Difference Between Analog and Digital Hearing Aids
Before the development of digital sound technologies, analog hearing aids were the only form of hearing aid available. Today, those with hearing loss have more options. Both analog and digital hearing aids are used today, though analog are becoming a little less common, and digital hearing aids are becoming a more popular choice.
Analog and digital hearing aids both have similar components. Both types pick up sound using a microphone and use circuitry to amplify sound. They both run on batteries and use a receiver to deliver sound into the ear. The difference between analog and digital hearing aids is the type of technology that is used to amplify sounds.
Analog Hearing Aids
Analog hearing aids work by making continuous sound waves louder, amplify all sounds (speech and noise). Some analog hearing aids are programmable, containing a microchip which stores multiple program settings for various listening environments. Using these settings, the user can change their hearing aid settings to switch from a quiet environment such as a library, to noisy places such as a restaurant, to an amplified environment such as a baseball stadium or concert hall. These programs can be changed by the user by pushing a button on the hearing aid.
Advantages of analog hearing aids:
- Generally cost less than digital hearing aids
- Are sometimes more powerful than digital hearing aids
- Long time hearing aid users sometimes prefer analog over digital
Digital (DSP) Hearing Aids
Digital hearing aids (DSP, or digital signal processor) generally come with all of the same features as analog programmable hearing aids. They are different in that they convert sound waves to digital signals, producing an exact duplication of each sound, instead of just amplifying it. Computer chips are used to analyze speech and other sounds, allowing for more complex processing of sounds during amplification.
The digital sound technology used may improve performance of the hearing aid in certain environments, reducing background noise and ìwhiteî noise. Digital hearing aids usually contain more flexible program settings and can be adjusted to meet the more specific hearing loss patterns of some users. Today, most people with hearing loss are given the option of digital hearing aids.
Advantages of digital hearing aids:
- Can be programmed with ìnoise reduction algorithmsî to help reduce background noise
- Highly programmable for various listening environments
- Most flexible and adjustable for specific user needs
Just a word of caution: beware of cheap ìdigitalî hearing aids that are advertised and sold by off-brand manufacturers. These cheaper versions are often poorly manufactured and missing the most important components that make digital hearing aids work well. Make sure that you are buying your hearing aids for a reputable manufacturer.
As you can see, both analog and digital hearing aids have their pros and cons. Your choice of hearing aids will depend largely on the type and severity of your hearing loss, as well as your budget. The good news is that we live in an era where both options are available, and both types of technology can be programmed to your needs. Your audiologist can point you toward the best option for you.