Hearing aids are a useful method for managing hearing loss and are constantly improving. Every year hearing aids become more sophisticated and offer additional features and functions that were not previously available. The directional microphone is one of these new features. 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. When this style of microphone is in use, sound is amplified from all directions in equal measure. While this method works well in a quiet setting such as a living room, it is not conducive to noisier environments (such as a restaurant). 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.
Because both types of microphones have their own advantages, many hearing aid designers will incorporate both into their devices. Directional microphone usage varies from hearing aid to hearing aid. In some cases users can manually switch back and forth between microphones, usually through a small switch. Other hearing aids can automatically determine which method is most effective and switch itself to the optimum microphone.
A third type of hearing aid microphone is the adaptive directional microphone. This device offers variation in the direction of amplification, automatically picking up on speech signals and focusing in on the direction they are coming from. 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. 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 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.
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.