Features of Hearing Aids

Hearing aid technology is constantly improving. Hearing aids today have small computers inside that measure the sound coming into the hearing aid and automatically adjust how the hearing aid processes that sound. Many features are available and may be used depending on your child's age, including:

Digital Noise Reduction

Digital hearing aids have the ability to reduce the amount of background noise a user hears. The hearing aid analyzes sounds entering the hearing aid. If a sound is an unwanted ambient noise that may be distracting – the hum of an air conditioner or classroom projector – it will decrease the volume of that sound. If the sound entering the hearing aid is speech it will try to maintain or increase the volume of speech so the user can hear it more clearly.

Bluetooth or Wireless Compatibility

Many hearing aids are able to connect to devices via Bluetooth. Some hearing aids connect directly to the Bluetooth devices. Others require that the hearing aid be connected to an intermediary device which then connects to the Bluetooth devices. This intermediary device is worn around the neck or clipped to your clothing.

Connect to devices via Bluetooth

Connecting your child's hearing aids to a cell phone, tablet, laptop or music player through Bluetooth allows your child to hear the phone conversation, video, game or music directly through their hearing aids.

Apps for Cell Phones and Tablets

Some manufacturers have apps for cell phones or tablets that connect to your child's hearing aids allowing you to see the hearing aid battery life, monitor or change the volume settings or change the listening program for them.

Microphone Connectivity

Wireless compatibility also allows some hearing aids to connect to small microphones.

  • Worn by a parent in the car so their child can hear them more clearly over the road noise if they are in the back seat and cannot see their parent's face
  • Worn in places like the zoo or a museum so their child can hear them more clearly among the background noise and other people's voices

Wide Dynamic Range Compression

An individual's dynamic range is the difference in volume between the softest sound they can hear and the loudest sound they can tolerate. This allows them to hear a difference between a whisper and someone shouting. An individual with a hearing loss has a smaller dynamic range because the softest sound they can hear is already louder than that of a person with normal hearing. When a hearing aid uses compression, it makes sounds louder by different amounts depending on how loud the sound is to begin with. This way the patient can hear all sounds and still maintain the ability to tell the difference between a whisper and someone shouting.

  • If a hearing aid circuit has wide dynamic range compression, it automatically adjusts the amount of gain so that soft sounds will be made louder and loud sounds won't be distorted or too loud.
  • This kind of circuit may help children hear conversations at different listening distances.

Directional Microphones

Hearing aids generally have more than one microphone. Depending on the amount of noise in the room each hearing aid may be more sensitive to sounds coming from a particular direction.

  • Omni-directional microphones pick up sounds coming from all directions.
  • Directional microphones pick up sounds from a specific direction, usually in front of the child.  

In noisy situations, directional microphones focus on what is in front of the child, and the loudness of sounds coming from behind the child is reduced. It can help the hearing aid user hear and understand speech that is coming from the front.

This can be helpful when listening in noise, but there can be problems when directional microphones are used with young children. These include:

  • Babies and toddlers learn a lot of speech and language by listening to (overhearing) others who are talking around them. Directional microphones may reduce how much speech and language is overheard, especially when the child is not looking at the people who are talking.
  • If a child is using a directional microphone in a classroom, they may hear their teacher who is standing at the front of the classroom better but they will not hear their classmates who may ask important questions or be reading out loud sections of the lesson.

The child's audiologist can help parents understand what situations are good and bad for using directional microphones.

Multiple Listening Programs

Many digital hearing aids can keep more than one listening program stored in the hearing aid.

Multiple programs let the hearing aid or the user choose different microphone or hearing aid settings by using a remote control or program button on the hearing aid.

  • Some hearing aids automatically switch between listening programs based on the sounds in the environment.
  • Having the choice of different programs can be good for young children, especially if their hearing fluctuates or changes.
  • This can allow a fast change in the hearing aid settings when parents notice changes in the child's responses.
  • Parents can also use multiple programs when a very young child is fitted with hearing aids.

The parents can help the audiologist decide which hearing aid setting provides the best audibility for their child. When using multiple programs, parents need to be in control of the program settings and need to know when to change programs. Parents should work with the audiologist to understand how to use multiple programs.​​