What Does Digital Mean?

Many times patients come to my office and ask what those digital hearing aids mean.


To answer this we have to look back and understand what hearing aids use to be. Hearing aids generally have three classical definitions for the circuitry inside: analog, programmable, and digital.

Analog hearing aids are types of circuitry which are set by the manufacturer and give little adjustment for the audiologist to control. Analog hearing aids were used for many decades until around 2000–2008 when the manufacturers stopped requesting and making parts for these devices. Because of the lack of parts available for these devices, they are essentially unrepairable and need to be replaced.

Programmable hearing aids were the beginning of the revolution to allow the audiologist to change the settings of the aid to better suit his/her patient’s lifestyle more individually. These were primarily used in the 1990s and are now virtually unavailable for any repair because these parts are also not made anymore.

Digital devices began a few times in the 1970–1980s but began in earnest in the late 1990s. Now all devices are digital.  But do not be fooled by sales people telling you that all digital hearing aids are the same, because they are not. Digital devices could have as few as 10 individually adjustments to around 100 separate adjustments that only your AudigyCertified™ audiologist can effectively handle. If, as one of my favorite patients asked me, the birds on the golf course are too loud for you, it can be adjusted effectively and easily. Many patients have not realized that their devices can be modified to accommodate their specific needs according to their hearing loss and listening lifestyle.

“So, can digital hearing aids take away all the sounds I do not want to hear?” This is a common question I hear, but the answer is yes and no. We all hear sounds we do not wish to hear, such as a yelling child in a restaurant, but we all still have to deal with this problem.  What can be fixed is the comfort of that noise to make it not exceed your ability to tolerate that sound (or hurt your ear), unless everyone around you is holding their ears as well.

Every year manufacturers are creating new devices to accommodate the noises our patients encounter, and they’re putting them in the rearview mirror of hearing history. Keep asking an AudigyCertified™ audiologist what new technology might be available for you or your loved one.

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