Until quite recently, all hearing aids were analog. Today you can find both analog and digital hearing aids on the market, although analog hearing aids are becoming less common due to the advantages digital technology can provide.
Both analog and digital hearing aids provide the same function, have similar components and are powered by batteries. They pick up sound using a microphone and use circuitry to amplify certain sounds. The main difference is in the way they handle the electrical signal.
Analog Hearing Aids
Analog hearing aids work by increasing the volume of continuous sound waves, amplifying all sounds including speech and background noise. Like a microphone connected to a speaker, they use a continuously varying electrical signal to produce sound.
Better quality analog hearing aids compress the sound using automatic gain control. This limits the volume of louder sounds while keeping quieter sounds loud enough to be heard. Some also have programmable settings, which allow you to change the hearing aid settings depending on how loud or quiet the environment is. These settings are usually adjusted with a volume control, physical switch or button on the device.
Advantages of Analog Hearing Aids
- Generally more affordable than digital hearing aids
- Can be more powerful than some digital hearing aids
- Are preferred by long-time hearing aid users because they are used to the sound and functions of it
Disadvantages of Analog Hearing Aids
- Sound filters on analog hearing aids are limited or non-existent, forcing you to hear every sound around you including the ones you don’t want to hear
- Volume on analog hearing aids needs to be carefully adjusted as they can sometimes cause loud screeching sounds
Digital Hearing Aids
Digital hearing aids use a digital signal processor, transforming the electrical signal from sound into digital binary code. Once the signal is digitalised, it can undergo advanced manipulation to adapt precisely to changing environments and your specific hearing abilities. Digital technology makes it possible to tailor and process sounds precisely in ways that are impossible with analog hearing aids.
Digital hearing aids offer the user more features and greater flexibility including memory to store environment-specific settings. They use directional microphones and sophisticated algorithms to selectively detect the sound of voices and identify background sounds. This reduces irrelevant noise and removes feedback.
Advantages of Digital Hearing Aids
- Highly programmable to your specific hearing needs
- Flexible and easily adjustable
- Far better than analog hearing aids at reducing background noise
- Many come with extra features such as wireless connection to phones, laptops and other devices
Disadvantages of Digital Hearing Aids
- Generally more expensive than analog hearing aids
- Cheap and poor quality digital hearing aids are often sold online or over the counter by off-brand manufacturers
Ultimately, the right hearing aids for you will depend on the type and severity of your hearing loss as well as your personal preferences and budget. The most important thing is that you consult a hearing aid specialist who can advise you on the best solution for your case.
If you need hearing aids in Perth, get in touch with Hearing & Audiology by calling08 9388 8003 or enquiring online. We are hearing aid specialists with more than 30 years of experience and two audiological clinics in Perth – Duncraig and Subiaco, and one in Geraldton.