Acadia Hearing Center

Digital or Analog?

Today's hearing aid technology falls into two categories: digital and analog. Don't be mislead when someone advertises that they have digital hearing aids. EVERYONE has them!

Analog is the older technology and has almost completely faded into the background. Few manufacturers are making products of this type of hearing aid any longer but for very specific types of hearing loss, this is the best choice. Nearly all of the hearing aids we sell today are digital - and there's no premium attached to the price!.

Digital technology (similar to that in your computer or CD player) is much more precise and adds greatly to the accuracy of sound reproduction. All major manufacturers are now using digital technology to make better aids - and the price is often less than you would have paid for an analog hearing aid just a few years ago..


The word "digital" is often used in many auditory-related industries, including the hearing aid industry, but what does "digital" really mean?

Woman Reading to BoyA truly digital hearing aid is one with a computer chip in it. This computer chip makes independent decisions about what is going on around you and then makes changes in the sound you hear. What changes it makes are according to the directions it has received from either the person who has set up the hearing aid features initially (programmed it electronically, similar to the way car engines are now tuned) or you the person who is wearing the aid using either buttons or dials on the hearing aid or a pocket device - or both!

Here's how it works: if it gets noisier where you are, a digital hearing aid will change the way in which it treats and amplifies the incoming sounds to make better use of the important signal(s) and minimize some of the interfering noise. This can be an automatic response from the hearing aid or one activated by a deliberate action of the user using a switch or button on the aid. It's particularly helpful in difficult hearing situations: church where you're further back, a conference or lodge room, or - what most people have great difficulty with - places with crowds like restaurants, sports events, musical presentations, etc.

Many digital circuits also allow for some additional conveniences which make the wearer's experience with the aid more pleasant. These include (but are not limited to):

  • e2e - Ear to Ear - Some hearing aids have the ability to adjust the volume on one side and send a signal to the other hearing aid to compensate. This amazing technology, simplified, means that if a loud noise occurs on your left side, that hearing aid will quickly shut down its input level to eliminate any pain or discomfort while simultaneously sending - in fractions of a millisecond - a message to the right ear to allow slightly more volume on that side in order that you can still hear. It's an amazing concept - and not just for the rich! E2E wireless technology is available even in mid-priced hearing aid models today.
  • Automatic Sound Processing - Incoming sound is continually analysed and processed to best amplify speech while reducing unwanted noise. With this feature, soft sounds are given more amplification while very loud sounds are given little or no amplification. This can create a hands-free operation with no need for external controls such as volume control wheels and makes hearing instruments both simple to use and comfortable for the wearer.
  • Directional microphones – these enable you to better focus your hearing on one signal in the presence of many (such as a restaurant) by pointing your hearing aid at the source of that particular sound. This feature can often be an automatic one in most truly digital products so that this advantage is accomplished with no deliberate effort on the part of the wearer. A lesser degree of directionality is available in some analog products but requires manual switching and is often confusing as to where to place the switch and whether it is working properly.
  • Power On Delay - a feature which delays the time after the battery is inserted until the aid will actually turn itself on to enable you to get it in place and get ready to start hearing. This eliminates the annoying whistling associated with touching the aid while it is turned on.
  • Tonal markers – this refers to tone signals in the aid which tell the wearer, by the number or pitch of the tones they hear, which settings have been chosen by the wearer. These signals are only audible to the wearer, you won't be signaling anyone around you!
  • Telephone listening system – Many hearing aids have a telephone system built into the circuitry which amplifies the signal from a telephone receiver directly. A digital aid will process the sound through the computer chip in the aid to mimic your prescription. Some are switchless meaning that they go into the telephone mode all by themselves when a phone is placed near the aid. You don't have to think about it!
  • FM/wireless technology - There are some digital hearing aids using plug-in circuitry that picks up low band FM radio signals (much lower than those signals your car stereo picks up) and sends them through the hearing aid to your ear. This technologic marvel allows the wearer to tune in closed-circuit radio transmissions from such devices as church PA systems, sound systems at performing arts centers or microphones on the podium of your local town meeting. The signal from the person talking is transmitted to you directly without the loss of any sound energy due to distance. Some systems afford the user a choice of settings so you can pick the signal you want to hear but change when you enter a new environment.
  • Telecoil - This feature allows the hearing aid to pick up telephone signals and not other sounds. It's operated automatically when a telephone is placed near your hearing instrument or is manually operated by a push button or switch.
  • And much more!

Each month seems to bring some new feature. In the past, these were small, very technical advances but now, they're consumer-driven and user-friendly implementation of what a hearing aid user wants. Whether it's a wrist watch, pen, or pocket device to make volume adjustments or a multi-channel programming feature that allows you to hear equally well on a construction site and in a concert hall, today's technology is astonishing. We're abreast of it all - but we only sell what YOU need and want!

Ask us: we'll be happy to tell you all about it.

18 High St, Ellsworth, ME 04605   (207) 667-4014

Fax: (207) 667-4525

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