For many of us, when there is a big step forward in technology, we sometimes think, “Why didn’t they just leave well enough alone because I was happy with the way it was before?” In the area of medical technology, the speed of advancement of knowledge and technical sophistication has been particularly fast. A good example of how much change has come is in the area of hearing aids.
For years, the analog hearing aid was state of the art in hearing amplification. So when the digital revolution took hearing aid technology by storm, a lot changed, not the least of which was the price of hearing aid, which went through the roof. Of course, analog hearing aids have not gone away and for many people they are a good option, particularly in light of the fact that these days, analog is the a low-cost way to get a hearing aid that is durable and of high quality and yet still affordable.
But along with the higher prices, digital hearing equipment brings with it a lot of value that offsets the costs and its worth knowing what good modern technology brings as well. One important refinement the digital revolution has brought to audio enhancement is the ability to filter and compress sounds as they come to the ear and then selectively let through only what is needed by you.
So surface noise, white noise and other bothersome vibrations that will only distract or even harm the patient’s ears can be eliminated while important sounds such as the human voice at a speaking level can be let through and amplified. The outcome is the owner of a digital hearing aid often hears better than the unaided human ear because the digital unit is blocking out unwanted sounds and letting in sounds that are needed.
Another huge leap forward in hearing aid design that could only be made possible through digital technology is the miniaturization of the hearing aid unit to such an extent that a hearing aid can not only fit neatly into the ear cavity, in many cases it can be implanted into the ear canal entirely so there is no external evidence of the hearing aid.
The advantage that jumps out with this new design is that the stigma of having a hearing aid on is reduced or eliminated. Because the hearing aid virtually becomes part of the ear, the fuss of removal and maintenance of the hearing aid is eliminated and the hearer only has to have the hearing aid checked from time to time so the battery can be replaced and the unit cleaned.
Each year more and more advancements in hearing aid technology are happening which is making it possible for more and more people to be able to hear that never could before. Digital technology has even enabled medical science to develop bone anchored hearing aids that enable people who could not hear by any other means to hear via hearing aids that translate sounds into vibrations that are sent directly into the bone of the inner ear.
This is an amazing breakthrough that in many cases cures deafness. So while it is true that the digital design of hearing aids has increased costs, there is no question that the value that has been realized from the digital revolution has been phenomenal.