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Hearing Aids: How They Work and Why They Could Work for YOU

So, the techie in you is curious about how your new hearing aid works. That, or you’re curious simply because you’ve never worn one before and want to know what to expect.

Whatever the case may be, a firm understanding of how your hearing aids work is likely to increase how you use them, how often you use them, how much you enjoy them, and how well you take care of them.

Here’s a quick rundown on how hearing aids work:

Hearing aids are small devices worn either entirely inside the ear, or partly behind the ear and inside the ear. They are getting smaller and smaller as the technology gets more advanced, which is good news for people who prefer discretion, and for active people who don’t want a cumbersome piece of equipment slowing them down.

As the name suggests, hearing aids are intended to help you – not hinder you. They are intended for people who experience slight to severe hearing loss (sensorineural loss in the majority of cases). Most hearing aids these days are easy to use and fully programmable to suit your degree of hearing loss.

The hearing aid’s casing, or outer material, is usually made of soft plastic, intended for comfortable, extended wear. Up until 1987, hearing aids used analog technology inside this casing to get the job done.

Digital models didn’t enter the hearing health scene until the early 90s, and now they have basically taken over. Today’s digital models account for different types of noise, amplifying only the most important ones. You could say they have selective hearing, but in a good way!

In today’s enhanced devices, the amplifier of the analog model has been swapped out for a digital processor, which gives audiologists the ability to program the devices to the specific needs of their clients. Digital hearing aids also help with frequency amplification, noise and wind reduction, and feedback cancellation.

There are five main components to hearing aids:

  • Microphone
  • Digital processor/amplifier
  • Receiver
  • Volume control
  • Battery

As sound waves enter the outer ear, they are met with the hearing aid’s small microphone. Like an actual microphone, the tiny one in a hearing aid transforms sound waves into electric current, which flows to a digital processor/amplifier that sends the sound further down the line, inching closer towards the inner ear.

Sound flows through to the receiver (loudspeaker), then through the ear hook, finally meeting the ear mold that is custom fit to sit inside or right up against your ear canal, which essentially funnels the sounds to the inner ear where they are interpreted by the brain.

Two other components vital to how hearing aids work are volume control and battery functionality. The wearer can either control their own volume using a dial or switch, while many of the modern models adjust volume levels automatically as the wearer goes about their day.

It almost can’t get any easier, but it does!

None of this functionality would be possible without a battery supply. Tinier than a watch battery, a hearing aid battery packs a lot of power and can last anywhere from three days to two weeks. Made of zinc and oxygen components, hearing aid batteries are lightweight and safe to wear. 

Hearing aids are impressive pieces of machinery capable of so much despite their tiny, intricate packages. For example, the Beltone micro-Invisa™ is as small as a dime!

Although the basic principles of how hearing aids improve sound quality don’t change much, you’ll notice there are several different styles available to you that come in several different colors designed to match varying skin tones and hair colors.

The BTE style (behind the ear) is the traditional style and is also one of the most common hearing aids. The name refers to the plastic piece that houses the microphone, amplifier and loudspeaker and is worn outside the ear. The ear tube and the ear mold sit inside the ear, helping to channel sounds to the inner ear where they are processed.

Other styles of hearing aids include the:

  • Invisible-in-the-Canal (IIC)
  • Receiver-in-Ear (RIE)
  • Mini Behind-the-Ear (Mini BTE)
  • Microphone-in-Concha (MIC)
  • Completely-in-Canal (CIC)
  • In-the-Canal (ITC)

Your hearing health professional will help you narrow down what type of hearing aid is going to work best for you. At Beltone, we specialize in customized solutions. We create personalized devices that fit inside your ear canal and no one else’s. (This level of customization is one of many reasons we recommend avoiding purchasing hearing aids online.)

Today’s hearing aids are designed with busy, active people in mind. There is a style of hearing aid that will work for you, whether you work in a bustling office, are an avid hiker, attend concerts, are surrounded by energetic kids, or spend your days doing all of the above!

With the right hearing aid, you’ll be able to appreciate hearing music like you’ve never experienced it, and being able to hear conversations clearer, even in crowded rooms. And, depending on the style of hearing aid you’ve chosen, no one will even know you’ve got one on!

Now that you know the basics of how hearing aids work, let a Beltone Hearing Health Professional help you sort through the wide variety out there. We will even be able to match you up with a hearing aid that can sync up with your smartphone!

Call us today at 1-800-BELTONE or book an appointment online to learn more.

John Cariola, Au.D.
John has been working in the audiology industry since 1983 and has a true love and passion for everything the hearing health world has to offer. He grew up witnessing the British Invasion of The Beatles, The Who, The Kinks, etc. which really means he started out life with sound, really loud sound. And his passion for all sound continues today. John is currently Beltone's Director of Product Management. More About John

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