What is Compression in Hearing Aids?

What is Compression in Hearing Aids?

A Brief Summary 

The main goal for hearing aids is to augment people’s current hearing ability, especially when it comes to perceiving and understanding speech. However, it is also important for people to be able to hear these sounds without it being overly loud. 

Older hearing aids had issues with amplifying every sound. While wearers could hear softer sounds that they couldn’t before, loud sounds became unbearable and even dangerous to hear as a result of amplifying them too much. 

With modern hearing aids, most of them feature software powered by advanced microchips that can compress sound so that quiet sounds are easier to hear while loud sounds do not get any louder. This article will touch briefly on what compression is and why it’s important to have a feature like compression for hearing aid users. 

What is wide dynamic range compression? 

Wide dynamic range compression (WDRC) is a technology that helps people hear sounds they couldn’t before. It is a very sophisticated way of altering sounds that the hearing aids pick up so wearers can hear softer sounds but also keeps loud sounds from becoming too loud. 

A person with normal hearing is able to hear a very large range (or dynamic range) of sounds, from barely audible to very loud sounds that they can tolerate. For a person with impaired hearing, their dynamic range is much smaller, which means the quietest sound that they can hear is usually much louder than a person who does not have impaired hearing. 

A graph that illustrates how digital compression works.

Graphic provided by: University of Illinois

Hearing aids help those with impaired hearing by amplifying sounds. However, the biggest drawback is that it amplifies ALL sounds. So, a person may be able to hear quiet sounds clearly, but sounds they tolerated before will also come in clearly but will be far too uncomfortable.  

Wide dynamic range compression will squish or “compress” this range so that the quietest sounds can be heard louder and that the loudest sounds will not be overly loud. In this way, it improves the wearer’s dynamic range and they would be able to hear sounds they weren’t hearing before. It also leads to a more comfortable listening experience since it will keep all the sounds in a range that is easy to listen to and not too soft and not too loud. 

Why is compression important for hearing aids? 

As mentioned before, people with hearing loss have a much harder time hearing softer sounds than people who do not. This is especially helpful for people who have age-related hearing loss or high frequency hearing loss. 

Compression does lead to a bit of distortion of the original sound, the wearer should still be able to determine what the sound is. Thanks to compression, a wearer would be able to experience a larger dynamic range and hear sounds they could not before as well as ones they already do. Furthermore, it would be much easier for a person to perceive a shout from a whisper. 

This is especially important since human speech tends to have quite a few softer sounds, typically consonants (s, t, h, etc) that people either cannot hear or confuse with a different sound. For more information on this,

This type of technology is not present on all devices, so you should always inquire with a hearing professional or a vendor if their products offer this unique, advanced technology before you make a decision on a purchase. 

If you are in need of hearing assistance or know a loved one who struggles with hearing problems, products may help. Our products are designed for mild to severe hearing loss and help with high frequency hearing loss, age-related or otherwise. We also have our RR Sports® Hearing Hero which utilizes wide dynamic range compression to offer a better sound experience for wearers.  

We understand that hearing loss can deeply affect your quality of life as well as your relationships with friends and family. We also know that hearing aids can be very expensive and that not everyone can afford the steep prices that some of these hearing companies charge. This is why we offer our products at much more affordable prices. We do this by cutting out the middle man and passing the savings on to you. If you’re interested, you can always reach out to us and we’ll do our best to help you pick a product that works for you. 

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