A hearing aid can be an effective way to compensate for hearing loss. Each technological innovation delivers more features and functions in a more compact space. 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.
Older hearing aids relied on omnidirectional microphones to amplify sound. 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. Directional microphones make up for this by focusing on sounds that come from in front of the wearer. This allows you to hear what is being said in front of you while blocking out unimportant noise from the rest of the room.
Both omnidirectional and directional microphones have advantages, so many hearing aid manufacturers include both types in their products. 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 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. 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.
Directional microphones are included in hearing aids for all ages, but caution must be applied when this feature is used by children. 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. 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.
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.