Have you ever had trouble hearing in a crowded room or restaurant but can hear just fine at home? Do you have particular challenges hearing higher-pitched voices or TV dialogue?
If yes, you might have hearing loss, and hearing aids might be able to help.
But how do hearing aids work exactly? Are they simple amplifiers, or something more complicated?
This week we’ll be evaluating 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 starts out with sound. Sound is simply a kind of energy that travels in waves, like ripples in a lake. Things produce sound in the environment when they cause vibrations in the air, and those vibrations are ultimately caught and transferred to the ear canal by the outer ear.
After moving through the ear canal, the sound vibrations hit the eardrum. The eardrum then vibrates, increasing the original signal which is then transmitted by the middle ear bones to the snail-shaped organ of the middle ear called the cochlea.
The cochlea is full of fluid and very small nerve cells known as cilia. The vibrations transferred from the middle ear bones shake the fluid and stimulate the cilia. The cilia then transmit electrical signals to the brain and the brain interprets the signals as sound.
With most instances of noise-induced hearing loss, there is damage to the cilia. So, the arriving signal to the brain is weaker and sounds appear quieter or muffled. But not all frequencies are uniformly impaired. Typically, the higher-pitched sounds, including speech, are affected to a greater extent.
In a loud setting, like a restaurant, your ability to hear speech is diminished because your brain is obtaining a weakened signal for high-frequency sounds. On top of that, background noise, which is low-frequency, is getting through normally, drowning out the speech.
How Hearing Aids Can Help
You can understand that the solution is not simply amplifying all sound. If you were to do this, you’d just continue drowning out speech as the background noise grows to be louder relative to the speech sounds.
The solution is selective amplification of only the sound frequencies you have trouble hearing. And that is only possible by having your hearing professionally tested and your hearing aids professionally programmed to amplify these select frequencies.
How Hearing Aids Precisely Amplify Sound
Contemporary hearing aids contain five internal parts: the microphone, amplifier, speaker, battery, and computer chip. But hearing aids are not just ordinary amplifiers—they’re intricate electronic devices that change the properties of sound.
This takes place by way of the computer chip. Everyone’s hearing is unique, like a fingerprint, and therefore the frequencies you need amplified will differ. The astounding part is, those frequencies can be found exactly with a professional hearing test, technically known as an audiogram.
Once your hearing professional has these figures, your hearing aid can be programmed to amplify the frequencies you have the most trouble with, boosting speech recognition in the process.
Here’s how it works: the hearing aid picks up 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 various frequencies.
Then, determined by the programmed settings, the high-frequency sounds are enhanced, the low-frequency background sounds are suppressed, and the refined sound is delivered to your ear via the speaker.
So will your hearing revert completely to normal?
While your hearing will not completely go back to normal, that shouldn’t prevent you from achieving substantial gains in your hearing. For nearly all people, the amplification provided is all they need to comprehend speech and indulge in productive and effortless communication.
Think of it in this way. If your eye doctor told you that they could improve your vision from 20/80 to 20/25, would you go without prescription glasses because you couldn’t get to 20/20? Of course not; you’d be able to function perfectly with 20/25 vision and the gain from 20/80 would be considerable.
Are you set to discover the gains you can attain with modern hearing aids? Call us today!