Any hearing aid will work by magnifying sound vibrations which enter the ear. For people who have suffered some kind of auditory damage, hair cells within the ear are not as efficient at detecting sounds and converting them into neural signals which eventually get forwarded to the brain. If a person has suffered too much damage to these hair cells, it may not be possible to amplify any incoming sound, because the surviving hairs may not be sensitive enough to detect the sound.
When this happens, not even a strong aid will be able to help an individual suffering from auditory loss. People suffer this kind of loss as a result of some kind of traumatic injury, aging, or certain diseases that damage the small sensory cells of the inner ear, which are the hair cells.
Audiological aids are small electronic devices that are generally worn right in the ear canal or behind-the-ear, and they work by making sounds louder so that the wearer is able to listen and communicate better with others. These can also be very helpful whether a person is in a quiet or noisy environment. Unfortunately, only about 20% of the people who would actually benefit from wearing a device, actually have one.
What are the Parts of a Hearing Aid?
There are three main components to any auditory aid system, and these three components function to improve the capabilities of the wearer to hear, generally someone who has suffered some level of auditory loss. The first component is a microphone which has the ability to receive sound and convert that sound into a digital signal.
The second component consists of an amplifier that boosts the strength of the digital signal output by the microphone. The third component is a speaker that reproduces the amplified sound into the ear of any wearer. For the most part, modern digital options are customized to the specific degree of loss that an individual has.
Once a person has been tested to discover the exact degree of loss and the pattern of auditory loss which they have, an aid can be programmed to match those characteristics and fill the missing gaps for an individual. Nowadays, digital auditory devices are quite sophisticated, and they can automatically adjust volume and programming so that the individual can experience ideal hearing in just about any environment.
How Do They Work for the Deaf?
You might not think that aid would provide any real assistance to someone who is already classified as deaf, but surprisingly the reverse is true, and auditory aids can indeed help deaf people. Most of the time, we think of deaf people as those who are unable to hear anything at all, but in truth most people classified as deaf do have some residual capacity to hear, which is typically in the lower frequencies.
This means they can hear sounds like a bass or drums when loud music is playing, and they will generally experience these sounds as a kind of vibration. People who have profound loss will generally need more than just an auditory aid in order to restore to something approaching normalcy. However, just using a device alone will always help even a deaf person hear more sounds.
For a deaf person who has been trained in speech reading, the combination of somewhat improved auditory signals and the ability to read lips and facial expressions can be enough to help them understand the speech of others. In cases where an individual has suffered extreme loss, auditory devices can still be helpful in achieving greater awareness of the person’s environment. This can be important when it comes to processing traffic sounds, or when someone is trying to get their attention who is not in their immediate field of vision.
Patients who have profound loss can benefit by wearing devices that are somewhat different in design than those which would be worn by individuals with less. For instance, someone with mild loss would generally want to suppress background noise while having speech sounds amplified. A person with profound auditory loss would generally want all sounds magnified to the greatest extent possible, so any noise suppression features would be disabled for deaf patients.
Do Differently Shaped Devices Work Better or Worse, & Why?
There are a number of different styles of devices, and they really do come in all shapes and sizes, so as to accommodate the preferences of the patients who wear them. Some of these styles have advantages in certain situations, while others are designed with more of a view toward keeping them small and less noticeable by others.
The completely-in-canal model is the smallest device made, and some people prefer it for that reason. An in-the-canal device has to be molded to fit the wearer’s ear, and it fits partially in the ear canal. This style is generally used by those who have mild to moderate auditory damage, although it is still so small that making any adjustments to it can be difficult.
An in-the-ear option is somewhat larger than the first two styles described, and it can include features such as volume control which are not found on smaller models. This type of model is generally used by people with mild to severe levels of damage. A behind-the-ear aid is capable of greater amplification than almost any other style, and that makes it appropriate for usage by people with any level of auditory loss.
The size of each of these devices has an indirect impact on its ability to improve sound for the wearer, because the size of the battery which is included, is important for the amplification process.
Find the Style That is Right for You
If you’re tired of missing out on all the sounds in your environment, now is a good time to take control of the situation and invest in a device that can improve your ideological health. Contact us at Harbor audiology, so we can set up an initial consultation and customize a device to fit you and help you hear all the things you’ve been missing out on.