Fall is a popular time of year for many reasons. One of my personal favorites is football! Have you ever noticed while watching a football game on TV how certain game sounds are emphasized for the listener? Perhaps you heard the quarterback call a play, or a rowdy fan cheering from the stands, or even a bone-crushing hit from a linebacker! These types of sounds are audible to TV viewers through the use of technology known as directional microphones. While watching the sidelines at a football game you may have even see these microphones in the form of a large clear satellite dish pointed onto the field.
If directional microphones allow us to hear sounds in a loud football stadium then why can’t they help us understand speech better in noise? Well actually they can! Hearing aids utilize directional microphones for improved understanding in background noise. In hearing aids with directional microphones two microphones are located on each ear; one facing the user’s face and one facing the user’s back. When the rear microphone is turned off the front microphone picks up more sound in the direction the user is facing. This helps reduce noise behind the hearing aid user and increase sound in the front. Some newer hearing aids even utilize adaptive directional microphones which allow the hearing aids to adjust automatically in the presence of background noise. Noisy environments are the most difficult places to hear and directional microphones allow certain sounds to be louder; especially the sounds in front of the listener.
The next time you see your audiologist ask if your hearing aids have directional microphones. Odds are you have them without even knowing they are there! Hearing aids with directional microphones help you hear better in noise and they are much smaller than wearing those satellite dish microphones at the football game!