Hearing management

Updated 17 February 2015

Types of hearing aids

Today’s sophisticated digital hearing aids deliver a sound quality that is closer to normal hearing than ever.


Hearing aids are better than ever. Many hearing-impaired people would benefit from using them, but only one out of five, who need hearing aids, actually have one.

There are many types and degrees of hearing loss. This is why there are many types of hearing aids with a wide range of functions and features to address individual needs. Today, hearing aids can be programmed to automatically respond to minute changes in sounds etc.

Analogue hearing aids and digital hearing aids differ greatly.

Analogue hearing aids amplify sound signals picked up by a microphone and convert them into small electrical signals. These signals are transmitted into the ear in real time. They can be altered according to the needs of the individual user within the limits of the analogue technology.

Today, many modern hearing aids use digital technology. These are quite different from analogue hearing aids. They transform the sound, convert it into bits, and manipulate it before amplifying the signal. This type of technology is similar to that used in a CD player. A digital hearing aid can be programmed. This means that digital hearing aids can be individually adjusted to suit the specific user by means of a small computer.

The modern digital hearing aid can provide a hearing-impaired person with an improved and more pleasant sound picture. But it cannot bring back normal hearing. A digital hearing aid with advanced directional microphones will greatly help people who suffer from hearing loss, particularly in noisy surroundings. The disadvantage of digital hearing aids is that they are more expensive.

Besides the fine sound, digital hearing aids are so small that they can be worn discreetly on/in the ear.

Three types of hearing aid
There are three types of hearing aid:

  • The smallest model, which is placed deeply in the ear canal and therefore barely visible
  • The discreet in-the-ear model
  • The small classic behind-the-ear model

The choice of hearing aid depends on the type and configuration of the specific hearing loss.


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Hearing Expert

Heidi Allan is a qualified audiologist and speech-language therapist with 28 years experience both in South Africa and the Netherlands. I am a member of the American Academy of Audiology, the American Speech-Language Hearing Association, the South African Speech-Language Hearing Association and the South African Audiology Association. I have held leadership roles at both provincial and national level in my profession and deliver presentations across the country on aspects of audiology. My areas of particular interest include Central Auditory Processing Disorders (CAPD), hearing aid fitting and rehabilitation, diagnostic audiology and public education.

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