Hearing Aids Overview
Understanding the Parts of a Hearing Aid
Hearing aids are designed to pick up and amplify sound from your environment. These sounds are analyzed and processed into clear sound signals which are then received by your ears and brain. Hearing aids come in many different models, but all hearing aids share the same common components:
- Microphone: picks up sound;
- Amplifier: a computer able to process huge amounts of acoustic information, enhancing sound in complicated listening environments.
- Receiver: sends amplified sound into ear.
- Battery: provides energy supply.
Beyond this, hearing aids will have different parts based on the style.
Types of Hearing Aids
Depending on your degree of hearing loss and your personal preferences, there are several different hearing aid options available. They are categorized by the style in which they are worn. Here are the five main styles of hearing loss.
- Receiver-in-canal (RIC)
- Behind-the-ear (BTE)
- In-the-ear (ITE)
- In-the-canal (ITC)
- Completely-in-canal (CIC)
RIC hearing aids are more visually discreet than BTE hearing aids but differ only in how sound is delivered. True to their name, RIC hearing aids position the receiver in your ear canals, while a discreet casing holds the electronic components sit behind the ear.
How Hearing Aids Work
Hearing aids are designed to aid the hearing process, and in many ways, they function similarly to our normal auditory system. With normal hearing, our outer ear picks up sound that is then sent through the middle ear. The eardrum turns sound waves into vibrations, which then travel on to the inner ear to be converted into neural signals. These signals travel neural pathways to the auditory center of the brain where they are processed as sounds.
With hearing loss, one or more steps of this process is hindered. Hearing aids support the listening process by picking up, analyzing, clarifying, and processing sound data to be received by our brains.
Common Hearing Aid Features
Sound Amplification & Speech Recognition
Directional microphones capture the sounds in your environment and the hearing aid’s fast processing platform amplifies and analyzes the sounds you want to hear. Hearing aids are designed with easy volume controls to help you hear certain sounds better, while the processing platform is designed to automatically minimize extraneous environmental noise that may distract with your listening experience.
Other features soften the sharpness of sudden sounds such as the slam of a door. This ensures a comfortable listening experience.
Most contemporary hearing aids use digital technology (as opposed to analog, in which you had to make adjustments manually), that automatically filters and reduces buzzing and whistling and remember your preferred sound settings.