Hearing aids are small electronic, battery-operated gadgets used to amplify or change sounds. This helps people with hearing loss communicate, listen, and participate more in daily activities and conversations.
How Do Hearing Aids Work?
One thing people must understand before buying hearing aids is that they can’t restore normal hearing. While they can help improve hearing for many people, they primarily improve hearing and speech comprehension in patients with sensorineural hearing loss. This is hearing loss caused by the damage of tiny sensory cells called hair cells in the inner ear.
Sensorineural hearing loss can result from viral or bacterial illnesses, injuries, noise, aging, infections, congenital disabilities, certain medications, tumors, or issues with high blood pressure, blood circulation, or stroke.
All hearing aids come with a speaker, amplifier, and microphone. The microphone receives sounds from the surroundings and turns the waves into electrical signals. Some hearing aids come with a processing chip personalized to your hearing needs. The chip analyzes and adjusts the sounds from the microphone for maximum sound.
The electrical signals then move to the amplifier, which increases the signal power, and sends them to the ear via the speaker. Surviving hair cells in the ear detect more significant sound vibrations, convert them to neural signals, and pass them to the brain.
With the advancement in technology, hearing aids now have additional features that improve hearing experiences.
- Noise reduction- This helps isolate and reduce environmental noise and amplify speech more.
- Directional microphones- These microphones are usually aligned to the hearing aid and help improve the pickup of sounds coming from in front of you rather than those coming from beside or behind you. These are most useful when you are in a place with loud background noise.
- Rechargeable batteries- These make it easy and cheaper to maintain and use hearing aids.
- Wireless connectivity- Bluetooth connectivity allows you to connect your hearing aids to cellphones, televisions, computers, and music players.
- Remote control- This helps you adjust certain features without touching your hearing aid.
- Variable programming- Some devices have several pre-programmed settings for different environments and hearing needs.
- Telecoils- These make it easier to communicate on telephones with telecoil compatibility. They reduce sounds from the background and amplify sounds from the phone.
Do All Hearing Aids Work The Same?
Hearing aids come as analog or digital. While they have the same essential parts, they convert sounds differently.
Digital hearing aids change sound waves into numerical codes, like the binary codes used by computers. Since the numerical codes include information about the sounds’ loudness and pitch, your digital hearing aid can be programmed to amplify specific frequencies more. This gives you more flexibility to adjust it to different environments.
On the other hand, analog hearing aids change sound waves into electrical signals. Manufacturers program hearing aids to meet different users’ needs depending on recommendations from audiologists.
They usually have several settings or programs, and you can change them for different listening environments like open areas, quiet rooms, or stadiums and theaters. They are also cheaper than digital hearing aids.
Hearing aids also come in different styles and sizes depending on your preferences and the extent of hearing loss. The most common types are behind-the-ear, in-the-ear, in-the-canal, and completely-in-the-canal.