How Modern Hearing Aids Work
Have you ever had difficulties 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 you.
But how exactly do hearing aids work? Are they basic amplifiers, or something more elaborate?
This week we’ll be evaluating how hearing aids work and how they are a bit 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 essentially a type of energy that travels in waves, like ripples in a lake. Things cause sound in the environment when they generate vibrations in the air, and those vibrations are eventually captured 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, creating and amplifying the original signal which is then transferred by the middle ear bones to the snail-shaped organ of the middle ear referred to as the cochlea.
The cochlea is full of fluid and very small nerve cells called cilia. The vibrations sent from the middle ear bones stir the fluid and stimulate the cilia. The cilia then transmit electrical signals to the brain and the brain interprets those signals as sound.
With most instances of noise-induced hearing loss, there is injury to the cilia. Consequently, the inbound signal to the brain is weaker and sounds seem softer or muffled. But not all sound frequencies are equally weakened. Generally, the higher-pitched sounds, such as speech, are impacted to a greater extent.
In a raucous setting, like a restaurant, your ability to hear speech is diminished because your brain is receiving a weakened 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 frequencies you have a hard time hearing. And that is only feasible by having your hearing professionally examined and your hearing aids professionally programmed to enhance these specific frequencies.
How Hearing Aids Precisely Amplify Sound
Present day 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 properties of sound.
This happens via the computer chip. Everyone’s hearing is one-of-a-kind, like a fingerprint, and so the frequencies you need amplified will vary. The astounding part is, those frequencies can be determined precisely 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 trouble with, improving upon speech recognition in the process.
Here’s how it works: the hearing aid picks up 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 assorted frequencies.
Then, based upon the programmed settings, the high-frequency sounds are enhanced, the low-frequency background sounds are suppressed, and the refined sound is presented 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 prevent you from accomplishing major gains in your hearing. For nearly all people, the amplification supplied is all they need to comprehend speech and participate in effective and effortless communication.
Think about it this way. If your eye doctor told you they could improve your vision from 20/80 to 20/25, would you forfeit 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 substantive.
Are you set to discover the improvements you can attain with contemporary hearing aids? Give us a call today!