push of a button to activate the feature; other manufacturers offer an auto-telecoil, where the hearing aid switches automatically when a telephone signal is detected.
- Bluetooth Interface: This technology establishes a wireless connection between hearing aids and Bluetooth-compatible devices. It is designed to improve wearer convenience and use with devices, such as television, telephones, MP3 players, and computers.