Selecting a Digital Hearing Aid

There are several factors to think about when selecting a digital hearing aid. Understanding your choices will help you make a better decision when presented with your options by a hearing health care professional. HearingAidHelp.com has identified 4 factors to consider when selecting a digital hearing aid.

Factor 1: Number of channels and bands

To understand the function of separating a hearing aid's response into channels and bands according to frequency, let me first explain the speech spectrum.

Speech covers a variety of frequencies (pitches) with the low-pitched vowels (A, E, I, O, and U) carrying loudness and high-pitched consonants (S, T, P, F, D, M, N etc) carrying understanding. Hearing loss is usually not consistent across all frequencies (pitches). For example, many people have a high-frequency hearing loss where it is difficult to hear high-pitched sounds (examples: female voices, consonant sounds, birds). This presents a problem to the person because they hear some loudness from the low pitches but do not have clarity from the missing high pitches. When fitting this hearing loss with a hearing aid, the professional wants to match the exact amount of amplification for that exact hearing loss at that precise frequency. Digital hearing aids divide the frequency/pitch range into channels and bands. This division allows frequency-specific adjustments to be made independently in that area. Some hearing aids have more channels/bands than others.

If your hearing loss changes across the frequency spectrum, then you may need more channels/bands. If your hearing loss is relatively flat across the frequency spectrum, then you may only need 2 channels. More channels are not always better. The number of channels you need may depend upon your hearing loss.

^ back to top

Factor 2: Professionals' expertise

This concept cannot be understated because the ability of your hearing health care professional to properly fit and program a digital hearing aid is critical to the success of the hearing aid fitting. Digital hearing aids are truly remarkable; however, programming by an experienced professional is a required component for your satisfaction. This is why it is important to ask your hearing healthcare professional WHICH brand of digital hearing aids they have the most experience fitting and not just what they would recommend.

^ back to top

Factor 3: Directional microphone

This term means that the hearing aid will have two microphones or two microphone ports to allow a decrease in the volume of the sounds coming in the back microphone. When activated, this technique boosts the sounds in front of you by decreasing those behind you. Directional microphones are useful in crowd situations where you need to hear the person in front of you and not the surrounding noise. It is usually recommended for active people who find themselves in restaurants, crowds, meetings, and parties. This technology does require you to position yourself with your back to the majority of the noise and your face to the speaker. At this time, directional microphones are only available on full shell-in-the-ear, half shell in-the-ear, and behind-the-ear hearing instrument sizes. The hearing aids should have a switch to allow you to change from picking up all sounds around you equally to directionality. Keep in mind that in some quiet situations you will want to hear from all directions equally (example: at home when your spouse is not directly in front of you or at you side).

^ back to top

Factor 4: Multiple memories

This term means that the hearing aid will have a push-button or switch, which allows you to change your listening program (or what is programmed into your hearing aid for you to hear). If you think about your regular day, you change environments from quiet to loud. If you change listening environments frequently you may consider a hearing aid with multiple memories. By the push of a button, or flick of a switch, you can change between pre-set listening programs (programmed by you audiologist or hearing instrument specialist) for noisy situations, quiet situations, music situations, and even work environment situations.

^ back to top

Hearing Aid
Number of Channels
Number of Memories
Directional Microphone
Siemens Music Digital
2
2
Not available
Siemens Prisma
4
2
Available in BTE & ITE
Siemens Signia 8
8
2
Available in BTE, ITE half-shell & ITE
Widex Senso Plus
3
1
Available in BTE
Sonic Innovations Natura 2
9
2
Not available
Oticon Digilife
2
1
Not available
Oticon DigiFocus II
2 channels with 7 bands
1
Available in ITE
Starkey Cetera
1 channel with 15 points
1
Not available
Starkey Aries 9
9
2
Available in ITE
Starkey Gemini
2 channels with 7 bands
2
Available in ITE
Rexton 2D
2
2
Available in BTE & ITE
Rexton 3D
6
2
Available in ITE
Bernafon/Maico Smile
2 channels with 5 bands
2
Available in ITE
Qualitone Sapphire
2 channels with 7 bands
2
Not available
Lori/Unitron Digital Sound F/X
2
2
Available in BTE
AHS QuickLink D
2
3
Not available 
AHS DigiLink
3 channels with 7 bands
3
Not available

^ back to top

Other hearing aid articles

To download a Free Hearing Aid Buyer's Guide, click here. For more information about hearing loss and hearing aid help, please contact us at 1-800-866-6240 or email us.