Have you ever had difficulties hearing in a crowded room or restaurant but can hear just fine at home? Do you have particular challenges hearing higher-pitched voices or TV dialogue?
If yes, you might 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 complex?
This week we’ll be focusing on 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 out with sound. Sound is simply a type of energy that travels in waves, like ripples in a lake. Things create sound in the environment when they cause vibrations in the air, and those vibrations are eventually captured and sent to the ear canal by the outer ear.
After passing through the ear canal, the sound vibrations hit 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 referred to as the cochlea.
The cochlea is full of 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 those signals as sound.
With the majority of cases of noise-induced hearing loss, there is injury to the cilia. As a result, the incoming signal to the brain is diminished and sounds appear quieter or muffled. But not all frequencies are uniformly impaired. Typically, the higher-pitched sounds, including speech, are impacted to a greater extent.
In a noisy setting, like a restaurant, your capacity to hear speech is impaired because your brain is acquiring a weakened 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 drowning out speech as the background noise becomes louder in proportion to the speech sounds.
The solution is selective amplification of only the frequencies you have a hard time hearing. And that is only achievable by having your hearing professionally examined and your hearing aids professionally programmed to enhance these particular frequencies.
How Hearing Aids Precisely Amplify Sound
Modern day hearing aids consist of five interior parts: the microphone, amplifier, speaker, battery, and computer chip. But hearing aids are not just ordinary amplifiers—they’re sophisticated electronic devices that modify the properties of sound.
This happens 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 vary. The astounding 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 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 converts the sound into digital information so that it can differentiate between assorted frequencies.
Then, depending on the programmed settings, the high-frequency sounds are amplified, the low-frequency background sounds are suppressed, and the enhanced sound is delivered to your ear via the speaker.
So will your hearing go back perfectly to normal?
While your hearing will not entirely return to normal, that shouldn’t prevent you from achieving major gains in your hearing. For nearly all individuals, the amplification supplied is all they need to comprehend speech and partake in productive and effortless communication.
Think about it in 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? Of course 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 see the gains you can achieve with modern hearing aids? Call us today!