Hearing Aid Technology
Hearing aid technology is constantly evolving and hearing devices are now smaller and more comfortable than ever while offering features that simply weren’t available even a few years ago. At Canary Hearing, we offer a wide variety of hearing aids to meet your unique needs. Whether you want a waterproof model or an aid that can wirelessly connect to your Bluetooth device, we have the advanced devices that will ensure your hearing will be better than ever. For over 40 years, we have been providing cutting-edge hearing aid technology to patients throughout Maryland, including the Eastern Shore and Anne Arundel County from our location in Annapolis.
High-tech digital hearing aids offer a variety of features and benefits, including:
Wireless connectivity is an exciting new feature available in modern hearing aids. Wireless technology allows you to enjoy a number of useful and convenient features, including:
- A small remote control allows you to make adjustments to the way you are hearing based on the situation you are in.
- Bluetooth-enabled devices can be heard straight through your hearing aids. Bluetooth enabled devices may include telephones, iPods, stereos and television.
- Hearing instruments with Siemens e2e technology are able to share information about your environment so they can make the best decisions about how to adjust to your surroundings.
Directional microphones are an exciting feature of modern hearing aids that increase performance in situations with lots of background noise. In fact, they are the single most important feature when it comes to helping you hear better in background noise! Directional microphones enable you to “zoom in” on the person you are listening to so that you can focus on exactly what they’re saying. Being able to focus your hearing and reduce the volume of sounds around you is a big advantage when things are noisy. When combined with digital noise reduction, directional microphones make a noticeable difference in places with loud background noise.
Basic directional microphone technology has been available in hearing aids since the 1960s. There are many advances in directional technology but perhaps the most practical is the new adaptive feature. Today’s signal processing hearing instruments are able to detect the direction from which speech is coming and adapt the directional pattern accordingly. Siemens calls this adaptive technology “speech focus” because the instruments essentially focus towards speech. Speech focus technology has numerous polar patterns available and it chooses the best pattern to direct hearing towards the speech signal. In addition, the null zone of the polar plot can be directed towards the area of loudest ambient noise. New directional microphone technology is extremely effective and is now available in most hearing instruments.
Softening loud sounds
One complaint many patients have about older hearing aids is that when they turned them up loudly enough to hear other people, background environmental noises would become too loud and distracting. Luckily, new digital hearing instruments make turning your hearing aid up and down depending on what you are listening to a thing of the past. These high-tech modern hearing aids automatically adjust to incoming sounds when programmed correctly so you simply switch them on and enjoy perfect hearing!
New hearing aids utilize very specialized digital signal processors to manipulate sound. This signal processing relies heavily on several different types of compression in order to maintain proper sound levels. Different forms of compression are adjusted in the available frequency bands in order to provide a loudness experience that imitates the loudness growth of the sound you are hearing. In other words, we want you to hear soft sounds softly, normal sounds at a normal level, and loud sounds should sound loud but not uncomfortable. Modern hearing aid software will set gain and compression according to formulas based on averages but it is always best if your hearing aid specialist adjusts these settings to your specific loss. Adjusting gain and compression settings across the whole frequency spectrum takes time, patience, and expertise but the results are well worth it! Otometry allows us to do this with a high level of precision and our attention to detail has helped us to build a strong reputation for professional expertise.
Digital noise filtering
Another difficulty with older hearing aids is the presence of distracting background noise. Thankfully, new digital noise filtering technologies allow patients to hear better in loud situations. Digital hearing aids can distinguish between ambient noise and speech sounds and automatically lower the volume of background noise, ensuring that you’ll never miss an important moment.
The digital signal processors in today’s hearing instruments are able to recognize the difference between ambient noise and human speech. This is primarily due to the syllabic nature of human speech versus the steady state characteristics of most background noise. Even though modern hearing instruments are NOT able to “scrub out” the background noise from the speech signal, being able to discriminate between the two types of signals is helpful. Because new hearing instruments are multi-channel, they are able to reduce gain in frequencies where unwanted sound is detected. Obviously, there are limitations in this kind of noise reduction because sometimes the ambient noise encroaches on frequency ranges that are important to speech understanding. When this is the case, gain reduction must be limited in an effort to maintain intelligibility. This is one of the primary reasons we are likely to recommend instruments with more bands to people who are in background noise frequently. The greater the number of bands, the more precise the above-mentioned noise reduction can be. What about large crowds where the background noise is human speech? How would this digital noise filtering you describe deal with that? The simple answer is that it cannot. That is why digital noise filtering is almost always used in conjunction with directional microphone technology described below.
Important note: The amount of benefit you can expect with any noise reduction technology is dependent on the integrity of your auditory processing. For a discussion about auditory processing please see the section on How We Hear. To learn about what you can expect there is no substitute for a thorough consultation with our professionals. One of the most important things we offer is a clear explanation of the benefits and limitations you can expect with better hearing.
Feedback (whistle) suppression
Feedback is a major problem with older hearing aid technology and creates both frustration and embarrassment. Luckily, feedback suppression comes standard in modern hearing aids so that whistling is a thing of the past. Feedback suppression systems are able to detect feedback before it begins and suppress it quickly. As long as an appropriate style of hearing aid is chosen and fitted properly, you will probably never have to experience the embarrassment of a whistling hearing aid.
Feedback suppression/cancellation technology has been a useful feature in hearing aids since 2004. Feedback control systems have been refined in many important ways since then. “FeedbackStopper” by Siemens is the most sophisticated and utilizes some advanced features that will be described below. With a typical feedback reduction system, when feedback is detected a signal that is out of phase (180 degrees) with the feedback is produced at the same frequency. The phase difference cancels the feedback signal. This works well except that certain specific types of environmental sounds can be mistaken for a feedback signal. If an environmental sound is mistaken for feedback then the out of phase signal produced by the feedback reduction system is heard by the hearing aid user as a quick whistle. This whistle, while not as bothersome as acoustic feedback is nevertheless undesirable. Our clients that used these older feedback reduction systems would often tell us that their hearing aid occasionally whistled briefly while watching television or listening to music. What people were hearing were the artifacts created when an outside sound “confused” their hearing aids. Again, the effect was very minor and most people did not find it very troubling. Siemens FeedbackStopper is a fourth generation feedback cancellation system that does away with these random artifacts by utilizing two new technologies. Acoustic Fingerprint Technologies (AFT) and frequency shifting are now available in most Siemens hearing instruments and help reduce feedback without creating unwanted transient artifacts. AFT “marks” the amplified sound in a way that allows the instrument to distinguish between a true feedback signal and an external sound that might otherwise look like feedback to a hearing aid. When necessary, breaking the feedback loop is then accomplished by slightly shifting the frequency of what would be the feedback signal. These changes happen in milliseconds so that feedback can be avoided before a person can perceive it.
Waterproof Hearing Instruments
One of the biggest problems with older hearing aids is the fact that they were so prone to water damage. Patients had to be careful not to get caught in the rain while wearing their hearing aid or else it could become significantly damaged. One of the reasons we are so pleased with Siemens hearing technology is that they are the first hearing aid manufacturer to offer a true waterproof hearing instrument. This means you no longer have to choose between hearing better and activities that may cause your hearing instruments to become wet. Normal hearing aids cannot be worn swimming, boating, or during times of physical exertion that may cause a person to sweat. All that has changed with the new Aquaris waterproof hearing aids from Siemens. Aquaris allows you to enjoy better hearing without any limits.