The Science of Hearing Aids
You probably know what hearing aids look like, and you likely know that wearing one may significantly improve your quality of life if you have hearing loss. But do you know how hearing aids really work? The answer isn’t overly complicated. Once you understand, you’ll see how a hearing aid can truly make a difference for you and your loved ones.
How do hearing aids work?
Every hearing aid has four components: a microphone, an amplifier, a speaker/receiver and a battery. The microphone receives sound waves and converts them to electrical signals or digital code, depending on the hearing aid type. The amplifier increases the power of the electrical signals or code and sends the message to the ear via the speaker. The battery powers the entire process.
Why hearing loss occurs?
Hearing loss occurs when the body’s auditory system does not function properly. While there are many types of hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss is the most common and is often caused by aging or an injury resulting from noise exposure or certain medicines. As a result, a portion of the 15,000 hair cells found in the inner ear are damaged or destroyed. Hair cells cannot regenerate or repair themselves, so once the damage occurs, it’s irreversible and may result in hearing loss, especially for softer sounds.
How do hearing aids help?
A hearing aid amplifies sound waves to overcome the loss of hearing sensitivity caused by damaged hair cells. By amplifying the signal so a larger vibration occurs, the hair cells can receive the information more accurately and pass the signal along to the brain for interpretation.
Depending on the severity of hearing loss, a hearing aid can significantly improve hearing for many people. They do so much more than simply make sounds louder. True, wearing a hearing aid may help you hear the sound from a television or the doorbell more clearly. But hearing aids also help you understand speech better. You can be a more active participant in conversations, especially in noisy environments, and you won’t become as tired simply trying to carry on a conversation.
Analog vs. digital hearing aids
For many years, analog hearing aids were the standard. These devices converted sound waves to electrical signals. Today, digital devices make up the majority of the hearing aid market. These devices convert sound waves to numerical codes, much like a computer uses binary code. While both types amplify sound, digital devices improve the overall sound quality for a better listening experience. Technological advances mean there’s minimal feedback, conversations in crowded restaurants are clearer, and you can stream audio to your hearing aids through iOS and Android phones. Additional accessories allow you to listen to TV audio in stereo, make hands-free calls from landline phones and much more.
Ready to learn how a hearing aid can improve your quality of life? Consult a hearing care professional to help determine if a hearing aid is right for you or someone you love.