Hearing aids are a common and effective solution for people experiencing hearing loss – but how do hearing aids work, exactly? Far more than just sound amplifiers, hearing aids use the latest technology to adjust to each individual’s needs in different environments to help them better hear and interact with the world around them.
Hearing aids are not a cure for hearing loss but rather a tool to help manage it. For many people, hearing aids can be life-changing, allowing them to participate more fully in conversations and enjoy a greater quality of life. If you’ve ever wondered, ‘How does a hearing aid work?’, let’s take a look.
Put simply, hearing aids are small electronic devices that help people hear sounds more clearly. They are worn in or behind the ear and amplify sounds, making them louder and easier to hear. The first hearing aid was invented in the late 1800s, and since then, they have evolved significantly to include advanced features and technologies.
Modern hearing aids are more akin to mini-computers, designed to be extremely discreet and comfortable to wear, with many models featuring advanced noise-cancellation and feedback-reduction technologies. Some hearing aids are even Bluetooth-enabled, allowing wearers to connect to smartphones, televisions and other devices for a seamless listening experience.
We know that hearing aids amplify sounds, making them easier for the wearer to hear. But how does a hearing aid work exactly? Hearing aids include five key components: microphones, an amplifier, a speaker, a battery, and a microchip that has been specially programmed to suit the wearer’s needs. The microphones pick up sounds from the environment, which are then analysed and processed by the microchip.
After being amplified, the sounds are sent to the speaker, which transmits the amplified sound into the ear. Here, the sounds are transformed into electrical impulses, which are picked up by the brain and processed as sound.
Hearing aids aren’t just about making all sounds louder. They have different settings and features that allow them to be adjusted to suit individual hearing needs, improving the clarity of sounds for better understanding. For example, they may have volume controls, frequency adjustments, and noise-reduction settings. Some hearing aids also have directional microphones that can help filter out background noise and focus on the sounds in front of the wearer.
Hearing aids are small but mighty and can have huge benefits for wearers. Hearing aids can improve communication, allowing individuals to better understand speech and participate in conversations with others, connecting them with loved ones.
In addition to improving hearing, wearing hearing aids has been shown to have a number of other benefits. Research suggests that hearing aid users have better cognitive function, decreased risk of dementia and depression, and a higher overall quality of life than those with untreated hearing loss. Hearing aids can also improve safety by making it easier to hear warning signals such as sirens or alarms.
There are several different types of hearing aids available, each with its own unique features and benefits. Broadly speaking, hearing aids come in two forms: analogue and digital. Nowadays, digital hearing aids are much more sophisticated and much more common. They analyse incoming sounds with the goal of amplifying sounds you want to hear. This means more important sounds can be boosted while less important sounds like background noise are not. In effect, some digital hearing aids are able to amplify more important sounds while reducing background noise.
Each type of hearing aid has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the best option for an individual will depend on their specific hearing needs and preferences. Here are some of the most common types:
While hearing aids aren’t suitable for everyone, other treatments, such as cochlear implants and assistive listening devices, may also be recommended. Cochlear implants are surgically implanted devices that bypass damaged hair cells in the inner ear and stimulate the auditory nerve directly. They are suitable for people with severe to profound hearing loss and can provide significant improvement in hearing ability.
Assistive listening devices, on the other hand, are devices that help people with hearing loss in specific situations, for example, when watching TV, talking on the phone, or attending meetings. They include devices such as amplified telephones, TV listening systems, and personal FM systems.
If you are experiencing hearing loss, the first step is to speak to an audiologist. They will be able to assess your hearing and recommend the best type of hearing aid for your needs. They can also help you with the fitting process and provide ongoing support and advice to ensure that your hearing aids are working properly and that you are getting the most benefit from them.
Overall, hearing aids are a safe, effective and non-invasive way to manage hearing loss and improve your quality of life. If you are experiencing hearing problems, book an appointment at your nearest Bay Audiology clinic, and we can help you explore your options and find the best solution for your hearing needs.