How Do Hearing Aids Work?

Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A Hearing Aids, Hearing Health

Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A
Latest posts by Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A (see all)

In an increasingly technologically assisted world, we are surrounded by many objects whose functioning we do not completely understand. Just take, for instance, the smartphone. Although we might have a general sense of some of the technology, there is almost certainly a point at which our knowledge trails off. 

The same can be said for hearing aids. Millions of people around the world use these assistive devices, yet few of us understand exactly how they work. In order to do so, we must begin with the process of hearing without assistance. Once we understand how sound works in that form, we can understand how technology steps in to assist hearing for those who have trouble. 

How Does Hearing Work?

In order to understand hearing, we must first consider sound itself. Sound is energy, otherwise known as pressure that pulses regularly in waves, or vibrations. Think of the skin of a drum; when you strike that skin, it waves up and down, pushing air particles, then retracting to leave space for them. These waves travel across vast spaces and encounter the ear. 

The speed and force of these waves are the sound that ears translate into hearing. The outer ear captures that pressure and the particles of air travel inward toward the inner ear. The eardrum works like an additional drum skin to receive and repeat the vibration pattern. As those waves of pressurized air particles continue into the ear canal, at some point they reach the cochlea. This part of the ear is filled with fluid and very sensitive, tiny hairs. 

These hairs respond to slight differences in pressure and transform that vibration into an electrical impulse. Once the electrical impulse has been created, it can be transmitted through the nervous system to the brain for processing and understanding. 

How Do Hearing Aids Assist the Process?

For someone who has lost some hearing ability, the tiny hairs in the cochlea have been bent, broken, or damaged. Hearing aids are used to send a stronger version of the same sound vibrations that can be detected by the hairs in the cochlea. Here’s how they work. There are two basic types of hearing aids: analog and digital. 

Analog hearing aids are the simplest to understand, with three main components: microphone, amplifier, and loudspeaker. As you may recognize, these components are quite like those you would find in a live music venue or recording studio. The microphone captures the sound vibrations in the air and turns them into electrical impulses. These vibrations are transformed into a stronger current through transistors in the amplifier. The amplifier then passes along that stronger electrical current to the loudspeaker. That component projects a pressure wave at a louder volume, or amplitude, into the ear. This remarkable process is all captured in the tiny components of the hearing aid and powered by the small battery capsule found there.

With digital hearing aids, rather than working only with pressure and electricity, the aids transform pressure waves in the air into a combination of ones and zeros. This code is used to replicate and produce a louder version of the same sound. One of the benefits of a digital hearing aid is that you can intervene in the process and emphasize or downplay some of the sounds. This function is very beneficial for reducing noise in the background or emphasizing the sound of voices. 

How Can I Get Hearing Assistance?

If you find that you are in need of hearing assistance, the first step you can take is to seek a hearing test with us. This test will enable our team to diagnose your current hearing ability. With that information in hand, you can be paired with a set of hearing aids that match your individual needs. 

Understanding the level of hearing loss is crucial to find aids that are able to accommodate the range of hearing that is currently deficient. If you are interested in pursuing this type of assistance, you don’t need to understand all the details of the hearing process or assistance. Just contact us today!