Have you ever had difficulty hearing in a crowded room or restaurant but can hear without any problem at home? Do you have particular challenges hearing higher-pitched voices or TV dialogue?
If yes, you might have hearing loss, and hearing aids may be able to help.
But how exactly do hearing aids work? Are they basic amplifiers, or something more complicated?
This week we’ll be taking a look at how hearing aids work and how they are a bit more sophisticated than many people recognize. But first, let’s begin with how normal hearing works.
How Normal Hearing Works
The hearing process begins 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 generate vibrations in the air, and those vibrations are eventually caught and sent to the ear canal by the outer ear.
Just after moving through the ear canal, the sound vibrations hit the eardrum. The eardrum then vibrates, amplifying 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 full of fluid and small nerve cells called cilia. The vibrations transmitted 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 the majority of cases of noise-induced hearing loss, there is damage to the cilia. Consequently, the inbound signal to the brain is compromised and sounds appear quieter or muffled. But not all frequencies are evenly impaired. Usually, the higher-pitched sounds, including speech, are impacted to a greater degree.
In a noisy setting, like a restaurant, your capacity to hear speech is weakened because your brain is acquiring a diminished 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 see that the solution is not merely amplifying all sound. If you were to do that, you’d just continue to drown 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 assessed and your hearing aids professionally programmed to enhance these specific frequencies.
How Hearing Aids Precisely Amplify Sound
Contemporary hearing aids consist of five internal parts: the microphone, amplifier, speaker, battery, and computer chip. But hearing aids are not just ordinary amplifiers—they’re sophisticated electronic devices that modify the attributes of sound.
This takes place via the computer chip. Everyone’s hearing is one-of-a-kind, like a fingerprint, and so the frequencies you need amplified will differ. The incredible part is, those frequencies can be identified precisely with a professional hearing test, technically known as an audiogram.
Once your hearing professional has these figures, your hearing aid can be custom-programmed to amplify the frequencies you have the most trouble with, strengthening speech recognition in the process.
Here’s how it works: the hearing aid receives sound in the environment with the microphone and transmits the sound to the computer chip. The computer chip then translates the sound into digital information so that it can differentiate between assorted frequencies.
Then, based on the programmed settings, the high-frequency sounds are enhanced, the low-frequency background sounds are suppressed, and the enhanced sound is presented to your ear via the speaker.
So will your hearing go back perfectly to normal?
While your hearing will not completely return to normal, that shouldn’t prevent you from attaining significant gains in your hearing. For nearly all individuals, the amplification offered is all they require to understand speech and participate in productive 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 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 improvement from 20/80 would be substantive.
Are you ready to find out the gains you can attain with modern hearing aids? Call us today!