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How Hearing Aids Work...
The hearing aid is a
miracle of modern technology. It amplifies and processes sound in much the
same way that a sophisticated stereo sound system does. However, it is
much more complex than the stereo system, because all of the technology has
to be fit into a tiny device that can sit on, or in, the ear. The picture
below shows three different types of aids. One fits behind the ear (called
a BTE), one fits in the ear (called an ITE), and one fits completed in the
ear canal (called a CIC). The part which fits in the ear itself is called
the ear mold.
The hearing aid consists of three major
components, all housed in a plastic case which protects the components and
allows the hearing aid to be fitted on the ear. The first component is a
microphone. The microphone changes sound in the air into an electrical
signal. The next component is an amplifier. The amplifier increases the
intensity of the electrical signal. Filters are often associated with the
amplifiers. Filters have the ability to selectively modify sound, so only
the sounds needed by the person with a hearing loss are amplified. Also,
some have the ability to filter out unwanted noise.
The third component is a speaker. The
speaker changes the electrical signal which has been amplified and
filtered back into an acoustic signal which the wearer hears. The wearer
can control the loudness with a volume control. Some aids have other
controls which can be used to make the signal more clear.
Hearing aids cost about the same as a
high quality stereo sound system. The high cost results from having to
miniaturize the components. Imagine how difficult it is to make
microphones and speakers which are small enough to fit into the plastic
cases which can be worn on, or in, the ear. Hearing aids are only fitted
when there is no available medical treatment or surgical procedure to
correct the hearing loss. And the cost of hearing aids is much less than
the cost of surgery.
Hearing aids require special batteries.
The batteries are extremely small and usually cost about the same as the
batteries used by a flashlight. Batteries may last from a few days to a
few weeks, depending on the type of hearing aid and the amount of time it
Hearing aids need very little special
care. Hearing aids are built to be durable, but, like any electronic
device, they can be broken if dropped on a hard surface. Water can cause
damage so they must not be worn in the shower or when swimming. It is a
good idea to take them off when exercising or working in the heat, as
perspiration is moisture which can affect the hearing aid. Dogs will chew
on them, so dog owners should store hearing aids in drawers rather than
leave them on night stands in the evening.
Ear wax can plug the opening for sound
in the ear mold. Wax should be washed from the ear regularly (ear cleaning
kits are available at pharmacies). Ear wax guards which can be put on the earring
aid are also available. These can be changed as needed.
Hearing aids will last for years if
they are given the proper care.
Provided by Starkey Labs