How Do Hearing Aids Work?

Closeup of hearing aids in ear

Have you ever had problems hearing in a congested room or restaurant but can hear without any problem at home? Do you have particular challenges hearing higher-pitched voices or TV dialogue?

If so, you might have hearing loss, and hearing aids might be able to help.

But how exactly do hearing aids work? Are they basic amplifiers, or something more complicated?

This week we’ll be looking into how hearing aids work and how they are a great deal more sophisticated than many people realize. But first, let’s begin with how normal hearing works.

How Normal Hearing Works

The hearing process starts out with sound. Sound is simply a kind of energy that travels in waves, like ripples in a lake. Things create sound in the environment when they produce vibrations in the air, and those vibrations are ultimately caught and transferred to the ear canal by the outer ear.

Immediately 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 called the cochlea.

The cochlea is filled with fluid and very small nerve cells called 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 the signals as sound.

With most instances of noise-induced hearing loss, there is damage to the cilia. As a result, the arriving signal to the brain is diminished and sounds seem softer or muffled. But not all frequencies are equally weakened. Commonly, the higher-pitched sounds, such as speech, are affected to a greater extent.

In a noisy setting, like a restaurant, your capacity to hear speech is reduced because your brain is acquiring a compromised signal for high-frequency sounds. Simultaneously, background noise, which is low-frequency, is getting through normally, drowning out the speech.

How Hearing Aids Can Help

As you can see the solution is not simply amplifying all sound. If you were to do this, you’d just continue to drown out speech as the background noise becomes louder in relation to the speech sounds.

The solution is selective amplification of only the frequencies you have trouble hearing. And that is only possible by having your hearing professionally evaluated and your hearing aids professionally programmed to magnify these specific 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 ordinary amplifiers—they’re intricate electronic devices that alter the properties of sound.

This occurs 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 astounding part is, those frequencies can be identified 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, maximizing 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 converts the sound into digital information so that it can distinguish between assorted frequencies.

Then, determined by the programmed settings, the high-frequency sounds are enhanced, the low-frequency background sounds are suppressed, and the enhanced sound is delivered to your ear via the speaker.

So will your hearing return perfectly to normal?

While your hearing will not completely go back to normal, that shouldn’t prevent you from achieving substantial gains in your hearing. For the majority of people, the amplification supplied is all they need to understand speech and partake in productive and effortless communication.

Think of it in this way. If your eye doctor told you that 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? Absolutely not; you’d be able to function just fine with 20/25 vision and the gain from 20/80 would be enormous.

Are you set to discover the improvements you can attain with contemporary hearing aids? Give us a call today!

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.