Hearing aid channels are tools the audiologist uses to fine tune hearing aids. Channels are frequency specific. When programming hearing aids, each channel or sometimes a group of channels called a band, is given a specific amount of volume based on the hearing evaluation results. As a result we can shape the frequency response of the hearing aids to match your individual hearing ability.
How many channels are needed, is a hard question to answer. The number one goal for hearing aids is to improve your ability to understand conversation. A research study conducted by a hearing aid manufacturer showed that after eight channels the amount of improvement in word understanding significantly decreases. Conventional thinking among audiologists is to fit hearing aids with at least 12-16 channels to match the frequency points measured in the hearing evaluation. There is no evidence to support high numbers of channels (above30) as increasing word understanding. There is evidence that shows high numbers of channels slows down hearing aid processing speed.
When it comes to participating in conversations, particularly in noisy places, there are more important features to consider than the number of channels or bands. Advanced features such as directional microphones, noise canceling, noise reduction, gain reduction in noise and signal processing have a greater impact on one’s ability to understand conversation in noisy places.
Image obtained 4-9-14 at: http://blog.crystalhearinguk.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/15-channels.jpg