Hearing Aid Technology Levels
Hearing Aids come in 4 different technology levels, ranging from entry to top of the line. If you are recommended hearing aids by you hearing healthcare provider, they will prescribe the technology level that will best suit your lifestyle and needs. They are as follows:
This level of technology is tailored to patients who are not in complicated acoustic environments and who have very simple auditory needs such as hearing one-to-one, on the phone, or hearing the TV. The lifestyle and social activity of these patients would be considered quiet. This level of hearing aid technology is not recommended for patients that expect to be in even low levels of ambient noise.
This level of technology is best for patients that are not in noisy situations very often, but who might participate in small group conversations with a little bit of ambient noise such as small group meetings, family dinners, or less noisy restaurants and social engagements.
The Audiologist can often create manual programs that helps the patient to hear better in low levels of noise; however, the patient will need to make manual adjustments on the hearing aid to access these extra settings.
Patients who are exposed to what could be considered every day or average ambient noise (friends and family get-togethers, sports or active hobbies, restaurants, group conversations) should consider this level of technology.
This level of hearing aid technology typically has sound classification abilities for monitoring the external sound scape and changing programs and features to optimize listening comfort and speech comprehension. The automaticity of this technology for manipulating competing background noise includes: slow or fast acting gain adjustments, adaptive directional microphones, and multiband digital noise reduction. This automaticity makes it very appealing from an ease of use perspective.
For patients who want an automatically switching hearing aid that can decipher if they are listening to music, are outdoors, on a plane/bus/train, or at a noisy party/meeting this is the level of technology for you. A high-level hearing aid can classify the external sound scape, and control the hearing aid features and settings, to optimize listening comfort and speech comprehension for the entire range of auditory environments and input.
This hearing aid technology has the best noise reduction and speech preservation systems for all noise levels including loud ambient noise environment such as parties, receptions, and all large group situations. Usually this is accomplished through a combination of advanced features and automatic setting adjustments. The automaticity of this technology for manipulating competing background noise includes: slow or fast acting gain adjustments, adaptive directional microphones, and multiband digital noise reduction makes it very appealing from an ease of use perspective (see below for definitions).
Music lovers require this level of technology so they can have the greatest auditory bandwidth leading to the richest and brightest sound quality. Some hearing aid companies also have a high frequency boost feature where sharp and crisp sounds are temporarily accentuated to allow for a more bright and clear sound quality. When compared to a premium hearing aid technology, all other lower levels of hearing aid technology will fall well short for patients that have music appreciation as one of their top listening need goals.
The advanced wind noise reduction system in this level of technology can reduce even the highest amount of wind noise so that speech can be heard (please also see Wind Noise Reduction). This is remarkable given that wind noise is physically turbulent causing the microphone to oscillate violently. Wind noise has long been one of the primary complaints of hearing aid wearers and is a big reason why many people have chosen not to wear HAs outdoors. This specialized feature to combat wind noise is absolutely required for all patients who enjoy spending time outdoors for all sorts of leisure and recreational activities.
Adaptive directional microphones
Adaptive directional microphones help remove competing ambient noise from behind the patient so they can more easily attend to a talker in front of them. The hearing aid creates this front to back separation by analyzing the sound input at the front and rear microphones, subtracting sounds from the rear and amplifying sound from the front microphone.
Digital noise reduction
Digital noise reduction is an active attenuation features that works on the incoming audio signal turning down sounds that are labelled as noise while at the same time enhancing sounds that are classified as speech. How does a hearing aid identify a sound as a noise? Noise has a constant or steady sound spectrum meaning the loudness does not fluctuate over time (I.e. fan noise, engine noise, water flowing…etc.) Speech on the other hand has an ever-changing loudness spectrum over time. It is this difference of loudness fluctuation that allows the hearing aid to differentiate between speech and noise.
Fast-acting gain adjustments
Fast-acting gain adjustments: If there is a loud bang or crash such as when a plate shatters or a door is slammed, more advanced hearing aids can enact fast-acting gain adjustment meaning they can turn down sounds almost instantaneously. Similarly, if the there is a speaker embedded in a large amount of ambient noise a premium hearing aid can enact fast increases in gain for speech sounds only, while attenuating background noise.