Digital, analogue and Bluetooth hearing aids

Most hearing aids issued in the UK these days are Digital. We have left the information on analogue aids just in case someone still uses one. Hearing aid technology moves on all the time. It may be worth asking what’s new when you go to have your hearing tested.

All hearing aids can amplify sound but some process sound digitally and some hearing aids process sound using analogue circuitry.

A hearing aid (either digital or analogue) has three basic parts: a microphone, amplifier, and speaker. The hearing aid receives sound through a microphone, which converts the sound waves to electrical signals and sends them to an amplifier. The amplifier increases the power of the signals and then sends them to the ear through a speaker.

The differences between analogue and digital hearing aids

Digital hearing aids are very similar to analogue hearing aids in appearance – they can be Behind-The-Ear models or the smaller In-The-Ear or In-The-Canal models, etc. (see Section 9.iv. Types of Hearing Aids). The main difference between analogue and digital hearing aids is the way that they process sound.  Digital hearing aids have a tiny computer which makes it possible to programme the hearing aid to fit an individual’s hearing loss as closely as possible.

Bluetooth enabled hearing aids

Some NHS clinics are issuing Bluetooth enabled hearing aids. This may mean you can connect to other Bluetooth enabled devices such as a mobile phone or MP4 music player, etc.

You may also be able to control your aids from an app on your phone. So you may be able to adjust the volume or tone or change the programme e.g. change to loop or cut out background sounds.

What hearing aid users think about digital hearing aids

Opinions are divided: Some people prefer digital aids because they say that the sound is clearer than with digital hearing aids. Others like them because they say that they get less background noise.

Other people say they do not like them because some digital hearing aids have no volume control. This means that they cannot turn them up when they need or down when they need to.  However, some people find that they like not having a volume control as they found the controls too fiddly.

Some people find that the background noise is worse with their digital aids than when they had analogue aids.  Others with a directional microphone programme on their digital aids find that this can help reduce some of the background noise in some situations.

The following are what some people said about digital and analogue hearing aids:

1. I’ve found that since I’ve changed to digital hearing aids that speech is a little clearer than with my old analogue aids. 

2. It took me a long time to get used to my digital hearing aids, but now that my ears have got used to them, I find them just as helpful as my analogues were.

3. I’ve found these digital hearing aids a bit disappointing – a friend had some and she found them a big improvement, but I find that they don’t seem to work as well for me.  I sometimes wish I could go back to my analogue aids.

4. I’m really pleased with the digital aids I have at the moment, but the first ones that I was issued with I found very difficult to adjust to as they didn’t have a volume control.  I found that I was leaving them out more than I was wearing them as it was always too noisy.  I went back to my clinic and asked if I could have aids with a volume control.   I had to ask several times, but in the end, they gave me these ones, and they are so much better – I can wear them in most situations now – it does pay to be persistent sometimes.