Digital Hearing Aids
The first digital hearing aid to appear on the market was
the Nicolet Phoenix. It was developed in a joint venture between the University
of Wisconsin and the Nicolet Instrument Corporation in 1987.
This device was a two part system consisting of a body worn processor
and a behind the ear hearing aid connected together with a wire. Very few of
devices were ever made.
In 1989, they were able to manufacture a one-piece behind the ear hearing aid
containing both the processor
and hearing aid. It was powered
by three 675 batteries.
It is believed that only one of the behind the ear
aids was used by a Wisconsin resident for over three years without problems. It
was apparently never put into full production.
Unfortunately, the Hearing Aid Museum does not include a sample of
the Nicolet Phoenix hearing aid. However, you can view one online in the
Kenneth W. Berger Hearing Aid Museum and Archives
at Kent State University.
The first commercially-successful digital hearing aid was the Widex
Senso which came out in 1996. Oticon had developed a digital hearing aid
in 1995, but instead of putting it on the market, they sent it to
audiological research centers around the world for further research,
thus inadvertently giving Widex time to "one-up" them. However, when
Widex released their Senso, Oticon immediately put their
DigiFocus digital hearing aid on the market as well, also in 1996.
Today all major hearing aid manufacturers produce digital hearing aids. They
come in many models and in all styles
including Behind the Ear, In the Ear and In the Canal aids.
Digital hearing aids
offer many advantages over the older analog aids. These advantages include such features
as digital noise reduction, digital feedback cancellation, and directional
microphones combined with multi-channel digital signal processing.
The majority of hearing
aids sold today are of the digital variety and may soon completely
replace analog aids.
¹The Hearing Aid, It’s Operation and Development by Kenneth
W. Berger (1970)