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how does a hearing aid work

How Do Different Types of Hearing Aids Work

So, how does a hearing aid work? You may have been exposed to hearing aids for years and even used them in your personal life, but do you know how hearing aids actually work? Find out more in this week’s Audicus blog!

 

Hearing aids have been around for centuries, and like many other pieces of technology people are not sure of how hearing aids work despite incorporating them into everyday life.

 

How Early Hearing Aids Worked

 

Hearing devices were first recorded in a 1588 book called Natural Magick. People would carve wood into the shapes of animal ears, specifically animals that were thought to possess a better sense of hearing than humans.

 

Hearing aid trumpets dominated the 17th and 18th century. One end of the hearing apparatus was wide to collect sound, while the other end was narrow to channel the captured sound, amplified, into the user’s ear. Although sea shells, glass and animal horns served as building blocks for these trumpets, they were later made out of copper and other metals.

 

In the 19th century, hearing devices were integrated as fashion accessories, and were assimilated into hair styles and clothes.

 

What a Modern Hearing Aid is Comprised of

 

Behind-the-ear hearing aids have a microphone, volume control switch, on/off switch, battery compartment and a tonehook (also known as an earhook). Noise is received by a microphone, which then transmits the signal to an amplifier for magnification. After noises have been amplified they are then sent through the earhook to either a custom-made ear mold or a silicone dome.

 

How Analog Hearing Aids Work

 

The question of how a hearing aid works is complex, seeing as there are several different types of hearing aids that work in different ways. The electronic component of the hearing aid can either be analog or digital. The analog hearing aids change noise into amplified electrical signals. These types of aids can be custom built to cater to a variety of needs. Analogs are programmable and the settings on the aid can be changed.

 

With the help of an audiologist, hearing aids are programmed with a computer. The user can choose different programs depending on the user’s surroundings. Closed and open spaces, small and large rooms, and areas with high or low concentrations of people warrant configuring the settings on an analog hearing aid.

 

How Digital Hearing Aids Work

 

Digital hearing aids are a bit different from analog hearing aids. While analog hearing aids convert sounds to electrical signals, digital hearing aids convert sound into numerical codes. Amplification still takes place, but the process of conversion in analog hearing aids is analogous to a computer’s binary code.

 

The code is sensitive to information about the volume or pitch of a sound, and as a result a digital hearing aid can amplify certain frequencies over others. This ability allows the digital hearing aid to further adjust itself in different noise settings and for users with different ways of hearing. Furthermore, digital hearing aids are good at sensing the direction of a sound.

 

Sources: NIDCD, Baby Hearing.org

By: Aaron Rodriques

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