Have you ever had difficulty hearing in a crowded 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 might have hearing loss, and hearing aids might be able to help you.
But how exactly do hearing aids work? Are they simple amplifiers, or something more complicated?
This week we’ll be looking at 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 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 trigger vibrations in the air, and those vibrations are eventually captured and transmitted to the ear canal by the outer ear.
Just 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 named the cochlea.
The cochlea is full of fluid and tiny nerve cells known as cilia. The vibrations transported 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 the majority of cases of noise-induced hearing loss, there is damage to the cilia. So, the arriving signal to the brain is weakened and sounds appear softer or muffled. But not all frequencies are evenly impaired. Commonly, the higher-pitched sounds, such as speech, are affected to a greater degree.
In a loud setting, like a restaurant, your capacity to hear speech is diminished because your brain is acquiring a compromised 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 merely 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 difficult 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 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 alter the characteristics of sound.
This happens via the computer chip. Everyone’s hearing is unique, like a fingerprint, and so the frequencies you need amplified will vary. The amazing part is, those frequencies can be identified 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 trouble with, strengthening 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 converts the sound into digital information so that it can distinguish between various frequencies.
Then, dependent on the programmed settings, the high-frequency sounds are amplified, the low-frequency background sounds are subdued, and the refined sound is transported to your ear via the speaker.
So will your hearing revert completely to normal?
While your hearing will not totally go back to normal, that shouldn’t prevent you from acquiring significant gains in your hearing. For most people, the amplification supplied is all they require to comprehend speech and indulge in effective and effortless communication.
Think of 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 perfectly with 20/25 vision and the improvement from 20/80 would be substantial.
Are you set to see the gains you can attain with contemporary hearing aids? Give us a call today!