Evanston Audiology - Evanston, IL

Closeup of hearing aids in ear

Have you ever had trouble 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 may have hearing loss, and hearing aids may be able to help.

But how do hearing aids work exactly? Are they basic amplifiers, or something more elaborate?

This week we’ll be focusing on 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 kind of energy that travels in waves, like ripples in a pond. Things generate sound in the environment when they trigger vibrations in the air, and those vibrations are ultimately 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, creating and amplifying the original signal which is then transferred by the middle ear bones to the snail-shaped organ of the middle ear known as the cochlea.

The cochlea is filled with fluid and small nerve cells called cilia. The vibrations transported 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 most instances of noise-induced hearing loss, there is injury to the cilia. Consequently, the incoming signal to the brain is weaker and sounds seem softer or muffled. But not all sound frequencies are equally weakened. Generally, the higher-pitched sounds, such as speech, are impacted to a greater degree.

In a noisy setting, like a restaurant, your ability to hear speech is weakened because your brain is receiving a weakened 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

As you can see the solution is not merely amplifying all sound. If you were to do that, you’d just continue to drown out speech as the background noise becomes louder relative to the speech sounds.

The solution is selective amplification of only the frequencies you have difficulty hearing. And that is only possible by having your hearing professionally tested and your hearing aids professionally programmed to magnify these select frequencies.

How Hearing Aids Selectively Amplify Sound

Modern day hearing aids contain five interior parts: the microphone, amplifier, speaker, battery, and computer chip. But hearing aids are not just simple amplifiers—they’re intricate electronic devices that change the properties of sound.

This takes place via the computer chip. Everyone’s hearing is one-of-a-kind, like a fingerprint, and therefore the frequencies you need amplified will differ. The extraordinary part is, those frequencies can be established exactly with a professional hearing test, known as an audiogram.

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

Here’s how it works: the hearing aid receives 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 differentiate between various frequencies.

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

So will your hearing go back completely to normal?

While your hearing will not totally revert to normal, that shouldn’t prevent you from attaining major gains in your hearing. For the majority of people, the amplification provided is all they need to comprehend speech and engage in effective 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 forgo prescription glasses because you couldn’t get to 20/20? Absolutely not; you’d be able to function perfectly with 20/25 vision and the gain from 20/80 would be substantial.

Are you set to discover the improvements you can achieve with modern hearing aids? Call us today!

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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