Closeup of hearing aids in ear

Have you ever had problems hearing in a congested room or restaurant but can hear just fine at home? Do you have particular trouble 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 complex?

This week we’ll be evaluating how hearing aids work and how they are a great deal more sophisticated than many people recognize. But first, let’s begin with how normal hearing works.

How Normal Hearing Works

The hearing process starts with sound. Sound is essentially a type of energy that travels in waves, like ripples in a pond. Things cause sound in the environment when they produce vibrations in the air, and those vibrations are ultimately caught 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, 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 filled with fluid and tiny nerve cells known as cilia. The vibrations transmitted 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 those signals as sound.

With the majority of cases of noise-induced hearing loss, there is injury to the cilia. As a result, the incoming signal to the brain is diminished and sounds appear softer or muffled. But not all sound frequencies are uniformly impaired. Generally, the higher-pitched sounds, including speech, are impacted to a greater extent.

In a raucous setting, like a restaurant, your capacity to hear speech is impaired because your brain is receiving a compromised 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 understand that 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 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 feasible by having your hearing professionally examined and your hearing aids professionally programmed to amplify these particular frequencies.

How Hearing Aids Selectively Amplify Sound

Present day 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 intricate electronic devices that alter the properties of sound.

This occurs via the computer chip. Everyone’s hearing is distinct, like a fingerprint, and so the frequencies you need amplified will vary. The incredible part is, those frequencies can be established precisely with a professional hearing test, known as an audiogram.

Once your hearing professional has these numbers, your hearing aid can be programmed to amplify the frequencies you have the most difficulty with, boosting speech recognition in the process.

Here’s how it works: the hearing aid receives sound in the environment with the microphone and delivers the sound to the computer chip. The computer chip then translates the sound into digital information so that it can differentiate between different frequencies.

Then, based upon the programmed settings, the high-frequency sounds are amplified, the low-frequency background sounds are subdued, and the improved sound is served to your ear via the speaker.

So will your hearing go back perfectly to normal?

While your hearing will not entirely return to normal, that shouldn’t prevent you from obtaining substantial gains in your hearing. For nearly all people, the amplification provided is all they need to comprehend speech and engage in productive and effortless communication.

Think of 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? 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 gains you can achieve with contemporary hearing aids? Give us a call today!