Hearing aids are a useful tool when dealing with hearing loss and are constantly getting better. As hearing aid technology progresses, new functions provide better hearing. The directional microphone is one of these new functionalities. 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. 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. In order to compensate for this, directional microphones focus closely on sounds emanating from the front. 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.
Adaptive directional microphones are a third type of 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. 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.
Hearing aids designed for kids sometimes utilize directional microphones, but caution is needed when using these devices. 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 be sure that their child’s directional microphone is only turned on in appropriate situations.
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.