Have you ever had difficulties hearing in a congested 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 you.
But how exactly do hearing aids work? Are they simple amplifiers, or something more complicated?
This week we’ll be evaluating how hearing aids work and how they are a great deal more advanced than many people realize. But first, let’s begin with how normal hearing works.
How Normal Hearing Works
The hearing process begins with sound. Sound is simply a kind of energy that travels in waves, like ripples in a lake. Things produce sound in the environment when they produce vibrations in the air, and those vibrations are eventually caught and transferred to the ear canal by the outer ear.
Immediately after passing through the ear canal, the sound vibrations hit the eardrum. The eardrum then vibrates, creating and amplifying the original signal which is then transmitted by the middle ear bones to the snail-shaped organ of the middle ear known as the cochlea.
The cochlea is filled with fluid and tiny nerve cells called cilia. The vibrations transported from the middle ear bones stir 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 cases of noise-induced hearing loss, there is damage to the cilia. As a consequence, the inbound signal to the brain is compromised and sounds appear quieter or muffled. But not all frequencies are uniformly impaired. Usually, the higher-pitched sounds, including 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 diminished signal for high-frequency sounds. On top of that, 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 simply 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 sound frequencies you have a difficult time hearing. And that is only possible by having your hearing professionally tested and your hearing aids professionally programmed to boost these specific frequencies.
How Hearing Aids Precisely Amplify Sound
Present day hearing aids consist of five internal 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 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 vary. The amazing part is, those frequencies can be established exactly 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 trouble with, maximizing 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 converts the sound into digital information so that it can differentiate between various frequencies.
Then, depending on the programmed settings, the high-frequency sounds are amplified, the low-frequency background sounds are subdued, and the refined sound is sent to your ear via the speaker.
So will your hearing go back perfectly to normal?
While your hearing will not completely return to normal, that shouldn’t stop you from accomplishing substantial gains in your hearing. For nearly all individuals, the amplification supplied is all they require to comprehend speech and participate in effective and effortless communication.
Think about it in this way. If your eye doctor told you that they could improve your vision from 20/80 to 20/25, would you go without 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 substantive.
Are you ready to see the improvements you can achieve with contemporary hearing aids? Give us a call today!