Have you ever had problems 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 yes, you may have hearing loss, and hearing aids might be able to help.
But how exactly do hearing aids work? Are they simple amplifiers, or something more elaborate?
This week we’ll be looking into 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 begins with sound. Sound is simply a type of energy that travels in waves, like ripples in a pond. Things produce sound in the environment when they produce vibrations in the air, and those vibrations are eventually caught and transmitted to the ear canal by the outer ear.
Just after passing through the ear canal, the sound vibrations strike 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 named the cochlea.
The cochlea is filled with fluid and small nerve cells known as cilia. The vibrations transferred from the middle ear bones agitate the fluid and stimulate the cilia. The cilia then conduct electrical signals to the brain and the brain interprets the signals as sound.
With the majority of instances of noise-induced hearing loss, there is damage to the cilia. So, the inbound signal to the brain is weakened and sounds appear quieter or muffled. But not all frequencies are evenly impaired. Typically, the higher-pitched sounds, such as speech, are affected to a greater extent.
In a raucous setting, like a restaurant, your capacity to hear speech is weakened because your brain is obtaining a compromised signal for high-frequency sounds. At the same time, 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 merely amplifying all sound. If you were to do that, you’d just continue drowning out speech as the background noise becomes louder relative to the speech sounds.
The solution is selective amplification of only the frequencies you have difficulty hearing. And that is only feasible by having your hearing professionally assessed and your hearing aids professionally programmed to magnify these particular frequencies.
How Hearing Aids Selectively Amplify Sound
Today’s hearing aids contain five interior parts: the microphone, amplifier, speaker, battery, and computer chip. But hearing aids are not just straightforward amplifiers—they’re intricate electronic devices that alter the attributes of sound.
This occurs 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 astounding part is, those frequencies can be ascertained exactly 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 difficulty with, enhancing 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 translates the sound into digital information so that it can distinguish between different frequencies.
Then, based on the programmed settings, the high-frequency sounds are amplified, the low-frequency background sounds are repressed, and the enhanced sound is sent to your ear via the speaker.
So will your hearing revert perfectly to normal?
While your hearing will not completely revert to normal, that shouldn’t stop you from acquiring substantial gains in your hearing. For virtually all people, the amplification offered is all they require to understand speech and indulge in productive and effortless communication.
Think of it this way. If your eye doctor told you that 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? Of course not; you’d be able to function just fine with 20/25 vision and the gain from 20/80 would be substantial.
Are you set to discover the gains you can achieve with modern hearing aids? Call us today!