Sensorineural hearing loss is an incredibly common auditory condition. In fact, approximately 3.65 million hearing aids were dispensed in the U.S. in 2016 alone to address it. But have you ever wondered how hearing aids work? Here, we explore exactly how these devices help us hear the world around us.
Hearing aids work similar to sound systems employed at concerts. Just like these sophisticated setups, hearing aids have a microphone, an amplifier, and a speaker built into them. When people wear hearing aids, their microphones pick up the sounds happening around them. These sounds are then converted into either electrical signals or numerical codes and sent to the amplifier. Finally, these signals are boosted, converted back into sound, and played loudly and clearly through the speakers.
Hearing aids work best for people with sensorineural hearing loss. This particular auditory condition occurs when the small sensory cells in our inner ears, called hair cells, become damaged. Many things can cause this kind of damage, including loud noise, disease, aging, and certain kinds of medication. Although it's a relatively common occurrence, fewer than 16 percent of Americans aged 20 to 69 who could benefit from hearing aids actually use them.
As we briefly touched on, hearing aids differ in the ways they process sound. Depending on what type of hearing aid you have, they will work a bit differently but will still enhance your hearing.
Analog hearing aids work by converting incoming sound into electrical signals. Before they are installed, they will be customize to meet your unique needs. After several selectable settings are programmed, users are then able to adjust the hearing aids depending on where they are. For example, the type of auditory assistance needed in a small room would be different from the enhancement required in a football stadium.
Rather than converting sound into electrical signals, digital hearing aids convert them into numeric code. Unlike electrical signals, this code includes information about the pitch and volume of sounds. As a result, digital hearing aids can automatically adjust how they amplify different frequencies for a more controlled listening experience. These devices can also be programmed to conveniently target sounds coming from a programmed direction.
It's easy to take them for granted, but hearing aids are a marvel of modern technology. Individuals who once struggled to communicate, enjoy hobbies and entertainment, and thrive at work now hear the world with crystal clarity. If you're one of the millions of Americans with sensorineural hearing loss, make an appointment today for a comprehensive hearing evaluation. We can accurately assess your needs and suggest the best hearing aid style for you.