Have you ever had trouble hearing in a crowded room or restaurant but can hear just fine at home? Do you have particular trouble hearing higher-pitched voices or TV dialogue?
If yes, you may have hearing loss, and hearing aids might be able to help you.
But how exactly do hearing aids work? Are they simple amplifiers, or something more elaborate?
This week we’ll be going over how hearing aids work and how they are a great deal more advanced than many people realize. But first, let’s begin with how normal hearing works.
How Normal Hearing Works
The hearing process starts with sound. Sound is essentially a type of energy that travels in waves, like ripples in a lake. Things make sound in the environment when they produce vibrations in the air, and those vibrations are ultimately caught and transmitted to the ear canal by the outer ear.
Just after passing through the ear canal, the sound vibrations hit the eardrum. The eardrum then vibrates, creating and amplifying the original signal which is then transferred by the middle ear bones to the snail-shaped organ of the middle ear referred to as the cochlea.
The cochlea is full of fluid and tiny nerve cells called cilia. The vibrations sent from the middle ear bones stir the fluid and stimulate the cilia. The cilia then transmit electrical signals to the brain and the brain interprets those signals as sound.
With most instances of noise-induced hearing loss, there is injury to the cilia. As a consequence, the inbound signal to the brain is diminished and sounds appear softer or muffled. But not all frequencies are equally weakened. Generally, the higher-pitched sounds, such as speech, are impacted to a greater degree.
In a loud setting, like a restaurant, your ability to hear speech is weakened because your brain is receiving a compromised signal for high-frequency sounds. Simultaneously, background noise, which is low-frequency, is getting through normally, drowning out the speech.
How Hearing Aids Can Help
You can see that the solution is not merely amplifying all sound. If you were to do that, you’d just continue drowning out speech as the background noise becomes louder in proportion to the speech sounds.
The solution is selective amplification of only the frequencies you have difficulty hearing. And that is only achievable by having your hearing professionally examined and your hearing aids professionally programmed to magnify these select frequencies.
How Hearing Aids Precisely Amplify Sound
Present day hearing aids consist of five interior parts: the microphone, amplifier, speaker, battery, and computer chip. But hearing aids are not just basic amplifiers—they’re sophisticated electronic devices that alter the characteristics of sound.
This happens by way of the computer chip. Everyone’s hearing is unique, like a fingerprint, and therefore the frequencies you need amplified will differ. The extraordinary part is, those frequencies can be found precisely with a professional hearing test, technically known as an audiogram.
Once your hearing professional has these numbers, your hearing aid can be programmed to amplify the frequencies you have the most trouble with, enhancing speech recognition in the process.
Here’s how it works: the hearing aid receives sound in the environment with the microphone and delivers the sound to the computer chip. The computer chip then translates the sound into digital information so that it can distinguish between different frequencies.
Then, dependent on the programmed settings, the high-frequency sounds are amplified, the low-frequency background sounds are repressed, and the improved sound is presented to your ear via the speaker.
So will your hearing go back completely to normal?
While your hearing will not completely return to normal, that shouldn’t stop you from acquiring substantial gains in your hearing. For virtually all people, the amplification supplied is all they need to understand speech and engage in productive and effortless communication.
Think about it in this way. If your eye doctor told you they could enhance your vision from 20/80 to 20/25, would you go without prescription glasses because you couldn’t get to 20/20? Absolutely not; you’d be able to function just fine with 20/25 vision and the gain from 20/80 would be considerable.
Are you ready to see the gains you can attain with modern hearing aids? Call us today!