Hearing aids are sophisticated pieces of technology. They are small devices that can capture sound, amplify it, and then send it deep into the ear where it is interpreted. There are many different styles of hearing aids. There are external devices and internal devices. All have the same parts and work on the same principles.
Hearing Aid Components
All hearing aids have the same basic components: a microphone, an amplifier, and a transmitter. All of this is operated using the energy provided by a small battery.
Microphone- The hearing aid starts its work with the microphone. The microphone is responsible for picking up sound from your environment and converting it into an electrical signal. The microphone then sends this signal to the amplifier.
Amplifier- The amplifier does just what its name suggests. It increases or amplifies the volume of the sound and the sends it along to the speaker/transmitter.
Speaker/Transmitter- The speaker or transmitter changes the electrical signal back into sound and sends it into the ear where it passes over the hair cells in the cochlea. These hair cells send the signal along the auditory nerve to the brain. The brain then translates the impulses, and we experience the sense of sound.
Battery- This is the power source that makes all of the above happen.
Types of Hearing Aid Technology
Hearing aids are electronic devices. They can handle the electronic signals in one of two ways: analog or digital. No matter the technology used, the components remain the same.
Analog Hearing Aids- Analog hearing aids are adjustable. They turn sound into electrical signals. These types of hearing aids have more than one setting. The different settings are used in different environments. You can have one setting for a noisy environment like a restaurant or a ball game and another for an evening at home. Analog hearing aids arrive from the manufacturer already preprogrammed according to the audiologist’s instruction. Once received, the audiologist can use a computer to make adjustments to the hearing aid. Analog technology is well established and is usually less expensive than digital technology.
Digital Hearing Aids- Digital hearing aids are now the most common technology in hearing aids sold in the United States. Digital hearing aids take the sound and covert it into binary code (the 1s and 0s used by computer programs) before it is amplified. Not only does it capture information about the sound, it captures information about the pitch of the sound. This means your audiologist can program the hearing aids to amplify some sounds more than others. It also captures information about the direction of the sound. These hearings aids are programmable to your specific needs.
Which Hearing Aid Works Best?
Your audiologist is uniquely qualified to answer this question. They will evaluate your hearing thresholds and type of hearing loss. Lifestyle information will be factored in as well. In addition to lifestyle, your physical condition will be taken into account. While you might want the smallest, least visible hearing aid on the market, it might not be the best fit for you. This is especially true if you have problems with dexterity due to arthritis or poor vision.
There are special considerations for hearing aids for children. Since children grow, the best models are usually those that use a separate earmold that can be replaced as the child grows.
Be sure to ask your audiologist any questions you have about features, styles, and types of hearing aids. Your audiologist is your hearing partner.