Have you ever had difficulty 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 so, you may have hearing loss, and hearing aids may be able to help.
But how do hearing aids work exactly? Are they simple amplifiers, or something more complicated?
This week we’ll be checking out how hearing aids work and how they are a bit more advanced than many people realize. But first, let’s begin with how normal hearing works.
How Normal Hearing Works
The hearing process starts with sound. Sound is simply a kind of energy that travels in waves, like ripples in a pond. Things generate sound in the environment when they cause vibrations in the air, and those vibrations are eventually caught and transferred to the ear canal by the outer ear.
After moving 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 called 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 transmit electrical signals to the brain and the brain interprets the signals as sound.
With most instances of noise-induced hearing loss, there is injury to the cilia. Consequently, the arriving signal to the brain is diminished and sounds seem softer or muffled. But not all sound frequencies are evenly impaired. Frequently, the higher-pitched sounds, including speech, are affected to a greater extent.
In a raucous setting, like a restaurant, your capacity to hear speech is impaired because your brain is acquiring a diminished 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 merely amplifying all sound. If you were to do this, you’d just continue to drown out speech as the background noise grows to be louder in proportion to the speech sounds.
The solution is selective amplification of only the frequencies you have trouble hearing. And that is only achievable by having your hearing professionally assessed and your hearing aids professionally programmed to magnify these specific frequencies.
How Hearing Aids Selectively Amplify Sound
Today’s hearing aids contain 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 modify the characteristics of sound.
This happens via the computer chip. Everyone’s hearing is unique, like a fingerprint, and therefore the frequencies you need amplified will vary. The astounding part is, those frequencies can be found exactly with a professional hearing test, technically known as an audiogram.
Once your hearing professional has these numbers, your hearing aid can be custom-programmed to enhance 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 delivers 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, depending on the programmed settings, the high-frequency sounds are enhanced, the low-frequency background sounds are subdued, and the refined sound is directed 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 stop you from attaining major gains in your hearing. For most individuals, the amplification provided is all they require to understand speech and participate in effective and effortless communication.
Think of it in this way. If your eye doctor told you they could improve your vision from 20/80 to 20/25, would you forgo 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 improvement 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!