How Do Hearing Aids Work?

Making you hearing aids sound better than ever.

Understanding Hearing Aid Functionality

The impact of hearing loss primarily affects communication. This often leads to the deterioration of relationships, social engagement, and community ties as conversations become more challenging. Individuals seeking help for hearing loss typically aim to improve their speech comprehension. Although this may seem straightforward, the process of enhancing speech with hearing aids is intricate. It requires meticulous care, expertise, and precision. Today we explain how hearing aids work.

Understanding Speech Frequencies in Hearing Loss

The key elements of our speech are known as “speech sounds,”. Many of the most distinct ones occur at higher frequencies. Imagine each frequency as a key on a piano or a string on a harp, varying from high to low. Consonants such as “s,” “f,” “th,” “ch,” “sh,” “v,” and “p” are particularly prone to confusion and depend on the ability to hear high frequencies for differentiation. Clarity in these frequencies is essential for understanding speech, which is where hearing aids come in. Understanding how hearing aids work involves recognising their role in amplifying these crucial high-frequency sounds. They enable wearers to distinguish between similar phrases like “get the chips,” or “get the ships,” or something similar. Clarity is the key to comprehension.

Examine this graph, often referred to as ‘the speech banana‘. It visually represents speech sounds and can be helpful in understanding how hearing aids work to address frequency-related hearing loss. The graph displays lower sounds on the left and higher sounds on the right. A key on the right-hand side indicates the degree of hearing loss, with less loss at the top. Sounds above any given hearing threshold are perceived as quieter due to the level of hearing loss. The yellow area, shaped like a banana, shows where most speech sounds fall. It’s important to note that even a mild loss in higher frequencies (4000-5000 Hz), which are at the higher end of the spectrum, can result in the loss of critical speech sounds such as “th,” “f,” and “s.”

How Hearing Aids Amplify Speech Sounds

When we fit hearing aids, we create a tailored prescription based on a hearing test. This prescription specifies the level of amplification required at each frequency to compensate for hearing loss and restore clarity to speech sounds. It applies for premium level hearing aids and fully subsidised hearing aids. The true magic lies in how well the Audiologist applies this precise fitting adjustment. By considering your prescription alongside your clinical needs and personal objectives, we fine-tune the hearing aid’s output across the necessary frequencies to ensure clarity. Hastily made adjustments, or those done automatically, can lead to the common complaint: increased volume without improved clarity.

You’ll hear how hearing aids work once they have been fit. You might notice a variety of sounds that were always present but had become inaudible over time. The sound of water flowing in the sink, the ticking of clocks, the soft shuffle of slippers on the carpet, and the rustling of your clothing are all common, everyday sounds that become apparent again once hearing loss is addressed.

The upside is that through acclimatisation, those who consistently wear their hearing aids will adapt to the full range of sounds in their environment. It’s important however, to understand that re-experiencing these everyday sounds is an unavoidable part of hearing rehabilitation. These sounds share the same auditory space as speech so you simply can’t have one without the other.

Choosing the Best Hearing Aids

When shopping around for a hearing aid remember that you are treating a medical condition. Please don’t treat it like buying a new fridge or television. The clinical considerations required for successful hearing rehabilitation are detailed and various. Success rests on a solid scientific foundation of evidence as well as a clinical appreciation of your unique circumstances.

Now that you know how hearing aids work, call A Better Ear on 3821 3744.  We take service seriously. You’ll receive independent advice from an expertly qualified audiologist, who is motivated to help.

Disclaimer: All information is general in nature. Patients should consider their own personal circumstances and seek a second opinion. Eligibility for, and services available under the Hearing Services Program may change. Please check the HSP website for up-to-date details.

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