Hearing aids come in various shapes, styles, colours and prices. However, hearing aids work in a similar way and have one primary goal – to help overcome the difficulties encountered due to hearing loss and provide the possibility to hear and experience life as naturally as possible. With the advancement in a variety of technologies, hearing aids evolve rapidly, become more powerful and cover a wider range of hearing impairment conditions. Although they cannot cure hearing loss, they improve significantly the quality of life of the wearer and give them independence in their daily routines.
What causes hearing loss? Hearing loss is a very common condition and according to Action on Hearing Loss, more than 10 million people in the UK suffer from some kind and level of hearing loss. To understand why hearing problems occur, it is important to know how the ear and hearing work and what can go wrong to prevent normal hearing. The hearing pathway consists of outer ear, middle ear and inner ear and their parts. Hearing occurs as the ear picks up the sound waves transmitted via vibrations. Then, they travel through the ear canal to the eardrum of the middle ear. This leads to vibrations of the eardrum. The vibrations are carried to the cochlea in inner ear via three small bones. The cochlea itself is full of tiny hear cells that create electrical signals, which are then sent to the brain to process. Various types of problems can occur causing diminished or complete prevention of sound waves transmission. Depending on the severity and causes, they can result in a conductive hearing loss caused by problems with the eardrum, earwax, infections and others or sensorineural hearing loss due to damage to the cochlea, traumas, genetic disorders and diseases.
How hearing aids work Depending on the type of hearing aids, their structure and components may differ. Nevertheless, essentially they are battery-powered electronic devices. The way their three main elements work simulates the function of the ear and its parts. First, a microphone picks up the sounds and transforms them into electronic signals. Then an amplifier amplifies certain sounds, which can be adjusted depending on your individual condition and needs. After that, a receiver/small loudspeaker reads the electric signals, turns them into sounds again and sends them to the inner ear, where transformed into electric impulses they are processed by the brain. Most hearing aids in recent years are digital and with the help of a computer chip they can be adjusted to alleviate your hearing problem with suitable amounts of amplification at varying frequencies. Digital hearing aids offer clear sound quality, can help reduce background noise and are programmable for different environments. Hearing aids are constantly improving to fit with the individual lifestyle and needs. Modern technology allows hearing aids to offer many features in addition to just delivering sounds to the ear. Some hearing aids can work with mobile phones and connect to varying devices through Bluetooth transmission. They can log data about the different listening environments and self-learn, they can manage wind noise or resist moisture. With new technology being developed every day, the future looks bright for the hearing impaired community as smaller and more technical devices are made available.