Hearing aids are wonders of advanced technology, and they keep getting better. Every single year hearing aids become more advanced and offer new features and functions not previously available. 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.
The traditional standard for hearing aids was the omnidirectional microphone. This type of microphone picks up on sounds from all directions equally. 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. In order to compensate for this, directional microphones focus closely on sounds emanating from the front. Users can focus more clearly on what the people in front of them are saying, rather than being distracted by background noise.
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. In some cases users can manually switch back and forth between microphones, usually through a small switch. Other devices can pick up on which microphone is most useful in a given situation and will automatically switch back and forth.
A third type of hearing aid microphone is the adaptive directional 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. Adaptive microphones can be troublesome in crowded environments where many speakers are present, but the user can usually switch to a forward only mode in these situations.
Hearing aids designed for kids sometimes utilize directional microphones, but caution is needed when using these devices. Kids learn language by hearing the people around them speaking, but a directional microphone can limit a child’s exposure to this incidental speech. Children 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.