Hearing aids are wonders of advanced technology, and they keep improving. Every single year hearing aids become more sophisticated and offer additional features and functions that were not formerly available. One such innovation 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. 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.
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 children. Because kids develop much of their language skills from listening to the people around them, a directional microphone may cause them to miss out on an important developmental experience. Children may also have difficulty hearing traffic with this type of microphone. Parents should be sure that their child’s directional microphone is only turned on in appropriate situations.
Despite its flaws, hearing aids equipped with a directional microphone can greatly increase a person’s ability to hear and interact with the world around him.