Hearing aids are such an important investment in your health! Used daily, hearing aids are electronic devices that are designed to collect and process sound. This provides significant support, increasing one’s ability to hear across all environments. Enhanced hearing strengthens communication which is important for relationships, job performance, social engagement, as well as overall health and wellness. Hearing aids have experienced much innovation over recent years and there is a wide range of options available. Learning about these devices and what they offer helps you maximize their use and potential!
How Do Hearing Aids Work?
Understanding the basic mechanics of hearing aids provides useful foundational information. Hearing aids have a few basic components that work together to absorb, amplify, and process sound. This includes:
- Microphone: picks up sound from the environment and converts the sound waves to electrical signals when they are sent to the amplifier.
- Amplifier: makes the electrical signals louder
- Speaker: the electrical signals are converted back into soundwaves that are then to the inner ear to be further processed.
This work that hearing aids perform significantly helps the auditory system hear and make meaning of incoming sound information.
Types of Hearing Aids
One of the most common misconceptions about hearing aids is that they are bulky and outdated looking devices. In actuality, there are various types and styles of hearing aids which are smaller than ever. There are two major types of hearing aid devices:
- In-the-ear (ITE): worn in the ear canal. Typically, custom molded to comfortably fit in the ear.
- Behind-the-ear (BTE): worn behind the outer ear and is connected (through a small tube) to an earmold that sits in the ear canal. This type is common for severe hearing loss.
Within these types of hearing aids, there are common styles that include:
- Invisible in the canal (IIC) & Completely in the canal (CIC) – are the smallest type of hearing aids. They are custom made to fit in the ear canal with the CIC type sitting not as deeply in the ear as the IIC.
- In the ear canal (ITC): these types sit in the bowl portion of the lower outer ear and are larger (so more visible).
- Receiver in the ear (RITE): the speaker is in the ear canal which is connected through a wire to the microphone and processor sitting behind the ear.
The type of hearing aid that will be best for you depends on your specific hearing needs and degree of impairment. In addition to the range of hearing aid types, there are several features to also consider!
Hearing Aid Technology
Bluetooth technology was first integrated into hearing aids around 2006 which drastically changed the hearing aid industry. This opened up greater possibilities for what hearing aids can do – in 2014, the first made for iPhone hearing aids were launched. This evolution of technology continues to introduce new features that enhance hearing aids including:
- Wireless Connectivity: using Bluetooth technology, hearing aids can connect to electronic devices such as your smartphone, TV, and speaker. This allows the hearing device to stream audio directly which enhances sound quality. This means that audio from music, phone calls, TV etc. can be heard much more clearly. Most hearing aid devices today come with this feature as it is becoming more of a standard!
- Automatic Settings: hearing aids utilize AI technology in a variety of ways. One major way is by enabling hearing aids to learn and implement specific settings. Hearing aids are able to learn the user’s preferences in a specific environment and switch to those settings automatically. This prevents the wearer from having to make any manual adjustments as the hearing aids can analyze the environment and implement the preprogrammed settings to meet hearing needs in that environment.
- Voice Recognition: another way AI is used is for voice recognition enhancement. This refers to the device learning the wearers voice and isolating it from other sounds so that it is heard clearly.
These exciting features allow people to better integrate their hearing aids in daily life. This is particularly important as our world becomes increasingly digital. If you are interested in learning more, contact us to explore your options!