Have you ever had trouble hearing in a crowded room or restaurant but can hear without any problem at home? Do you have particular challenges hearing higher-pitched voices or TV dialogue?
If yes, you may have hearing loss, and hearing aids may 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 great deal more advanced than many people realize. But first, let’s start with how normal hearing works.
How Normal Hearing Works
The hearing process begins with sound. Sound is essentially a kind of energy that travels in waves, like ripples in a lake. Things produce sound in the environment when they cause vibrations in the air, and those vibrations are eventually caught and transmitted to the ear canal by the outer ear.
After moving through the ear canal, the sound vibrations strike the eardrum. The eardrum then vibrates, creating and amplifying the original signal which is then transferred by the middle ear bones to the snail-shaped organ of the middle ear known as the cochlea.
The cochlea is full of fluid and 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 those 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 weakened and sounds appear quieter or muffled. But not all sound frequencies are uniformly weakened. Usually, the higher-pitched sounds, including speech, are impacted to a greater degree.
In a noisy setting, like a restaurant, your ability to hear speech is weakened because your brain is obtaining a diminished 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
You can see that the solution is not simply amplifying all sound. If you were to do this, 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 a hard time hearing. And that is only possible by having your hearing professionally examined and your hearing aids professionally programmed to magnify these select frequencies.
How Hearing Aids Precisely Amplify Sound
Present 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 intricate electronic devices that modify the properties of sound.
This happens via the computer chip. Everyone’s hearing is distinct, like a fingerprint, and therefore the frequencies you need amplified will vary. The extraordinary part is, those frequencies can be ascertained precisely with a professional hearing test, technically known as an audiogram.
Once your hearing professional has these numbers, your hearing aid can be programmed to amplify the frequencies you have the most trouble with, boosting 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 converts the sound into digital information so that it can distinguish between different frequencies.
Then, dependent on the programmed settings, the high-frequency sounds are enhanced, the low-frequency background sounds are repressed, and the refined sound is presented to your ear via the speaker.
So will your hearing return perfectly to normal?
While your hearing will not completely return to normal, that shouldn’t stop you from attaining substantial gains in your hearing. For virtually all individuals, the amplification offered is all they require to comprehend speech and participate in productive and effortless communication.
Think of it this way. If your eye doctor told you that they could improve your vision from 20/80 to 20/25, would you forgo 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 substantial.
Are you set to find out the improvements you can attain with modern hearing aids? Give us a call today!