If you’re like nine out of ten people diagnosed with hearing loss in Minnesota, South Dakota, or Iowa, your audiologist is likely to recommend treatment with hearing aids. Before you try them on, it’s best to have an idea about how they work. After all, you wouldn’t slide behind the wheel of a car if you didn’t know how to drive! October is National Audiology Awareness Month, the perfect opportunity to demystify hearing aids and give you an idea of just how radically they will change your life.
Hearing Aid Components
When it comes to choosing a hearing aid, the sky’s the limit! There are more than a half dozen major hearing aid manufacturers, and each has a full product lineup consisting of a variety of different styles. Selecting a hearing aid can feel overwhelming, but keep in mind that despite the many different types, all hearing aids do the same thing: they amplify sounds, so you are able to hear better and communicate more effectively.
Hearing aids vary in shape and size – and even where and how they are worn – but all consist of the same basic components: a microphone, amplifier, and receiver.
The microphone picks up sound from the environment, converting it to electronic signals that are then sent to the amplifier. Microphones have gotten a lot smarter over the years and are now able to differentiate between speech and background noise, processing each differently for optimal hearing. Most of today’s hearing aids contain both directional and omnidirectional microphones that can pick up sound from multiple directions.
The amplifier, sometimes referred to as a processor, analyzes the electronic signals received from the microphone and converts them to digital signals which can then be manipulated. The signals are amplified to the levels necessary to compensate for your hearing loss, and feedback and other noises are reduced or cancelled.
Finally, the signal is sent to the receiver, where it is converted to audible sound and broadcast through a tiny speaker into the user’s ear via a thin wire or tube. Voila – you can hear!
Additional Hearing Aid Parts
In addition to these basic components, hearing aids commonly include other parts, such as:
- A power source. Hearing aids require either disposable or rechargeable batteries in order to generate power.
- Earmold. The earmold, made of plastic or acrylic, provides an acoustic seal for the sound being transmitted into your ear canal. There are several different styles including canal, half-shell, and full-shell molds, depending on the type of hearing aid.
- Earhook. This tube connects to the receiver and loops over the top of the ear on behind-the-ear (BTE) style hearing aids.
- Vent. Allows for airflow and prevents a plugged-up sensation.
- Power and volume switches to turn the hearing aids on and off and adjust the intensity of the sound.
- Wax guards. This replaceable filter prevents earwax from entering and damaging the internal components of the hearing aid.
- Plastic tubing to transmit sound from the receiver to the earmold.
The exact features may vary depending on the type of hearing aid you choose. Your Midwest audiologist can answer any questions you have and is instrumental in helping you select a hearing aid that will be perfect for your unique hearing loss.