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News: How Hearing Aids Work

Article Date(s):03/29/2016
They make soft sounds more audible and easily understood, while keeping moderate or loud sounds at a comfortable listening level. This helps hearing in both noisy and quiet situations. While no hearing aid can solve every hearing problem or restore normal hearing, today's hearing aid technology adjusts to environmental sounds so you can hear and understand better.

Components of hearing aids
Hearing aids all have the same miniature electronic components, which consist of the following:

Microphone
Amplifier circuits
Speaker/receiver
Replaceable or rechargeable battery
They also include some form of volume control and programmability, to allow you to adjust the hearing aid to your listening environment. Others include sophisticated filtering (much like an equalizer audio component) that shapes sound to create more natural hearing and help you hear sounds that are outside of your audible range.

How much can hearing aids help?
Hearing aids can help individuals with most types of hearing loss, including conductive (affecting the middle ear), sensorineural (affecting the inner ear), and mixed (affecting both). Those with profound hearing loss or complete deafness may not be helped by hearing aids, in which case a cochlear or other surgical implant may be an option for certain individuals.

Analog versus digital, and other advancements
Some hearing devices you may see advertised are not really hearing aids. They are analog devices, which simply make everything louder. More advanced hearing aids are digital, which filter out noise and improve sound quality while selectively increasing the amplification.

Modern hearing aids also employ directional microphones, which helps you understand the speech you want to hear better by isolating and increasing it over any extraneous sounds. They also offer feedback suppression, which reduces that annoying, high-pitched whistle often associated with hearing aids.

Finally, the telephone switch, or T-coil, allows you to pick up sound coming from the telephone while reducing feedback when using the phone, and helps you hear better in theaters and other venues where there is either an induction loop or FM system available.

Hearing aid styles
Hearing aids are available in several styles, with many design and color options. Each hearing aid is fitted to your individual hearing needs. You can wear hearing aids tucked inside or behind your ear. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages, and should be selected based on the recommendations of your hearing care professional. He or she will determine your level of hearing loss, evaluate any factors that may affect fit and performance, and then recommend which type of hearing aid will provide you with maximum comfort, convenience, and performance, as well as suit your style preference.

While hearing aids are tremendously helpful devices when properly fitted and maintained, you should have realistic expectations before purchasing:

Hearing aids cannot restore 100 percent normal hearing.
It usually takes some time to get used to wearing and controlling your devices.
You may even need to try another pair before you are satisfied.
You are likely going to need to replace your hearing aids after several years of wear, or if hearing loss becomes more profound.
You may find that you are irritated by all the extra sounds you can suddenly hear — some may seem too loud or just plain annoying.