Have you ever had difficulties hearing in a crowded room or restaurant but can hear without any problem at home? Do you have particular difficulty hearing higher-pitched voices or TV dialogue?
If so, you might have hearing loss, and hearing aids may be able to help.
But how exactly do hearing aids work? Are they simple amplifiers, or something more complicated?
This week we’ll be focusing on how hearing aids work and how they are a bit more sophisticated 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 simply a type of energy that travels in waves, like ripples in a pond. Things create 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.
Immediately 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 referred to as the cochlea.
The cochlea is full of fluid and very small nerve cells known as cilia. The vibrations transferred 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 the majority of instances of noise-induced hearing loss, there is damage to the cilia. Consequently, the incoming signal to the brain is diminished and sounds appear quieter or muffled. But not all sound frequencies are uniformly impaired. Typically, the higher-pitched sounds, such as speech, are impacted to a greater degree.
In a loud setting, like a restaurant, your capacity to hear speech is compromised because your brain is receiving 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
As you can see 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 grows to be 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 achievable by having your hearing professionally examined and your hearing aids professionally programmed to boost these particular frequencies.
How Hearing Aids Precisely Amplify Sound
Today’s hearing aids contain five interior parts: the microphone, amplifier, speaker, battery, and computer chip. But hearing aids are not just basic amplifiers—they’re sophisticated electronic devices that change the attributes of sound.
This happens by way of the computer chip. Everyone’s hearing is distinct, like a fingerprint, and so the frequencies you need amplified will differ. The astounding part is, those frequencies can be found precisely with a professional hearing test, technically 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 difficulty with, improving upon speech recognition in the process.
Here’s how it works: the hearing aid receives sound in the environment with the microphone and transfers the sound to the computer chip. The computer chip then translates the sound into digital information so that it can distinguish between various frequencies.
Then, depending on the programmed settings, the high-frequency sounds are enhanced, the low-frequency background sounds are subdued, and the enhanced sound is transported to your ear via the speaker.
So will your hearing return completely to normal?
While your hearing will not completely return to normal, that shouldn’t prevent you from achieving significant gains in your hearing. For most people, the amplification provided is all they require to understand speech and participate in effective and effortless communication.
Think about it 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? Of course not; you’d be able to function perfectly with 20/25 vision and the gain from 20/80 would be substantive.
Are you set to discover the gains you can attain with modern hearing aids? Give us a call today!