A hearing aid may be the best way to offset hearing loss. Each technological innovation delivers more features and functions in a more compact space. One such innovation is the directional microphone. 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. 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. 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 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. Children learn language by hearing the people around them speaking, but a directional microphone can limit a child’s exposure to this incidental speech. Kids 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.
The advantages of the directional microphone outweigh its flaws, allowing it to dramatically increase its wearer’s ability to hear.