Hearing aids are modern marvels. Inside their small structure rests powerful relief for people suffering from hearing loss. All hearing aids work with processing and amplifying sound for the ear. Hearing aids feature four primary components: a microphone, an amplifier, a speaker (also called the receiver), and a battery. Let’s take a closer look at exactly how the hearing aid operates.
Sound waves are created when something moves and disturbs the air surrounding it. The disruption in the air creates rippling wave forms that the tiny hearing mechanisms in our ears pick up on. Sound is transmitted as a vibration in the air to our ears. The tiny bones of our middle ear convey the wave vibrations to our inner ear where hair cells convert the wave transmission to an electrical signal sent to the brain. The final step in hearing sound is when our brain processes the electric signal into meaning.
When we have hearing loss, there are gaps in the way we hear. Much permanent hearing loss is due to damage to our inner ear where there is no way to repair injured hair cells. When hair cells are out of commission, less sound information is sent to the brain. Our brain has to piece together meaning from incomplete signals, which can be frustrating and difficult.
Hearing Aids and Sound
Essentially, hearing aids are like a personal sound system, amplifying incoming noise so you are better able to hear more of it. The small, powerful microphone in a hearing aid converts sound from a wave to an electrical signal. The electrical signal is then processed by the amplifier which boosts the sound. The receiver then converts the electric signal back into a sound wave and delivers the sound to the ear canal.
When the components of a hearing aid convert sound from waves to electric signals –or electric signals back into sound waves- they are acting as transducers. Our ear has a biological transducer when it converts wave information to electrical pulses in the inner ear. Hearing aids convert sound from waves to electricity and back to waves in order to process it with the greatest efficiency.
Hearing Aid Styles
Hearing aids are designed to rest discreetly inside or behind the ear, and so all the components from the battery powering the device to the technology for processing and delivering sound must be not only be powerful, it must be very, very compact. Digital sound revolutionized the capabilities of hearing aids which are now able to deliver better, more nuanced sound than ever before.
For Behind-The-Ear (BTE) and Receiver-In-Canal (RIC) hearing aid models, some of the hearing aids structure is in a small plastic shell that rests comfortably behind the ear. Tiny directional microphones pick up surrounding sound and deliver the amplified sound waves to your ear canal. Hearing aids that use these small external units deliver powerful, crisp sound
In-The-Ear and In-The-Canal styles of hearing aids place all hearing aid components in a small, convenient device molded to your ear. Some designs take advantage of the shape of your ear to provide directionality to the incoming sound waves.
Digital or Analog?
Fundamentally, digital and analog hearing aids function on the same principals. However, digital technology has many advantages. Analog hearing aids amplify all sound incoming to the ear which means that the background noise of a restaurant will be amplified as much as the conversation you are trying to hear. Flat, analog amplification can best help a person hear in quiet, controlled environments.
Digital sound offers holds the answer to more adaptable hearing solutions by vastly expanding what amplification can do. Digital processing makes it easier to create natural-sounding amplification where background noise is dampened and nearby speech is selectively boosted. Digital hearing aids can also be programmed specifically for your unique hearing needs – emphasizing the sound frequencies you need the most assistance with.
Neighborhood Hearing Aid Center
Are you having issues with your hearing? A visit with Neighborhood Hearing Aid Center can help! We offer complete audiological testing and a wide selection of the best hearing solutions. If you are facing the challenges of hearing loss, Neighborhood Hearing Aid Center offers personalized consultation and care for choosing the right treatment path. Set up an appointment today and recover your hearing health.