What are the different types of hearing aids?
On this page we provide information about analogue and digital hearing aids.
Analogue Hearing Aids
Analogue hearing aids provide simple amplification of the sound picked up by the microphone and reproduced louder by the receiver (loud speaker) in the hearing aid. The amplification can be shaped slightly to take into account different hearing losses although there is not always much flexibility. Overall it makes all the sounds louder.
Digital Hearing Aids
Digital hearing aids provide amplification that can be more accurately shaped to take into account the hearing loss. Digital amplification splits the sound picked up by the microphone into small sections which are amplified depending upon the pitch and loudness of the sound to match an individual prescription. They often include programs for different situations, for example some social situations or work environments. They can also be reprogrammed if the hearing changes.
Introduction to modern hearing aids
The following subtitled video is a short introduction to the different types and styles of hearing aids available today. This video is provided courtesy of Hear-it.org.
A Hearing Link member asks…
I’m not happy with my new digital hearing aid. I preferred analogue aids. Can I change back?
Analogue aids are no longer manufactured by hearing aid companies worldwide. Whilst this advancement is generally good news, a small proportion of experienced analogue hearing aid users notice a difference in what they hear and want to change back to analogue as they find it difficult to adapt to the difference in the sound.
Why does it sound different?
Patients who have had analogue hearing aids for years have often become accustomed to the analogue processing of sound from these types of hearing aid as the brain becomes adapted to this type of sound output. When the individual is refitted with digital hearing aids with different sound processing and features, they are often perceived as sounding ‘quieter’. The digital hearing aids often have a clearer sound and not so much harmonic distortion in the sound signal, which is something that long-term analogue aid users have got used to, but is actually a negative effect caused by the limitations of analogue technology .
Equally some of the additional features in a digital aid such as Wide Dynamic Range Compression (which helps quiet sounds to become audible, speech to be amplified to a comfortable level and to prevent loud sounds from sounding uncomfortable), noise reduction and feedback management alter the sound in comparison to an analogue hearing aid.
What can I do?
If you have been using analogue hearing aids for several years you are asking your brain to unlearn (often in a fairly short period of time) the sound it has become used to, and to adjust to listening and functioning at the same level with a completely different sound. It does take a long time. The brain has a property called plasticity which means that it is able to relearn and mould itself to new things, so the good news is that over time many people do get used to their new digital hearing aid. It takes time and perseverance.
It is possible for an audiologist to programme the digital aid to mimic the sound processing of an analogue hearing aid, but even when this is done many patients report that it does not sound the same.
Contact your audiologist if you need any advice or support regarding your hearing aids.