Hearing aids are marvels of advanced technology, and they keep improving. As hearing aid technology develops, new capabilities help facilitate better hearing. The directional microphone is one of these new functionalities. Many of today’s hearing aids incorporate this device, allowing the wearer to enjoy a more natural hearing experience.
Older hearing aids relied on omnidirectional microphones to amplify sound. This type of microphone picks up on sounds from all directions equally. 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. Users can focus more clearly on what the people in front of them are saying, rather than being distracted by background noise.
Because both types of microphones have their own advantages, many hearing aid designers will incorporate both into their devices. 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.
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 children 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. 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.