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 yes, you might 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 taking a look at how hearing aids work and how they are a bit more advanced than many people realize. But first, let’s start with how normal hearing works.
How Normal Hearing Works
The hearing process starts with sound. Sound is essentially a type of energy that travels in waves, like ripples in a pond. Things create sound in the environment when they produce vibrations in the air, and those vibrations are eventually captured and sent to the ear canal by the outer ear.
Immediately after passing through the ear canal, the sound vibrations hit 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 referred to as the cochlea.
The cochlea is filled with fluid and very small nerve cells known as cilia. The vibrations sent from the middle ear bones shake the fluid and stimulate the cilia. The cilia then conduct 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 consequence, the incoming signal to the brain is weaker and sounds appear quieter or muffled. But not all sound 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 acquiring 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 understand 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 relation to the speech sounds.
The solution is selective amplification of only the frequencies you have trouble hearing. And that is only feasible by having your hearing professionally evaluated and your hearing aids professionally programmed to magnify these particular frequencies.
How Hearing Aids Precisely Amplify Sound
Modern day hearing aids contain five interior parts: the microphone, amplifier, speaker, battery, and computer chip. But hearing aids are not just basic amplifiers—they’re sophisticated electronic devices that modify the attributes of sound.
This takes place by way of the computer chip. Everyone’s hearing is one-of-a-kind, like a fingerprint, and therefore the frequencies you need amplified will differ. The extraordinary part is, those frequencies can be found precisely with a professional hearing test, 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, 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 differentiate between different frequencies.
Then, dependent on the programmed settings, the high-frequency sounds are enhanced, the low-frequency background sounds are subdued, and the improved sound is directed to your ear via the speaker.
So will your hearing go back perfectly to normal?
While your hearing will not entirely revert to normal, that shouldn’t stop you from obtaining significant gains in your hearing. For nearly all people, the amplification delivered is all they require to comprehend speech and engage in productive and effortless communication.
Think about 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? Absolutely not; you’d be able to function perfectly with 20/25 vision and the gain from 20/80 would be substantial.
Are you set to see the improvements you can attain with modern hearing aids? Call us today!