Have you ever had difficulty hearing in a crowded room or restaurant but can hear just fine at home? Do you have particular difficulty hearing higher-pitched voices or TV dialogue?
If yes, you might have hearing loss, and hearing aids may be able to help.
But how do hearing aids work exactly? Are they simple amplifiers, or something more complicated?
This week we’ll be exploring 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 starts with sound. Sound is simply a kind of energy that travels in waves, like ripples in a pond. Things create sound in the environment when they cause vibrations in the air, and those vibrations are eventually captured and sent to the ear canal by the outer ear.
Immediately after passing through the ear canal, the sound vibrations strike 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 called the cochlea.
The cochlea is full of fluid and tiny nerve cells known as cilia. The vibrations sent from the middle ear bones agitate 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 cases of noise-induced hearing loss, there is injury to the cilia. As a consequence, the arriving signal to the brain is compromised and sounds appear quieter or muffled. But not all sound frequencies are evenly weakened. Commonly, the higher-pitched sounds, including speech, are affected to a greater degree.
In a noisy setting, like a restaurant, your ability to hear speech is reduced because your brain is receiving a compromised signal for high-frequency sounds. At the same time, background noise, which is low-frequency, is getting through normally, drowning out the speech.
How Hearing Aids Can Help
You can understand 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 becomes louder in proportion to the speech sounds.
The solution is selective amplification of only the sound frequencies you have trouble 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 simple amplifiers—they’re intricate electronic devices that modify the attributes of sound.
This takes place by way of the computer chip. Everyone’s hearing is distinct, like a fingerprint, and therefore the frequencies you need amplified will differ. The astounding part is, those frequencies can be ascertained exactly 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 trouble with, enhancing speech recognition in the process.
Here’s how it works: the hearing aid picks up 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 different frequencies.
Then, based upon the programmed settings, the high-frequency sounds are amplified, the low-frequency background sounds are repressed, and the improved sound is directed to your ear via the speaker.
So will your hearing go back completely to normal?
While your hearing will not entirely go back to normal, that shouldn’t prevent you from accomplishing significant gains in your hearing. For the majority of individuals, the amplification offered is all they require to understand speech and indulge in productive and effortless communication.
Think of it in this way. If your eye doctor told you they could enhance 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 just fine with 20/25 vision and the gain from 20/80 would be enormous.
Are you set to find out the gains you can achieve with contemporary hearing aids? Give us a call today!