Have you ever had problems hearing in a congested room or restaurant but can hear without any problem at home? Do you have particular trouble 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 checking out 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 simply a type of energy that travels in waves, like ripples in a lake. Things cause sound in the environment when they produce 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 strike the eardrum. The eardrum then vibrates, creating and amplifying the original signal which is then transmitted 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 known as cilia. The vibrations transmitted from the middle ear bones agitate 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. As a consequence, the incoming signal to the brain is weakened and sounds seem quieter or muffled. But not all frequencies are equally weakened. Frequently, the higher-pitched sounds, including speech, are impacted to a greater extent.
In a loud setting, like a restaurant, your capacity to hear speech is impaired because your brain is acquiring a compromised 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 see 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 sound frequencies you have a hard time hearing. And that is only achievable by having your hearing professionally assessed and your hearing aids professionally programmed to boost these select frequencies.
How Hearing Aids Precisely Amplify Sound
Modern hearing aids consist of five internal parts: the microphone, amplifier, speaker, battery, and computer chip. But hearing aids are not just straightforward amplifiers—they’re intricate electronic devices that change the attributes of sound.
This occurs by way of the computer chip. Everyone’s hearing is unique, like a fingerprint, and so the frequencies you need amplified will vary. The amazing part is, those frequencies can be established precisely with a professional hearing test, 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 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 distinguish between different frequencies.
Then, dependent on the programmed settings, the high-frequency sounds are enhanced, the low-frequency background sounds are suppressed, and the improved sound is served to your ear via the speaker.
So will your hearing return completely to normal?
While your hearing will not totally go back to normal, that shouldn’t stop you from acquiring significant gains in your hearing. For most individuals, the amplification supplied is all they need to understand speech and partake 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 forfeit prescription glasses because you couldn’t get to 20/20? Absolutely not; you’d be able to function perfectly with 20/25 vision and the improvement from 20/80 would be considerable.
Are you set to see the improvements you can achieve with modern hearing aids? Call us today!