What Are Digital Hearing Aids?
Digital hearing aids are used by people with hearing loss and are the most popular hearing devices used today. They have similar features to analog hearing aids. However, they have computer chips which allow them to convert sound waves into digital signals. Digital hearing aids produce an exact duplication of sound because of their complex amplifying process. They can provide programmable flexibility and they can memorize several programs for use according to any changes to the environment of an individual.
Consider the need for digital hearing aids: According to research, guided by the SIPP national surveys in the US, it is estimated that 1 in 20 Americans are either deaf or have hearing problems. The impact of hearing loss on the emotional wellbeing of sufferers is immeasurable. It affects their work life and relationships. Hearing aids are invaluable to people with hearing loss and improve their lives by allowing them to enjoy social activities they were previously active in but had to stop because of their hearing loss.
How do hearing aids work?
Hearing aids are electronic devices that are battery-powered. Their design is aimed at improving hearing by increasing some sounds. Depending on the model, they can be worn behind or in the ear.
They consist of three parts: a microphone, amplifier, and receiver. The microphone picks up surrounding sounds and the amplifier makes them louder while the receiver sends them into the ear.
Can all types of hearing loss benefit from hearing aids?
Hearing aids are usually beneficial to those with damage to the inner ear or to the nerves linking the ear to the brain. This type of damage is usually linked to aging, disease, exposure to loud noises, or the use of certain medications.
Conductive hearing loss refers to hearing loss caused by problems with the ear canal, middle ear, or eardrum. Usually, medical interventions like surgery relieve this type of hearing loss. However, this is not always viable for everybody and those who have an open ear canal and an external ear that is normal, hearing aids have shown to help.
People who have no external ear or ear canal cannot use any of the usual hearing aids available. As an alternative, there are devices that can send sound directly to the inner ear. These devices transfer the sound through the cranial bone.
Who diagnoses and treats hearing loss?
Ear, nose, and throat specialists (ENT) will diagnose, evaluate, and treat hearing loss and people usually get a referral to one from their general medical practitioner.
During an ENT examination, the cause of the hearing loss is determined. As mentioned earlier the doctor must see which part of the ear is affected and what treatment or device is suitable. The next step is to have an audiologist test the ear to find the hearing loss type and the percentage of hearing loss to the individual.
These specialists are the most authoritative on the type of hearing aid needed for the different types of hearing loss and will ensure that they fit well so that there is an improvement in hearing.
Hearing loss in both ears is usually treated with the use of one hearing aid for each ear.
What are the types of hearing aids available?
Hearing aids have various features and the choice of the correct device will depend on various factors. Audiologists usually recommend them according to:
- Hearing loss type and severity
- Age and lifestyle
- Ability to manage small devices
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The types of hearing aids
Analog and Digital are the two main types of hearing aids.
Analog hearing aids are usually cheaper and their volume controls are easier to use. Sound waves are converted into electrical signals, which are then amplified.
Digital hearing aids are smaller and more powerful. They use modern technology to convert sound into numerical codes, which are then amplified. Information received about the sound’s direction, pitch and volume make it easier for the wearer to adjust the sound according to the noise in the surrounding environment and most models do this automatically. These offer better results than analog hearing aids and are more costly. “Nano Digital Hearing Aids” have become synonymous with digital hearing aids in the US and worldwide since thousands of consumers have started trusting the brand over the years.
Styles of hearing aids
Hearing aids are available in three styles.
BTE (Behind-the-ear) hearing aids work for all types of hearing loss. The hearing aid is placed in a plastic case that sits behind the ear and a plastic mold inside the outer ear directs the sound into the ear.
The Mini BTE also fits behind the ear, but a narrow tube is passed into the ear canal. Its purpose is to prevent earwax build-up and to give the wearers voice a clear sound.
Other styles that can be worn behind the ear are known as RIC (Receiver-in-canal) and RITE (Receiver-in-the-ear). The receivers are worn either in the ear or in the ear canal. These are tiny wires that connect the main body behind the ear and allow low-frequency sounds to enter the ear without amplification, while they amplify high-frequency sounds.
ITE (In-the-ear) have all their electronic parts in a hard-plastic case that fits snugly in the outer ear. They are suitable for people with all types of hearing loss but are not recommended for children because there are usually changes to the ear as they grow.
Canal hearing aids come in two types and can be used by people with mild to profound hearing loss. ITC (in-the-canal) hearing aid is specifically made to fit the individual’s ear canal and then there is the smaller CIC (completely-in-canal) which is small enough to be concealed in the wearer’s ear. These tiny devices are slightly more difficult to remove or adjust when worn. Therefore, they may not be ideal for children and wearers who have a problem handling smaller devices. An IIC (invisible-in-canal) hearing aid is almost invisible when worn and can either be worn for months at a time or placed in the ear daily.
All hearing aids can help people with mild to severe hearing loss, but they don’t all have the same special features.
Directional microphones allow users to tune out background nose so it is better for them to respond to sound from the specific direction they want.
Hearing sounds in auditoriums, theatres and churches can be improved by using a telephone switch. This minimizes background noise, and it picks up sounds from the phone.
For users who want to use a remote microphone or FM listening device, direct audio input is a solution. This allows them to connect to any device including a TV.
Specific types of hearing loss may require other types of hearing aids and there are some available for all types. People who have no ear canal or outer ear often use a bone vibrator or devices that can be attached to their eyeglasses. There are also accessories available that can improve the way hearing aids work in various situations.
Even call answering can be improved. Accessories are available that allow smartphone users to hear from both ears in the same way that headphones work.
Do hearing aids restore hearing completely?
Sounds are often greatly improved with a hearing aid, but they may not reach the level used to prior hearing loss. Initially, they take some getting used to, but with time wearers become more adept at hearing more sounds and the direction they are coming from.
Hearing aids require patience and time for the wearer to adapt to how they work and feel. In most states, users are given a trial period after purchase. This ensures that they get a partial refund and the option of trying another hearing device that may be more suitable. Most companies offer warranty coverage.
What are the problems that people usually encounter with hearing aids?
Generally, wearers of these devices need to ensure that they understand how they work. It is also essential that they fit well. Audiologists are trained to assist when it comes to how to avoid most problems. These problems may include discomfort, echoing sounds from the wearer’s voice, background noise, whistling or feedback, and buzzing when a cell phone is used.
Audiologists usually advise that they are initially worn in quiet areas and they also recommend people record their problems so that they can be ironed out sooner rather than later.
How to care for hearing aids?
The better they are looked after the longer hearing aids will last. Unless hearing loss increases, hearing aids can last for anything between 3 to 6 years. A wider range of hearing loss is covered by behind-the-ear devices because they can be programmed. Some tips that manufacturers recommend:
- They come with cleaning instructions and these must be followed carefully.
- Devices should be turned off when not in use.
- Batteries should be replaced as soon as they die.
- Heat, moisture, and hair products must be kept away from them.
- They should never be left where children or pets can get them.
Depending on the battery type and how often the hearing aid is used, these may last for anything from a few days to a few weeks.
Digital hearing aids continue to improve with the advancements in computer technology.
What is the best type of hearing aid on the market today?
There are two types of popular hearing aids on the market today and these are analog and digital. They all have three basic parts and include a microphone, amplifier or processor and receiver. Digital models were introduced in the late 1980s, and they have a processor instead of an amplifier.
The advanced processor in digital hearing aids refine all sound and they function as a computer. This also allows these devices to have more features and possibilities for customization.
Digital hearing aids deliver a better experience to their users because they can remove background noise and their technology provide a better experience. This makes them the best type of hearing aid on the market today.
Are digital hearing aids better than analog?
Analog hearing aids have an amplifier which amplifies and outputs all sounds in the person’s surroundings alike. Because it cannot isolate background noise this is also transmitted as loudly. Many models can be programmed to only amplify certain frequencies, but not all. Some people still prefer the sound they produce because they feel it’s more natural than that produced by digital hearing aids and they are often preferred by musicians. Analog hearing aids are cheaper and their batteries last longer because they offer less functions.
Digital hearing aids are more advanced because of the tiny computer that takes the place of the amplifier. This is called a processor and the sounds it receives from the microphone are converted into digital signals with a variety of functions.
Digital hearing aids are better than analog because they can distinguish speech from other irrelevant sounds. People in noisy surroundings can focus on the sound that matters. Directional microphones are often an option and they only amplify the sounds that are directly in front of the user. Some digital hearing aids also have an automatic directional microphone which adapts to sound levels as the user moves around from a quiet to a louder area without the user needing to intercede.
Other advantages that digital hearing aids offer include reduced feedback, discreetness because of their smaller size, flexibility and customization. Bluetooth, and smartphone technology allow some devices to be adjusted according to individual preferences from their smartphone or the comfort of their home.
Digital technology continues to advance and this will ensure that digital hearing aids will continue to get better than analog as they evolve.
What is the best digital hearing aid on the market?
Nano Hearing Aids are the best digital hearing aids on the market. The powerful hearing technology behind them was created together with a team of renowned engineers. They are an affordable solution for over 48 million Americans who suffer from hearing loss. Unfortunately, according to the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders, fewer than 30% of adults in the United States with hearing loss have ever used one. By cutting out the middleman, Nano offers hearing aids at a significantly reduced price.
The full range of Nano devices is available online and each order includes various earbud sizes to ensure a snug and comfortable fit.
The range includes:
- Nano Sigma with its noise-reducing technology. It can be controlled via Bluetooth or the Nano mobile app and is easy to use and has noise reduction technology.
- Nano SX 2000 is packed with features and is nearly invisible. It has frequency controls, low battery warning, and automatic feedback canceller.
- Nano X2 Recharge which includes a portable charging case and is fully digital with noise filtering and canceling technology. This model is powerful enough for almost all levels of hearing loss.
- Nano CIC Digital Hearing Aids have high quality digitized and process sound and are nearly invisible.
- Nano CIC Recharge is a rechargeable mini CIC hearing aid that includes 6 different plugs for making it adaptable to any ear canal anatomy. Besides having customizable volume control, it also has an advanced DSP noise-canceling clear sound system.
What are the top 5 rated hearing aids?
Life becomes more challenging with hearing loss. It affects every sphere of everyday life like following a conversation, indulging in all forms of entertainment, hearing the doorbell or phone ring. People with hearing loss, and this does not only affect senior citizens, can often not even enjoy the beautiful sounds surrounding them from nature.
Statistics show that at least one in three people aged between 65-74 suffer the frustration of some degree of hearing loss. They often struggle with the social implications of this at an age where social get-togethers and family affairs are of utmost importance.
The right hearing aids can make all the difference to how they can have an active and fulfilling life. Nowadays, hearing aids are light, discreet and many offer other practical features like volume control.
What do people look for when buying a hearing aid?
- Easy battery replacement or ability to recharge so that they are always ready for use.
- A model that suits their lifestyle e.g. one on one conversation, noisy environments, etc.
- Guarantee on the product in case it’s faulty or not suitable.
- Expert advice and after-sales support for the hearing aid.
Note: Naturally people want a balance of the cheapest hearing aids that are also the most reliable and efficient. Before you get analysis paralysis from trying to find it – the information we’re about to share may help a lot:
These are the five top-rated hearing aids for people with hearing loss.
1. Nano Hearing Aids
With the most positive reviews, Nano Hearing Aids are available in seven models and can be purchased online, directly from the company website. The various models are very affordable, light to wear, and discreet. High-quality sound and excellent customer service ensure that they remain a popular choice.
They are easy to purchase, without needing to visit an audiologist, because no matter the level of hearing loss, users can adjust sound with the volume setting. When delivered they also include various earbud sizes to ensure that the user can choose the best one for a snug fit.
Popular Nano models include:
One of their advanced models is the Nano Sigma with wireless app-controlled technology. The settings can be adjusted and it has many environment modes. The Nano X2R is rechargeable and background noise reduction makes this a popular model. Their Nano CIC models are discreet and come in two models, the one is rechargeable with 16-hour battery life on a 2-hour charge.
Besides very affordable prices on even the most advanced models, the models work as well as those offered elsewhere at much higher prices. The company offers a 45-day money-back guarantee. It is easy to select hearing aids on their website and they offer a secure checkout system. They have a team of experts who can help with any queries before and after purchase. Nano offers a protection plan for new hearing aids.
Coming in second with positive reviews, Eargo has three models that are designed for comfort. These are also affordable and discreet and the speaker buds are designed for a comfortable fit. All models are rechargeable. These models are all available on their online site and can be bought directly.
Popular Eargo models include:
Their basic model is the Plus. The Max is the model with enhanced sound. All the models are good but the Neo offers the best sound. It has a 4 sound profiles that can be changed with a tap to the ear, making it adaptable. This model is also app-enabled allowing for fine-tuning. However, Eargo hearing aids are only suitable for those with mild or moderate hearing loss.
Eargo offers a 45-day valuation period and depending on the model up to two years warranty. For those unsure which models to purchase, they send non-functioning units to test for fit and they offer customer support.
Lively hearing aids can be purchased online and shipped to customers without the need for an audiologist appointment. They are popular among users because they are small and effective. These models are all behind-the-ear hearing aids and they have two-year free customer support in case they need adjusting or have other issues.
Popular Lively Models:
They have the one model that is smaller than an inch in length ensuring that it’s discreet. The model is battery operated and has noise-canceling technology and voice enhancement. The hearing aids are popular with seniors because of their quality. Even though they are one size fits all, minor adjustments can be made.
Lively provides support from trained audiologists that use video chat to help solve any problems. They have a 100-day money-back guarantee and two years of free follow up and damage cover.
Users of these hearing aids mention that they get excellent sound in many types of environments and they can adjust the settings according to their needs. The hearing aids are designed to conservatively use power and can be charged while not using at night, but the rechargeable batteries can be substituted with zinc-air batteries until the unit can be recharged.
Popular Widex Models:
Evoke is a smart hearing aid available as behind-the-ear and in-the-ear models. Widex claims that this is the first smart hearing aid and that it can learn and create a personalized experience. Beyond Fusion 2 is a model compatible to work with iPhones.
Widex has a professional help service that works on an appointment-based system at their hearing center and offers no obligations trials.
Signia has many models including behind-the ear and in-the-ear and some of them feature natural voice technology. They are popular because their models include budget models, while others can be Bluetooth connected and others again are suitable for listening to music.
Popular Signia Models
The model that stands out the most is the Pure 312 because even though it is not an in-ear device it is very small and discreet. It can be controlled from a tiny pocket device or from a smartphone.
They have support centers scattered around the country where professionals carry out tests and fittings ad any other advice.
These are other known hearing aids
Other hearing aids that popular among users and get reasonable reviews are Costco hearing aids, MD hearing aids, and Hearing Assist – yet these are not exactly the most popular for various reasons. Still, brands like MD hearing aids do seem to exist notwithstanding the fact that the consumer is flooded by other superior options. In the case of Costco: people still buy and review it online and they do this in large numbers, likewise with Hearing Assist. Yet the point is that when it comes to your hearing – you probably want the best the market has to offer right now. Consumers should also be aware of hearing aid scams online or “me too” products that fails to attract an overwhelming support of the public vote in hearing aid reviews. Getting scammed will only delay your ultimate goal of being able to hear again.
Nano is clearly an established and trusted brand – which seems to still be the consumers’ favorite because of the variety of models available and their affordability. They are easy to order and this makes them accessible and they apply for all levels of age-related hearing loss. Wearers can choose between battery models and rechargeable and there are behind-the-ear and in-ear models. They are easy to adjust and some models have noise reduction technology and noise-canceling technology. The Nano Sigma also has Bluetooth technology and can be used with a mobile app.
What research tells us about digital hearing aids
We believe a good sincere digital hearing aid company should also be interested in official research, collaborate with researchers – and contribute to the industry. Nowadays when there are single unconfirmed mentions that things like “coronavirus” / Covid-19 can cause hearing loss and other unproven theories, it is important for companies to remain ethical and not use these things as an excuse to sell more hearing aids. Focusing instead on reliable and proven research, is what a responsible corporate citizen would do.
Originally, when digital hearing aids were introduced, they were cumbersome and there was some skepticism on how they would perform when compared to analog hearing aids. However, there was the excitement of the possibilities that they could offer to acoustic amplification. Research has shown that generally, digital technology has contributed to better hearing aid development and these modern devices incorporate many useful features that are lacking in analog devices.
Digital hearing aids present a higher level of high precision sound. Their use of memory and logical functions appear to aid the techniques used for prescribing the devices to people with hearing loss. It is suggested by studies that a third advantage may be the most important because digital hearing aids can be used for simulation, testing, prescriptions, and amplification.
Hearing impairment in older adults tends to have psychological effects on them because of reduced communications and scientists have pondered over the psychological effects of using hearing aids. Results suggest that rehabilitation success is achieved with hearing aid use because it reduces communications problems, even if they are self-perceived. Psychological support initially, tends to lead to increased use and technological devices appear to increase social interactions in older individuals with impaired hearing.
Public health remains an important factor and hearing loss is a disability and digital hearing aids can offer many advantages. More affordable, practical and easy to use devices are developed as the technology improves.
It can be concluded that even though improvements in aesthetics, comfort, and other functions are important, one of the most important is the continued development of speech perception. Machine learning is the new tool where advances are most likely to be made. Used in hearing aids, this technology can be developed to offer sound transformations base on pre-hearing loss and after neural activity. The big data needed for this will requires recordings from thousands of neurons simultaneously and may add exciting features to future hearing aids.
Even though such a high percentage of Americans suffer from a loss of hearing it appears that many may still feel reluctant to wear a hearing device. Consequently, market penetration of digital hearing aids is still relatively low. These fears are rather basic and may include a fear of appearing old, being examined by a doctor, affordability, and even that they won’t fit correctly.
Not surprisingly, it is known that usually, individuals with hearing loss wait between seven and ten years before deciding on getting a hearing aid. On the other hand, it has been proven that people who wait too long to correct their hearing loss may not only suffer psychological effects like depression and anxiety because of their deceased social activities but also have a higher risk of developing progressive brain disorders like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
It can be argued that these fears are totally unnecessary and technology has allowed for the development of devices that are not only affordable but also discreet. The possibility to purchase devices that offer a wide range of features online allows those with all ranges of hearing loss to find a model suitable for their needs.
It is probable that people with these fears may have never tried to use a hearing aid, or had a bad experience in the past with hearing aids that either kept losing their battery power, were not powerful enough to meet their hearing needs or didn’t fit properly.
COVID-19 and how it has impacted those with hearing loss
We do not view COVID-19 as an excuse for any commercial ploys to sell more hearing aids. But let’s view other consequences in perspective: The unique challenges of the coronavirus pandemic have highlighted the challenges faced by many people who need to work even though they have hearing loss. Working from an unfamiliar environment may often pose problems. Headsets with microphones that are adjustable or can be muted for background noise may be essential.
Communicating during virtual meetings usually needs some adjustments and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has offered some advice on how people can adapt.
Some of the possible steps that can be taken by those with hearing loss during meetings include:
- The use of hearing aids that connect directly to Bluetooth should be used during the virtual meeting.
- Noise-canceling headphones minimize background sounds making it easier to hear.
- Introductions at the beginning of a meeting allow time for sound adjustments.
- Visual notes allow people with hearing loss to not lose track of the conversation.
- Headsets with a built-in microphone allow for increased volume.
- Speakers should not cover their mouth ensuring that everything is clearly heard.
- Interruptions are not conducive and neither does it help those with hearing loss if people speak together.
- Making a recording of a meeting allows for a later review in case portions of the conversation were not clearly audible.
Finally, nobody will deny that finding the right hearing aid can be effective and life-changing. It appears to be far easier than ever before people with hearing problems to find a hearing aid. Online purchases may alleviate their fears of going to a doctor, but they can also offer a wide gamma of devices that are both affordable and comfortable to wear. Some may be more discreet than others and many offer technological features that allow them to be used in a variety of environments. Always compare hearing aid features and read consumer reviews before buying hearing aids online. Avoid hearing aid scams at all cost.