A digital hearing aid uses digital rather than analog processing. Digital means that the sound is converted to 1's and 0's and processed via computer rather than simpler analog processing.
Until recently hearing aids were analog devices. Recently, some hearing aids use digital (like a computer) processing to perform some functions.
The first hearing aids to use digital processing were hybrid aids and only used digital processing for controlling various functions of the aid, but not for processing the acutal sound, itself ... the actual sound processing remained analog.
Now, most "digital" hearing aids are "full digital" ... that is, they use digital processing not only for controling the aid, but for the signal processing of the sound itself, much the way a CD player converts the 1's and 0's stored on the CD back to an analog signal representing the music.
Digital hearing aids are expensive, but they offer great flexibility in both programming and sound processing when compared with analog hearing aids. Some features of digital aids, include:
- speech enhancement
- noise reduction
- feedback elimination
In the future, most hearing aids will be digital, but there is a lot of "hype" about the "miracle" of digital hearing aids. Yes, there are some advantages, but Analog aids can be good choices for many people with hearing loss ... Especially, those with more serious losses.
As faster processors are available, improved software algorithms is developed and prices come down, digital hearing aids will likely replace most analog aids, but for now, it's a valid question to ask whether the extra benefit of digital aids is worth the benefit ... in many cases it will be, but not in all cases.