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 do hearing aids work exactly? Are they basic amplifiers, or something more complicated?
This week we’ll be checking out how hearing aids work and how they are a great deal more sophisticated than many people realize. But first, let’s begin with how normal hearing works.
How Normal Hearing Works
The hearing process starts out with sound. Sound is simply a type of energy that travels in waves, like ripples in a pond. Things make sound in the environment when they generate vibrations in the air, and those vibrations are ultimately captured and sent to the ear canal by the outer ear.
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 transmitted by the middle ear bones to the snail-shaped organ of the middle ear referred to as the cochlea.
The cochlea is filled with fluid and tiny 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 injury to the cilia. As a consequence, the inbound signal to the brain is weakened and sounds appear quieter or muffled. But not all frequencies are equally weakened. Usually, the higher-pitched sounds, including speech, are impacted to a greater degree.
In a raucous setting, like a restaurant, your ability to hear speech is impaired because your brain is obtaining a weakened 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 that, you’d just continue drowning out speech as the background noise grows to be louder relative to the speech sounds.
The solution is selective amplification of only the frequencies you have a difficult time hearing. And that is only feasible by having your hearing professionally assessed and your hearing aids professionally programmed to amplify these specific frequencies.
How Hearing Aids Selectively Amplify Sound
Contemporary hearing aids consist of 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 modify the properties of sound.
This takes place 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 determined precisely with a professional hearing test, known as an audiogram.
Once your hearing professional has these figures, your hearing aid can be custom-programmed to amplify the frequencies you have the most trouble 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 different frequencies.
Then, based on the programmed settings, the high-frequency sounds are enhanced, the low-frequency background sounds are repressed, and the refined sound is delivered to your ear via the speaker.
So will your hearing return completely to normal?
While your hearing will not entirely revert to normal, that shouldn’t stop you from obtaining substantial gains in your hearing. For most people, the amplification supplied is all they need to understand speech and indulge in productive and effortless communication.
Think about it this way. If your eye doctor told you that 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 just fine with 20/25 vision and the improvement from 20/80 would be enormous.
Are you ready to see the improvements you can attain with modern hearing aids? Give us a call today!