How Do Hearing Aids Work

To begin with, allow me to define what is a hearing aid: It’s a device that amplifies the sound of the surrounding for someone who suffers from hearing loss.

Therefore, All hearing aids got the following 

Gets the sounds and voices from the surrounding

Electronic part
Amplifies the signals it gets from the microphone. It can be analog or digital and it can be fairly simple or extremely complicated.

Transfers the amplified sounds to the inner ear so the user can hear them

For the whole thing to work.

That’s it...
...Now the details.

Differences in the way devices work

The main part that makes the devices different in how they work is the electronics.

Simple analog hearing aids

The audiologist defines to the manufacturer your specific needs and the hearing device is built accordingly. Sometimes, the audiologist can set the device on his own with some small trim buttons on the device. After you get the device, you can play around a bit with the volume but that’s about it. You don’t really see these devices any longer.

Programmable analog hearing aids

On this kind of devices, the audiologist can define few listening programs. Each program can help you in a different scenario. For instance, Concert, room full of people, restaurant and so on. They connect the device to a computer using some cable, configure it and disconnect the cable. This way, they trim it while you are actually using it. Once you’re home, using the device, you can switch between the programs with some button on the hearing aids or with a dedicated remote control device they give you with the hearing aid.

Digital hearing aids

To begin with, the digital devices translate the sounds to binary bits and bytes, that rule the digital world. This enables manipulating the signals as you wish. You can do stuff like: 

  • Decrease typical background noises 
  • Increase signals that are usually referred to human voice. Reduce feedback noise (that annoying whistle you hear if you put a microphone next to its speaker)
  • Shift frequencies (take sounds from frequencies you can’t hear and put them on frequencies you can)
  • Amplify sounds from certain directions (for instance, you can increase the voice of the person who stands in front of you. Cool ha?)

With all these great features, you can get programs that really fit your lifestyle. Every program can be tailor made for a real life scenario. Some devices automatically switch between the programs. Your hearing aid recognize the surrounding and act accordingly.

Not all digital devices are the same

All digital devices got the same concept but they defer in the details. They all got this digital circuit that does all the magic I mentioned above. But every brand got its own technology. They all got new devices that use improved technology every now and then.

Read a deeper explanation on Digital Vs Analog, not just in the context of how do hearing aids work...

Few words about the device size

The basic principal of how hearing aids work is pretty much the same for all device sizes. BTE, ITE, CIC, Open ear (AKA open fit). The very same electronic device can be used for all those devices. The largest BTE can have either the leading technology or the oldest analog circuit. This goes for the smallest CIC device too. It can also have the best technology or the oldest technology. There is no correlation between the device size and the technology it uses.

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