Have you ever had trouble hearing in a congested room or restaurant but can hear just fine at home? Do you have particular challenges hearing higher-pitched voices or TV dialogue?
If so, you might have hearing loss, and hearing aids might be able to help.
But how exactly do hearing aids work? Are they basic amplifiers, or something more elaborate?
This week we’ll be checking out how hearing aids work and how they are a great deal more advanced than many people recognize. But first, let’s begin with how normal hearing works.
How Normal Hearing Works
The hearing process commences with sound. Sound is simply a type of energy that travels in waves, like ripples in a lake. Things generate sound in the environment when they trigger vibrations in the air, and those vibrations are eventually caught and sent to the ear canal by the outer ear.
Immediately after moving through the ear canal, the sound vibrations hit the eardrum. The eardrum then vibrates, increasing the original signal which is then transferred by the middle ear bones to the snail-shaped organ of the middle ear called the cochlea.
The cochlea is filled with fluid and very small nerve cells called cilia. The vibrations transferred from the middle ear bones agitate the fluid and stimulate the cilia. The cilia then transmit electrical signals to the brain and the brain interprets those signals as sound.
With the majority of instances of noise-induced hearing loss, there is damage to the cilia. As a result, the arriving signal to the brain is compromised and sounds appear quieter or muffled. But not all sound frequencies are equally weakened. Frequently, the higher-pitched sounds, including speech, are affected to a greater degree.
In a raucous setting, like a restaurant, your ability to hear speech is compromised because your brain is acquiring a weakened 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 this, you’d just continue drowning out speech as the background noise grows to be louder in relation 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 boost these specific frequencies.
How Hearing Aids Selectively Amplify Sound
Contemporary hearing aids contain five internal parts: the microphone, amplifier, speaker, battery, and computer chip. But hearing aids are not just simple amplifiers—they’re sophisticated electronic devices that alter the characteristics of sound.
This happens by way of the computer chip. Everyone’s hearing is one-of-a-kind, like a fingerprint, and therefore the frequencies you need amplified will differ. The incredible part is, those frequencies can be determined precisely with a professional hearing test, known as an audiogram.
Once your hearing professional has these figures, your hearing aid can be programmed to enhance the frequencies you have the most trouble with, maximizing speech recognition in the process.
Here’s how it works: the hearing aid receives sound in the environment with the microphone and transfers the sound to the computer chip. The computer chip then converts the sound into digital information so that it can differentiate between assorted frequencies.
Then, depending on the programmed settings, the high-frequency sounds are amplified, the low-frequency background sounds are suppressed, and the enhanced sound is presented to your ear via the speaker.
So will your hearing revert completely to normal?
While your hearing will not entirely return to normal, that shouldn’t stop you from accomplishing significant gains in your hearing. For nearly all individuals, the amplification supplied is all they require to understand speech and partake in effective and effortless communication.
Think of it in this way. If your eye doctor told you they could improve your vision from 20/80 to 20/25, would you forgo prescription glasses because you couldn’t get to 20/20? Of course not; you’d be able to function just fine with 20/25 vision and the gain from 20/80 would be enormous.
Are you set to find out the gains you can achieve with modern hearing aids? Call us today!