A hearing aid may be an effective way to offset hearing loss. As hearing aid technology develops, new capabilities help facilitate better hearing. One such technology is the directional microphone. This device allows its users to have a more natural listening experience, making it a popular addition to many modern hearing aids.
Older hearing aids relied on omnidirectional microphones to amplify sound. When this style of microphone is in use, sound is amplified from all directions in equal measure. When used in a quiet setting (such as in the home), an omnidirectional microphone works quite well, but it is not as effective in noisy environments. Directional microphones make up for this by focusing on sounds that come from in front of the wearer. This allows you to hear what is being said in front of you while blocking out unimportant noise from the rest of the room.
Both omnidirectional and directional microphones have advantages, so many hearing aid manufacturers include both types in their products. How you use these microphones varies from device to device. Some devices utilize a small switch that allows the user to manually flip between microphones. Other hearing aids can automatically determine which method is most effective and switch itself to the optimum microphone.
Adaptive directional microphones are a third type of microphone. Instead of focusing in the front or all around, this type of microphone can pick up on the direction that speech signals are coming from and focus its amplification accordingly. If the wearer is in an environment where many people are speaking, adaptive microphones can be troublesome, but they are usually accompanied by a switch that allows the user to access a “forward only” listening mode.
Directional microphones are included in hearing aids for all ages, but caution must be applied when this feature is used by kids. Kids learn language by hearing the people around them speaking, but a directional microphone can limit a child’s exposure to this incidental speech. Kids may also have difficulty hearing traffic with this type of microphone. Parents should make sure that their child’s hearing aid has an on/off switch for the directional microphone and make sure it is only turned on when appropriate.
The advantages of the directional microphone outweigh its flaws, allowing it to dramatically increase its wearer’s ability to hear.