Today’s hearing aids are small, highly sophisticated digital devices (essentially high-tech miniature computers) worn in or behind the ears. Properly programmed hearing aids help make it easier for the wearer to stay connected to and enjoy high quality participation in everyday life. And now, because they incorporate features for wirelessly connecting to other ubiquitous electronics/technologies (i.e computers, tablets, smart phones, ‘aps,’ geotagging options, etc.) hearing aids are included in the trend of “electronic wearables.” Hearing aids technology is constantly evolving to help make lives better. While they may not yet include features that predict the weather or stock-market results, it is comforting to know that design engineers are constantly working on ideas to help overcome the challenges of hearing loss.
Hearing aid are made so they can be programmed according to the wearer’s specific hearing loss configuration, individual listening preferences, and connection and/or functional desires. The instruments continuously analyze the wearer’s sound environment and respond with instantaneous adjustments to optimize the wearer’s hearing advantage. They offer a myriad of features such as ‘smart learning’ tailored to the wearer’s preferences within specific noise environments, or other technologies such as geo-tagging that can be used to automatically adjust settings for a frequently encountered location (such as a favorite restaurant with poor acoustics.) Using “noise signature recognition,” lets hearing aids alter their output so that a wearer riding in a car can easily hear and converse with other occupants, whether to the side or behind the hearing aid wearer.
Physical components common to all digital hearing aids are microphones (that detect incoming sounds), a digital processing component that converts the sound waves to electrical signals, then analyses the signals and configures a conditioned response according to the sophistication of the processing chips and programmed settings, and finally, an amplifier component to increase the signal power that has been converted back into sound waves and sent into the eardrum. The programming response of the hearing aid works best when it has been individually fit taking into consideration the acoustical properties of the wearer’s ear canal.