Have you ever had trouble hearing in a crowded room or restaurant but can hear just fine at home? Do you have particular trouble hearing higher-pitched voices or TV dialogue?
If yes, you may 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 complex?
This week we’ll be focusing on how hearing aids work and how they are a great deal more sophisticated 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 essentially a type of energy that travels in waves, like ripples in a lake. Things create sound in the environment when they generate vibrations in the air, and those vibrations are ultimately caught and transferred to the ear canal by the outer ear.
After passing through the ear canal, the sound vibrations strike 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 called the cochlea.
The cochlea is filled with 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 the signals as sound.
With most instances of noise-induced hearing loss, there is damage to the cilia. So, the arriving signal to the brain is weakened and sounds seem softer or muffled. But not all frequencies are equally weakened. 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 weakened because your brain is receiving 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
You can see that the solution is not simply amplifying all sound. If you were to do that, you’d just continue drowning 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 evaluated and your hearing aids professionally programmed to enhance these select frequencies.
How Hearing Aids Precisely Amplify Sound
Modern hearing aids consist of five interior parts: the microphone, amplifier, speaker, battery, and computer chip. But hearing aids are not just straightforward amplifiers—they’re intricate electronic devices that alter the attributes of sound.
This happens via the computer chip. Everyone’s hearing is one-of-a-kind, like a fingerprint, and so the frequencies you need amplified will differ. The amazing part is, those frequencies can be ascertained 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, enhancing speech recognition in the process.
Here’s how it works: the hearing aid receives sound in the environment with the microphone and transmits the sound to the computer chip. The computer chip then translates the sound into digital information so that it can distinguish between assorted frequencies.
Then, determined by the programmed settings, the high-frequency sounds are enhanced, the low-frequency background sounds are repressed, and the enhanced sound is transported to your ear via the speaker.
So will your hearing go back completely to normal?
While your hearing will not totally return to normal, that shouldn’t stop you from achieving significant gains in your hearing. For the majority of people, the amplification supplied is all they need to comprehend speech and indulge in productive and effortless communication.
Think about it in this way. If your eye doctor told you they could improve your vision from 20/80 to 20/25, would you forfeit prescription glasses because you couldn’t get to 20/20? Absolutely not; you’d be able to function just fine with 20/25 vision and the gain from 20/80 would be considerable.
Are you set to find out the gains you can achieve with modern hearing aids? Give us a call today!