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Know the Difference Between Analog and Digital Before You Purchase a Hearing Aid

Aug 20, 2020 | Blog

As technology evolves, many of the tools we use in our daily lives go through changes, and more advancements lead to better products. If you have heard of both digital and analog hearing aids, you may have questions about which product is best, how they are different, and whether one is more budget-friendly than the other. To gain a full perspective on the differences between these two types of hearing aids, it is essential to have a complete understanding of how they help you hear better. Most of the hearing aids people use today are digital, as this is the more advanced technology, but there are still analog hearing aids on the market, so you should have an understanding of each before you make your purchase.
 

How Do Hearing Aids Work?

To fully grasp the difference between analog and digital hearing aids, you must first understand how they process and amplify sound to improve your hearing. If you have a hearing impairment, a hearing aid may be able to help you by picking up sound, making it louder, and then delivering it into your ear canal. Your lifestyle, along with the type and severity of your hearing loss, are all contributing factors to the special features, design, and technology you will be looking for in your hearing aid. The three main parts of a hearing aid are:

1. Microphone. This is the part of the hearing device that picks up sound. Some hearing aids have directional microphones that are designed to help you carry on conversations in noisy environments. There are also hearing aids that have a T-Coil Switch, which serves the purpose of improving hearing while talking on a telephone. These hearing aids also work in venues like churches and theaters that are equipped with an induction loop FM installation. Hearing aid microphones can be analog or digital, and both types offer directional or omnidirectional microphones. Digital microphones, however, offer advances in listening features that provide the clearest sound.

2. Amplifier. The amplifier is the element in the hearing aid that makes sounds louder. Amplifiers are another digital vs. analog feature of a hearing device. Analog amplifiers increase the volume of the frequencies of sound they pick up. Digital amplifiers, on the other hand, have a built-in computer that converts sound waves into digital code. These amplifiers typically provide the highest quality sound amplification because they can filter out feedback and background noise.

3. Receiver. The hearing aid receiver is the speaker that sends the amplified sound into your ear canal. It does this by gathering the electrical signals that the amplifier sends out, and converting them back into acoustic sound.
 

Analog Hearing Aids

Analog hearing aids work by making sound waves louder. They amplify all sounds, including noise as well as speech, in the same manner. The receiver then sends the sounds into your ears, as is. These hearing aids have a microchip that can be programmed, depending on the environment in which it is being used. The benefit of this feature is that you can switch the setting to hear better in various situations, such as sports venues, churches, restaurants, libraries, or at home. You control the settings by pushing a button on the hearing aid to activate the setting you wish to use.
 

Digital Hearing Aids

The technology in digital hearing aids operates a bit differently than that of analog models. Tiny, powerful computers in the hearing device convert sounds into digital signals through binary code and produce a precise duplication of the sounds. The sophisticated technology in the device gives them the ability to differentiate between environmental sounds and speech sounds, which allows them to perform more complex processes in amplifying the sound. This improves the performance of the hearing aid by allowing it to filter out background noise and feedback. The way they can be programmed can also be more customized to specific needs, depending on the type of hearing loss you are experiencing.
 

Is Digital Better Than Analog?

The fact that digital hearing aids are more technologically advanced than analog devices naturally implies that they are a better product. Of course, every person’s hearing impairment is different, and many people have found analog hearing aids to be beneficial. The options available on today’s market are much broader when it comes to digital devices, and analog models are becoming less popular and harder to find. When you look at the advances in feedback management and the noise filtering properties digital hearing aids offer, it is understandable that most users experience a clearer sound from digital models. Most find that they are a better choice. You can’t get the same quality sound from an analog hearing aid, because although they can amplify specific sound frequencies, they cannot filter out the sounds you don’t wish to hear. Analog hearing aids are generally less expensive than digital models, but the benefits of a digital hearing aid make the higher price a worthwhile expenditure for most hearing aid users.

Whether you are a long-time hearing aid user or you have recently experienced hearing loss that has led you to start shopping for a device, you have likely asked the question, “What is the difference between analog and digital hearing aids?” Both devices will amplify sounds into your ear canal to help you hear better. Still, the sound quality you get from an analog hearing aid in various settings doesn’t compare to the clarity you get from a digital model. You may save a bit on the initial investment with analog, but the limitations they have on settings and sound wave conversion lead most users to choose a digital option.
 

Sources:

https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/hearing-aids/types-hearing-aids
https://www.carsonhearing.com/hearing-aids-news/introduction-analog-vs-digital-hearing-aids/
https://www.mdhearingaid.com/en/blog/digital-hearing-aids
https://www.starkey.com/hearing-loss/treatment/how-hearing-aids-work#:~:text=The%20receiver%20gathers%20electrical%20signals,it%20to%20your%20inner%20ear.