Have you ever had problems hearing in a crowded room or restaurant but can hear just fine at home? Do you have particular challenges 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 basic amplifiers, or something more elaborate?
This week we’ll be looking at 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 essentially a type of energy that travels in waves, like ripples in a pond. Things create sound in the environment when they generate vibrations in the air, and those vibrations are eventually caught and transmitted 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, increasing 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 full of fluid and very small nerve cells known as cilia. The vibrations transferred from the middle ear bones agitate the fluid and stimulate the cilia. The cilia then conduct electrical signals to the brain and the brain interprets those signals as sound.
With most 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 seem quieter or muffled. But not all sound frequencies are equally impaired. Frequently, the higher-pitched sounds, such as speech, are affected to a greater extent.
In a raucous setting, like a restaurant, your capacity to hear speech is reduced because your brain is obtaining 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
As you can see the solution is not merely 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 relation to the speech sounds.
The solution is selective amplification of only the sound frequencies you have trouble hearing. And that is only feasible by having your hearing professionally evaluated and your hearing aids professionally programmed to enhance these particular frequencies.
How Hearing Aids Precisely Amplify Sound
Modern day 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 characteristics of sound.
This happens via the computer chip. Everyone’s hearing is unique, like a fingerprint, and therefore the frequencies you need amplified will vary. The astounding part is, those frequencies can be established precisely 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 difficulty with, boosting 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 converts the sound into digital information so that it can differentiate between assorted frequencies.
Then, determined by the programmed settings, the high-frequency sounds are enhanced, the low-frequency background sounds are repressed, and the improved sound is transported to your ear via the speaker.
So will your hearing return perfectly to normal?
While your hearing will not entirely return to normal, that shouldn’t stop you from accomplishing major gains in your hearing. For the majority of individuals, the amplification delivered is all they require to comprehend speech and indulge in productive and effortless communication.
Think about it in this way. If your eye doctor told you they could enhance 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 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!