How Do Hearing Aids Work?
To understand how hearing aids work, we first need to start off with a quick anatomy lesson.
Let’s learn about the ears! Your ear is made up of three parts: First, there is the outer ear which is the part you can see. This is called the pinna and the ear canal. Then, there is the middle ear which consists of the eardrum, three middle ear bones, and a tube that connects the middle ear to the nasal sinus cavity called the eustachian tube. Finally, there is the inner ear which is made up of the cochlea, the vestibular system, and the 8th cranial nerve. Now that we understand the basic anatomy of the ear, we can get into how those structures work to help us hear sounds! If you break it down, sounds are simply pressure waves. A wave is captured by our pinna and funneled into our ear canal to our eardrum. The ear drum then moves the three bones in the middle ear which sends an electrical pulse into the cochlea. The fine structures in the cochlea then transmit the signal up the 8th cranial nerve to our brain. And that’s how we hear music, our loved ones talking, birds chirping, and all other sounds!
So, what happens when a person experiences hearing loss?
Well, as we now know, there are many intricate structures in the ear and damage can occur in any of these places. A conductive hearing loss happens when sounds cannot get through the outer and middle ear meaning the damage is located in one of those sections. Sensorineural hearing loss happens when there is damage somewhere in the inner ear. Auditory processing disorder (APD) happens when the brain does not “hear” sounds in the usual way and struggles to interpret the information sent from the ears. You can read more about APD by clicking here.
Now, how do hearing aids work?
Hearing aids work by increasing the amount of sound you hear at specific frequencies. Since each person will have a unique type of hearing loss, each device must be specially programmed. It is crucial for a hearing aid to be fine-tuned. This is done through a test called Real Ear Measure. You can read more about that here.
Hearing aids amplify the sound through a three-part system. First, the sound is collected by the hearing aid at the microphone ports. Depending on the type of device you have, there can be one to four microphone ports. The sound is then filtered by the technology inside the device to help decrease background noise and increase speech clarity. From there, the sound is transmitted through the receiver into the ear canal. The sound can then be processed by the ear and brain as normal. So, if there is extensive damage to the ear, hearing aids may not be the best option. This is because hearing aids still depend on the fine structures of the ear. In a case where hearing aids are no longer helpful, a cochlear implant may be recommended by your audiologist or otolaryngologist.
Hearing Aid Technology
Hearing aid technology has come a long way in the past five years and now uses artificial intelligence to separate speech from the background noise. While the type of hearing aid device and the technology that is inside the device is an important component of quality hearing treatment, having best practice hearing aid fittings and a follow up treatment maintenance program is just as important.
To learn more about our hearing aid and treatment options, schedule an appointment with our audiologist!
What hearing aids are right for me?
Congratulations! Identifying hearing loss is the first step to take on your journey to better hearing. Now that you know you may need hearing aids, how do you go about choosing the right ones for you? We’re “hear” to help.
What is your listening lifestyle?
Hearing aids are not one-size-fits-all. Your goals, your lifestyle and the type of hearing loss you have will determine what hearing aids are right for you. For example, there are brands of hearing aids specifically designed for someone who has tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. There are devices for those with severe hearing loss and for those who want the ability to customize programs into their hearing aids. Yes, you can do that!
Here are some things to consider regarding your lifestyle:
- Do you regularly enjoy swimming or spend a lot of time near water?
- Do you require a device that detects falls and can be monitored from a care-givers phone?
- Do you stay away from large crowds and noisy areas?
- Do you attend weekly meetings and get togethers with friends frequently?
Believe it or not, there are devices to fit your unique lifestyle no matter what it may be! Another aspect to consider is the amount of technology contained inside the hearing aid. Most modern hearing aids have some capacity of artificial intelligence inside the device for a number of reasons including to help you hear better in difficult listening environments: say a noisy restaurant. So, your listening lifestyle can influence which devices would be a best fit for you and how much technology your devices would need.
The fit of your devices
Lastly, the most important part of your hearing aid is how it fits. This is why seeing a professionally trained specialist, an audiologist, who is qualified to properly fit devices is vital to your hearing journey. Even the most highly rated devices will not sound clear if they are not properly fitted and maintained. Think: you wouldn’t just buy any size pants and expect them to fit! An audiologist can test if your hearing aid is properly programmed with a tool called Real Ear Measure, or REM. This procedure involves putting a very small microphone down the ear canal close to the eardrum. From there, the doctor will play some noise for the microphone. There are different types of noises depending on multiple factors including your type of hearing loss. This will allow the doctor to see exactly how much volume the hearing aid is providing based on the size and shape of your ear. See how personalized a hearing aid fitting is? If you think about it, a noise will sound different in a tiny closet versus in an auditorium. So, this test allows us to customize the hearing aid for your specific ear versus leaving the device on the standard settings.
We hope you can see just how personal choosing a hearing aid is. If you need assistance getting fitted for your specific needs, feel free to make an appointment or call our office and we would be happy to help you take your first step to better hearing!
Ready for a trial?
At Ecoutez Hearing Aid Boutique in Southlake Texas we offer a try before you buy program. You read that right, trial the best hearing aids from top brands from the comfort of your home before you commit to a purchase. Use the link below to schedule your hearing aid trial appointment or click HERE to learn more about our services.
Click HERE to schedule a complementary hearing aid trial!