A hearing aid is a medical device that is worn behind or within the ear canal. Through battery power, the hearing aid is able to amplify sound so that a person with hearing loss is able to better hear their surroundings.
Hearing aids are built with four basic parts: the microphone, the processor, the receiver (or loudspeaker), and the battery.
The microphone(s) captures the natural sound surrounding the hearing aid user. Microphones can be either directional, picking up sound in front of the wearer, or omni directional, where sound is captured from every direction. When a microphone captures sound, it is converted to a digital message and sent to the processor.
The processor reads the microphone’s digital message and customizes what is amplified. After programming by a hearing healthcare professional, the processor will be able to enhance speech recognition, amplify certain sounds, cancel feedback and reduce background noise. A hearing aid’s quality is determined by its processing abilities as it is able to be customized to benefit the unique needs of the user.
The receiver/loudspeaker sends a soundwave from the processor to the ear canal. The hearing aid alters sounds in the environment to be clearer and more recognizable by the user. Hearing healthcare professionals are able to fit earpieces comfortably in the user’s ear to further ensure the highest quality of sound.
The battery keeps the hearing aid on and functioning. Depending on the hearing aid style and capabilities, disposable batteries can last anywhere from 3-20 days. Rechargeable batteries were created to provide power throughout the day after an overnight charge. More on batteries is discussed in the battery section.
More information regarding styles of hearing aids can be found at “Types of Hearing Aids”
Due to new innovations in technology, hearing aids are able to connect us with our friends, hobbies, and our environment.
Many who suffer from hearing loss avoid crowded spaces or restaurants where it is hard to hear conversation. With hearing aid apps and accessories, hearing aids can now allow the user to adjust what direction of sound to focus on or connect to a separate microphone that can be worn or set on a table.
Hearing aids that connect to smartphones via Bluetooth also allow the user to stream calls and music directly from a phone or tablet to the hearing aids, amplifying sound and cutting out background noise.
With remote accessories like TV streamers, hearing aid wearers can enjoy their favorite TV shows or movies with clear, stereo sounds streamed to their hearing aids. This will allow friends and family to enjoy watching alongside the hearing aid user at comfortable volume levels.
Most BTE and RIC hearing aids come equipped with a telecoil, or “T-coil”. A T-coil is a copper wire that is wrapped inside the hearing aid casing. When turned on, the microphone on the hearing aid turns off and allows the wire to capture sound solely from the source. T-coils can either connect to a compatible phone, microphone accessory, or audio in a public space. T-coils systems are frequently installed in places such as churches, community centers, airports, museums, and theaters. Ask your hearing healthcare professional about t-coil settings in your hearing aids and how best to connect to your surroundings.