Hearing aids continue to offer groundbreaking technology with the latest features packed inside small shells, essentially making them tiny computers that are worn on your ears. While it may be difficult to understand the complexities and nuances of this technology, it's important to have a basic understanding of the different main parts of the hearing aid as they help bring sounds back into your life.
Regardless of the style of hearing aid, whether it's a behind-the-ear or a completely-in-the-canal, they all have the same three main components:
The hearing aid microphone is the start of the process to help you hear better. The microphone picks up the different sounds in your environment and converts them to electric signals that can be understood by the processor. Microphones are now able to differentiate sounds, such as speech and background noise, and process them differently for a much more seamless hearing experience than in the past.
There are two types of microphones: directional and omnidirectional. Directional microphones pick up mostly sounds in front of the wearer. This can be helpful when trying to understand a conversation in a noisy environment. Omnidirectional microphones pick up sounds from all directions, helping to give the user a better sense of where sounds are coming from. Most new hearing aids come equipped with both types of microphones to help wearers pick up speech from multiple directions, creating a more natural listening experience.
The processor or amplifier can be viewed as the computer or motherboard of the hearing aid. It takes the electric signals received from the microphone and converts them into digital signals that can be manipulated.
It's during this step that the sound, now a digital signal, is adjusted to the wearer's requirements, including how much the signal needs to be amplified to effectively accommodate the person's hearing loss. Any feedback or noise from wind is cancelled or reduced. This is also where any tinnitus masking features would be added.
Once all of the appropriate adjustments have been made to the digital signal, the processor then converts it back to an analog signal. It's here when the signal is sent to the third and final hearing aid component.
The final component in the process is the receiver. It creates an enhanced soundwave that will meet the hearing loss needs of its wearer. In order for this to happen, the receiver must convert the signal sent from the processor to audible sounds and output it to the wearer's ears.
The receiver is the piece of the device directed at the wearer's inner ear. Some hearing aids have the receiver placed directly in the ear canal, such as with a completely-in-the-canal style. Other devices have the receiver connect to a small tube that's inserted into the ear, like with the behind-the-ear style.
The complexity and the sophistication of modern hearing aid technology cannot be overstated. While it may appear to be a long process from start to finish, it's actually happening in a fraction of a second. It's through constant research and development that hearing technology continues to improve, and people with hearing loss can enjoy the most natural listening experiences possible.
Other Hearing Aid Parts
Ear-Hook/Tone-Hook: The clear tube that connects to the receiver and loops over the top of the ear. This is found on behind-the-ear devices.
Hearing Aid Battery: The power source for the other hearing aid components.
Vent: Allows for airflow and prevents the feeling of a plugged-up ear.
Volume Control: Allows the user to make adjustments to the intensity of the sound. This is not available on all styles of hearing aids.
Wax Guard: A small replaceable filter that prevents earwax from getting into the internal hearing aid components.