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Definition

digital hearing aid

A digital hearing aid is a hearing aid device that receives sound and digitizes it (breaks sound waves up into very small, discrete units) prior to amplification. A traditional analog hearing aid simply makes the sound wave larger to amplify sounds. Like their analog counterparts, digital hearing aids are available in a range of prices, and with a corresponding range of capabilities.

The most sophisticated digital hearing aids have built in intelligence that allows them to discern between soft, but desirable sounds, and louder, but unwanted noise. Such devices can amplify the former, while neutralizing the latter for better performance in a variety of environments. A digital hearing aid can be programmed to adjust itself to the current environment millions of times each second. Digital technology also makes it possible for technicians to create customized programs that address each individual's specific hearing difficulties.

An analog hearing aid employs miniature devices, such as microphones, amplifier s, and resistor s to alter an acoustic signal (a sound) electronically. The altered signal is then converted back to a sound wave and played into the ear canal. A digital hearing aid also uses a microphone, but a microprocessor performs most of the device's functions digitally. Because the signal is represented as a series of numbers, it can be quickly and accurately altered.

This was last updated in September 2005

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