About one in five people in Phoenix have hearing loss. They come from all walks of life – young and old, rich and poor, male and female. 90 percent of those diagnosed with a hearing impairment will treat it with hearing aids. These tiny devices do a remarkable job of helping you hear better and communicate more effectively, but have you ever wondered how they work?
Hearing Aid Components
If you’ve ever gone through the process of picking out hearing aids, you are well aware of the many different choices available. Despite a seemingly endless array of styles and features, it’s helpful to understand that all hearing aids do the same thing – amplify sounds for those with damage to their hearing. They may differ in size and shape, but all hearing aids are made up 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 forwarded to the amplifier. Microphones have shrunk in size over the years and have gotten a lot smarter; they can now differentiate between speech and background noise, processing each differently for optimal hearing. Most of today’s hearing aids include a combination of directional and omnidirectional microphones to pick up sound from multiple directions.
The amplifier, also called a processor, analyzes the electronic signals received from the microphone and converts them to digital signals that are then amplified to levels that are appropriate for overcoming your hearing loss. Additionally, feedback and other noises are reduced or cancelled.
Lastly, the signal is sent to the receiver, where it is converted to audible sound and broadcast through a tiny speaker into your ear utilizing a thin wire or tube.
Other Hearing Aid Parts
Besides these basic components, hearing aids include some other fairly universal parts, such as:
- Hearing aids need power in order to operate. This is supplied by either disposable or rechargeable batteries.
- The earmold provides an acoustic seal for the sound that is transmitted into your ear canal. There are several different styles including canal, half-shell, and full-shell molds. They are made of either acrylic or plastic.
- If you have a behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid, you’ll find a tube that connects to the receiver and loops over the top of your ear.
- This allows for airflow and prevents a plugged-up sensation.
- Power and volume switches turn the hearing aids on and off and let you adjust the intensity of the sound.
- Wax guards. A replaceable wax filter prevents cerumen from accumulating and damaging the internal components of the hearing aid.
- Plastic tubing transmits sound from the receiver to the earmold.
Not all hearing aids contain every part mentioned, but they do share one trait in common: they allow you to communicate more easily. Talk to your Phoenix or Scottsdale audiologist for more information on how hearing aids can help improve your quality of life.