Have you ever had difficulties hearing in a congested 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 may have hearing loss, and hearing aids might be able to help you.
But how do hearing aids work exactly? Are they basic amplifiers, or something more complicated?
This week we’ll be going over 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 starts out with sound. Sound is essentially a type of energy that travels in waves, like ripples in a lake. Things make sound in the environment when they generate vibrations in the air, and those vibrations are ultimately caught and transmitted 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, amplifying the original signal which is then transferred by the middle ear bones to the snail-shaped organ of the middle ear named the cochlea.
The cochlea is filled with fluid and small nerve cells called cilia. The vibrations transmitted from the middle ear bones stir the fluid and stimulate the cilia. The cilia then conduct 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. So, the arriving signal to the brain is diminished and sounds appear softer or muffled. But not all sound frequencies are equally impaired. Typically, the higher-pitched sounds, including speech, are impacted to a greater degree.
In a raucous setting, like a restaurant, your ability to hear speech is reduced 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
As you can see the solution is not simply amplifying all sound. If you were to do that, 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 a difficult time hearing. And that is only achievable by having your hearing professionally assessed and your hearing aids professionally programmed to boost these specific frequencies.
How Hearing Aids Selectively Amplify Sound
Contemporary hearing aids contain 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 alter the characteristics of sound.
This occurs via the computer chip. Everyone’s hearing is one-of-a-kind, like a fingerprint, and therefore the frequencies you need amplified will vary. The incredible part is, those frequencies can be determined exactly with a professional hearing test, known as an audiogram.
Once your hearing professional has these figures, your hearing aid can be custom-programmed to enhance the frequencies you have the most trouble with, strengthening speech recognition in the process.
Here’s how it works: the hearing aid receives sound in the environment with the microphone and delivers the sound to the computer chip. The computer chip then translates the sound into digital information so that it can differentiate between various frequencies.
Then, depending on the programmed settings, the high-frequency sounds are amplified, the low-frequency background sounds are suppressed, and the improved sound is directed to your ear via the speaker.
So will your hearing return completely to normal?
While your hearing will not entirely return to normal, that shouldn’t stop you from accomplishing significant gains in your hearing. For the majority of people, the amplification offered is all they need to comprehend speech and participate in effective and effortless communication.
Think about it in 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 perfectly with 20/25 vision and the improvement from 20/80 would be substantive.
Are you set to find out the gains you can achieve with modern hearing aids? Give us a call today!