Get to Know Your Hearing Aid

Get to Know Your Hearing Aid

Ever wonder what features are activated on your hearing aid, and the purpose each function serves? Read on below for information on common hearing aid features used to improve everyday listening situations.

Telecoil or TCoil

  • A telecoil is a special circuit designed to enhance the telephone signal to improve hearing aid use with the telephone. Not all hearing aids come equipped with a telecoil, as not all hearing aid users require a telecoil to listen successfully on the telephone.
  • How does it work?
    • Older telephones (and newer telephones referred to as “hearing aid compatible” or HAC) generate magnetic signals, as the speakers were driven by powerful magnets. These electromagnetic signals from the telephone are picked by the telecoil, amplified, and changed into acoustic sound energy, before being delivered to the ear.
  • Tips on using the telecoil:
    • Ask your audiologist to activate the telecoil. A telecoil can be programmed to switch on automatically, or by the press of a button.
    • Make sure you hold the phone by the hearing aid, not necessarily your ear. So if you are wearing a behind the ear hearing aid, hold the phone up around the hearing aid. You may need to experiment with the positioning of the telephone to find the spot where the strongest signal is heard.
    • You may need to add a small magnet to the earpiece of the phone if the signal is not strong enough. You can discuss this with your audiologist.
  • Did you know?
    • Telecoils are also used by some theatres, churches, taxis, etc. to improve listening for hearing aid users in certain social environments.  Ask the place you are visiting if they have a loop system for the hearing impaired.

Directional Microphones

  • Directional microphones are used in virtually all current hearing aid models to prevent some background noise from entering the hearing device, when it will be beneficial and not when it might interfere with desirable sounds.
  • Directional microphones are designed to change where they are “looking”. Commonly, a directional program is used to amplify sounds you are facing, and to ignore sounds behind you.
  •  The most advanced directional systems uses advanced signal processing in order to improve speech understanding in noise. But it works only in situations when it will be beneficial so it does not get in the way in any other situation. The system analyzes the pitch where noise occurs, the level of noise, the direction of where a noise originates, and the type of sounds around the listener. The net effect is a system that is beneficial while being less noticeable and more natural.
  • Tips on using directional microphones:
    • Ask your audiologist for a directional program. Try this program out in situations where there is an important signal in front of you, and noise around you. An example of this would be in a restaurant, facing your dining partner with your back to a noisy kitchen. In the directional program, the hearing aid will not amplify the noise behind you and will act as an acoustic spotlight on the person you are facing.
    • When using a directional program, position yourself so your back is near the annoying sounds, and you are facing the desirable sounds.

Volume Control

  • The majority of hearing aids offer the audiologist the option of allowing the hearing aid user to have control over the volume of the hearing aid, either directly on the hearing aid using a button or a wheel, or through the use of a remote control device.
  • This allows the user to adjust their own overall volume to be louder or softer, depending on the environment.
  • However, most current hearing aid technology does not require the use of a volume control as the hearing aids adjust their own volume depending on the environment.
  • Some hearing aid users find a volume control useful, while others find they do not feel they need to adjust the volume.
  • Did you know?
    • If you open and close the battery door, that resets the volume and program settings back to the original settings created by the audiologist.

Push Button

  • Hearing aids have the option to be programmed with multiple memories, which you access using a push button on the hearing aid. Multiple memories are created with different hearing aid settings, with different features and sound quality designed for specific environments.
  • Not everyone has multiple memories/programs in their hearing aids. This is something your audiologist has to add at your request. An audiologist will add these programs to help you cope with specific listening complaints.
    • Commonly used programs, accessed by the push button on the hearing aid, include a program designed for noisy environments, the phone, and/or the television.
  • How to use your push button:
    • First, discuss with your audiologist which environments continue to give you difficulty.
    • Write down the order of the memories so you don’t forget. For example, program 1 everyday listening, program 2 noisy listening, program 3 telephone.
    • Practice using your push button. Often you have to hold for 1-2 seconds before you release the button to properly switch into the programs.
    • The hearing aid will indicate to you when you’ve properly switched programs. Commonly, this occurs with a beep (1 beep is program 1, 2 beeps program 2, etc.) or a voice (“everyday”, “noise”, “telephone”).

Noise Reduction

  • Noise reduction systems are designed to improve comfort in noise, not necessarily your ability to hear in noise. They are activated to minimize background sounds such as fans, refrigerator hums, etc.
  • While the digital noise reduction systems between hearing aid models all differ, the common goal is to distinguish between speech and noise in the listener’s environment, and to reduce the noise in the environment.
  • How do they work?
    • In general, the algorithms used to distinguish between speech and noise between hearing aid manufacturers are different. However, all strategies try to exploit the differences in the makeup of speech and the makeup of noise to distinguish what sounds are speech, and what sounds are noise.
    • Once the hearing aid has labelled each sound as “speech”, or “noise”, it works to minimize the effect of noise in the environment.
  • How to use the noise reduction system:
    • If activated on your hearing aid by your audiologist, the noise reduction system will work automatically in the background and does not require input from the hearing aid user.