Have you ever had difficulty 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 so, you may have hearing loss, and hearing aids may be able to help.
But how exactly do hearing aids work? Are they simple amplifiers, or something more complicated?
This week we’ll be looking at how hearing aids work and how they are a great deal more sophisticated than many people recognize. But first, let’s start with how normal hearing works.
How Normal Hearing Works
The hearing process commences with sound. Sound is simply a kind of energy that travels in waves, like ripples in a lake. Things cause sound in the environment when they cause vibrations in the air, and those vibrations are eventually caught and transmitted 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 small nerve cells known as cilia. The vibrations sent 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 injury to the cilia. As a result, the inbound signal to the brain is compromised and sounds seem quieter or muffled. But not all frequencies are equally impaired. Frequently, the higher-pitched sounds, including speech, are affected to a greater degree.
In a loud setting, like a restaurant, your ability to hear speech is diminished 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 see that the solution is not simply 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 feasible by having your hearing professionally examined and your hearing aids professionally programmed to boost these specific frequencies.
How Hearing Aids Selectively Amplify Sound
Today’s hearing aids consist of five interior parts: the microphone, amplifier, speaker, battery, and computer chip. But hearing aids are not just ordinary amplifiers—they’re sophisticated electronic devices that change the attributes of sound.
This takes place via the computer chip. Everyone’s hearing is distinct, like a fingerprint, and therefore the frequencies you need amplified will differ. The astounding part is, those frequencies can be established 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 difficulty with, strengthening 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 different frequencies.
Then, determined by the programmed settings, the high-frequency sounds are amplified, the low-frequency background sounds are suppressed, and the refined sound is served to your ear via the speaker.
So will your hearing revert completely to normal?
While your hearing will not completely revert to normal, that shouldn’t stop you from attaining major gains in your hearing. For the majority of individuals, the amplification supplied is all they require to understand speech and partake in effective and effortless communication.
Think of it 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? Of course not; you’d be able to function just fine with 20/25 vision and the improvement from 20/80 would be substantial.
Are you ready to discover the improvements you can attain with modern hearing aids? Call us today!