A hearing aid is an electronic device that is worn behind or within the ear canal. Through battery power, the hearing aid is able to amplify sound so that a person with hearing loss is able to better hear their surroundings.
Hearing aids are built with four basic parts: the microphone, the processor, the receiver, and the battery.
The microphone captures the natural sound surrounding the hearing aid user. Microphones can be either directional, picking up sound in front of the wearer, or omni directional, where sound is captured from every direction. When a microphone captures sound, it is converted to a digital message and sent to the processor.
The processor reads the microphone’s digital message and customizes what is amplified to the user’s needs. After programming by a hearing healthcare professional, the processor will be able to enhance speech recognition, amplify certain sounds, cancel feedback and eliminate background noise. A hearing aid’s quality is determined by its processing abilities as it is able to be customized to benefit the unique needs of the user.
The receiver carries a soundwave from the processor to the earpiece where sounds are amplified. The hearing aid has altered sounds in the environment to be clearer and more recognizable by the user. Hearing healthcare professionals are able to fit earpieces comfortably in the user’s ear to further ensure the highest quality of sound.
The battery keeps the hearing aid on and functioning as it was created to. Depending on the hearing aid style and capabilities, disposable batteries can last anywhere from 3-20 days. Rechargeable batteries were created to be powered throughout the day after an overnight charge. More on batteries will be discussed in the battery section.
More information regarding styles of hearing aids can be found at “Types of Hearing Aids”
Cochlear Implants may be a surgical option for those whose hearing loss is too profound to benefit from hearing aids. While hearing aids create amplification of sound, cochlear implants act as a replacement for the portion of the ear that is not working. A cochlear implant has an external microphone and sound processor which sits behind the ear or elsewhere on the body, and a transmitter that is worn on the outside of the skull. The transmitter turns sound into electric impulses that are carried to the internal portion of the device called the receiver. An electrode array carries the impulses to the auditory nerve which simulates sounds of the environment. Benefits of the implant vary. To get further information about cochlear implants, contact your hearing healthcare professional or visit the American Cochlear Implant Alliance.