How Do Hearing Aids Work? How Effective are They?

two hands holding a single hearing aid

A hearing aid is an incredible device that people who experience hearing loss can use to improve their hearing. The hearing aid is typically made up of three parts: a microphone, an amplifier and a speaker. The microphone receives and picks up the sounds around the wearer, the amplifier increases the powers of the electrical signals it receives from the microphone and the speaker sends the amplified sounds into the wearer’s ear.

How do hearing aids work?

The purpose of a hearing aid is to reduce the impact that hearing loss can have on a person’s life. It does this by making sounds louder and clearer so that you can understand what is going on around you, and make you feel more confident when you have to speak to others. 

When you are wearing a hearing aid, it will magnify the sound vibrations that are entering your ear so that they can be detected by the surviving hair cells that will convert these vibrations into signals that they can send to the brain. The severity of damage that someone’s ear hair has will determine how much the sound needs to be amplified. 

Depending on whether your hearing aid is analog or digital, they will work in different ways. An analog hearing aid converts sound into electrical signals. These signals are then amplified to the level the wearer needs because it is manually adjusted by the manufacturer to match the specifications your audiologist recommends. Analog hearing aids can have different settings for the types of situations that the wearer is in, so you can change the setting depending on if you are in a stadium, quiet space or a busy restaurant. 

Digital hearing aids convert sound waves into numerical code instead of electrical signals. The numerical code is similar to binary code that computers use, and because of this, it can be programmed to suit the wearer’s needs. There is more flexibility for audiologists to amplify some frequencies more than others because the numerical code stores information about a sound’s pitch. It also means that it can be programmed for a number of different listening environments too.

Styles of hearing aids

There are a variety of different hearing aids styles. These are:

  • In the ear (ITE): ITE hearing aids fill up the area that is just outside the opening of your ear. They are usually used for mild-to-severe hearing loss, and some may even have a telecoil, that will make it easier for the wearer to have a telephone conversation. This type of hearing aid is only visible from the side.
  • Behind the ear (BTE): BTE hearing aids are one of the most common hearing aids as they are easy to use. They consist of a small plastic device that is worn behind the ear, that is connected to a plastic earmold that sits in your outer ear. The amplified sound travels from the hearing aid, to the earmold and into the ear. 
  • In the canal (ITC): ITC hearing aids are similar to ITE hearing aids, but they are smaller and made to fit the ear canal of the wearer. As they are smaller, they usually aren’t powerful enough for people with more severe hearing loss, and they can be more difficult to take out and adjust.

How effective are they?

Hearing aids can be effective for many people however, it can depend on the underlying cause of the hearing loss. The wearers hearing will never be perfect, but those that benefit from hearing aids will notice that their hearing and speech comprehension is improved. It can take some time to get used to wearing a hearing aid, but you will be able to contact your audiologist if you are having any problems.

How to find out if you need a hearing aid?

If you think that you might be experiencing hearing loss, you should visit an audiologist. An audiologist will be able to test your hearing to identify if you are experiencing hearing loss, and to what degree. 

They will also be able to help you pick out a hearing aid that will best suit you, as there is a lot to think about when choosing one. It will need to suit your lifestyle, your budget, and your degree of hearing loss. If you have hearing loss in both ears, you will need two hearing aids. 

To learn more about how hearing aids can help you, contact the Audiology & Hearing Center of Tampa Westchase at 813-962-1888, or Tampa Palms at 813-374-3036