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How to Read A Hearing Device’s Technical Specs
Your hearing health professional will offer various options in aids and devices to improve hearing

  
08/29/2008
©John M. Adams, III

Every hearing aid is different as designers put development and manufacturing dollars in different places to address the needs of a wide variety of consumers.

For example, those living an active lifestyle might opt for higher durability while more sedate consumers might want an increase in frequency range.

So what does all of that gobble-de-gook on the hearing device pamphlet mean? Here’s a breakdown of the important specifications.

Hearing Aid Tech Specs

Frequency response: is a measurement of how wide a range the unit picks up between high and low sounds. A low rumble puts out longer waves than a high-frequency whistle. Most hearing aids extend the consumers’ frequency range, enabling them to hear sounds of higher and lower frequencies. What to look for: the broader the frequency range the better.

Signal-to-Noise Ratio: the signal is the sound you want to hear. Noise is just that - noise. Background noise in a crowded bistro to wind noise out on the  golf course - noise is the stuff you don’t want to hear because it muffles the signal - the sounds you do want to hear. What to look for: the greater the signal to noise ratio the better. This ensures you hear more sound and less noise. And after a long day, you’ll appreciate that. Less ear fatigue.

Boost or Gain: Power, juice, loudness - that’s what gain or boost is. How much louder does one unit increase sound versus another? Now, this may sound like a specification of interest to those with severe hearing loss only, and indeed, boost is one of the first specifications these consumers look for.

But, even if you experience mild hearing loss, there will be listening environments in which a little extra volume goes a long way to improving the listening experience. A quiet speaker at the front of the crowd may require a little more boost than usual, but fortunately, you

bought a device with ample head room, i.e., enough boost to enable you to hear under a wider range of listening conditions. What to look for: the more boost (power) a hearing aid delivers the more options you have today and into the future. Your hearing pro can adjust gain for your current hearing needs and, if things get better (or worse) in the future, gain can be adjusted accordingly.
 
Channels
A channel is a pre-set determined by you in consultation with your hearing aid professional. Some pre-sets are for various listening environments. Others are for automated convenience features like volume adjustment and background noise suppression. Even wind noise suppression if you’re out in the great back woods. What to look for: the more channels, the more options - both pre-sets for different listening environments and more options for automated convenience.

An entry level unit usually comes with five channels. More expensive units deliver more channels - up to 22 - providing much greater flexibility over what you hear and how you hear it.

Your hearing health professional will be glad to discuss the different specifications of different devices. Make sure you understand what you’re buying. And if you don’t understand, keep asking the professional questions until you do understand. That’s what s/he’s there for.

 

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