Digital Hearing Devices vs Analog Hearing Devices

Posted by Barbara Olson on

Hearing machines, hearing aids, hearing devices, types of hearing devices, amplifiers, amplification devices, digital vs. analog…there is SO much to learn and try to understand about hearing machines. Let’s start with the technology and try to understand the similarities and differences between analog and digital hearing aids or devices.

Similarities between analog and digital hearing devices

1)      Both analog and digital devices amplify the sounds and voices so you can hear them.

2)      They have the same basic components:      - Microphone to absorb the sounds and transform them to the electric signal      - Amplifier that amplifies and manipulates the electric signal      - Speaker to transform the electric signal back to acoustics and to send it to the ear

Differences between analog and digital hearing devices

Analog hearing aids were here before the digital hearing devices. Digital devices evolved with technology in the last decades. Today you can find both analog and digital hearing aids. However, digital are much more common and most often recommended.

Analog hearing devices make continuous sound waves louder. These hearing devices essentially amplify all sounds (e.g., speech and noise) in the same way. Specifically, the electric signal from the microphone is amplified “as is” and then transformed back to acoustics using the speaker.

Some analog hearing aids are programmable. They have a microchip which allows the aid or device to have settings programmed for different listening environments, such as in a quiet place, like floating on the water in the middle of a lake, or in a noisy place like in a restaurant, or in a large area like a crowded ballroom. The analog programmable hearing aids can store multiple programs for the various environments.

The main reason people purchase analog hearing devices is because they are cheaper. However, the two main disadvantages of analog hearing devices are as follows.

  1. This analog hearing aid or hearing device doesn’t have a way to filter sound, so you basically hear every sound around you, even the ones that you don’t particularly want to hear.
  2. Adjusting the volume on these hearing devices in noisier environments can sometimes cause a loud screeching shrill to happen.

For these reasons, Analog hearing aids are becoming less and less common.

Digital hearing aids and devices have all the features of analog programmable aids, but they convert sound waves into digital signals and produce an exact duplication of sound. Specifically, on a digital hearing aid, the electric signal from the microphone is transformed to bits and bytes of digital information which are amplified depending on the pitch and loudness of the sound. It becomes a digital binary code, the language all digital hearing devices used today.

The benefit of this is that the digital hearing aids or hearing devices provide improved performance by automatically recognizing what part of the sounds around you is just noise and what part is human voice. It can therefore amplify the human voice and compress the background noise. They also have greater flexibility in hearing aid programming, so that the sound they transmit can be matched to the needs for a specific hearing loss. Digital hearing aids also provide multiple, easy to adjust program memories.  Today, most individuals who seek hearing help are offered only digital technology.  

The only reason analog is even offered is because of the lower price. To get the advantages of both…a lower price and high-end digital hearing devices, visit

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