A hearing aid may be an effective way to offset hearing loss. Each technological innovation delivers more functions and features in a more compact space. One such innovation is the directional microphone. Many of today’s hearing aids incorporate this device, allowing the wearer to enjoy a more natural hearing experience.
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. 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. Some devices utilize a small switch that allows the user to manually flip between microphones. 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. 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 children sometimes utilize directional microphones, but caution is needed when using these devices. Children learn language by hearing the people around them speaking, but a directional microphone can limit a child’s exposure to this incidental speech. It may also reduce a child’s ability to hear traffic while playing. Parents should be sure that their child’s directional microphone is only turned on in appropriate situations.
The advantages of the directional microphone outweigh its flaws, allowing it to dramatically increase its wearer’s ability to hear.