A hearing aid can be an effective way to offset hearing loss. As hearing aid technology advances, new capabilities help facilitate better hearing. 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. 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). In order to compensate for this, directional microphones focus closely on sounds emanating from the front. 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. Some devices utilize a small switch that allows the user to manually flip between microphones. 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. 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 kids sometimes utilize directional microphones, but caution is needed when using these devices. 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 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.