Modern hearing aids are very advanced technological products. It is best to explain hearing aids as a type of specialized computer. Most of my patients have only a small idea of how complex a hearing aid really is. On occasion someone might say to me “why are hearing aids so expensive it’s just a fancy amplifier.” That is an outdated belief as hearing aids haven’t been simply an amplifier for decades.

Modern hearing aids are built with capabilities that are so complex it can be a daunting task to explain to my patients how they work. But here are some of the basic parts. There are one or two highly sensitive microphones to receive all of the sounds coming at the user. When sound is collected by those microphones it is received by a tiny processor similar to one used in a desktop computer. The processor adjusts the sounds coming in to selectively fit the individual hearing loss of the user. Modern processors can tell the difference between quiet, background noise, speech, and music and thus correct only the sounds a user wants to hear. Finally an amplifier will then make the modified sounds sufficiently loud enough and send the modified sounds to the high fidelity speaker inside the ear. These parts are so tiny that a microscope must be used to view them. The newest hearing aids go another step further and can connect directly to televisions or portable devices like phones and music players so that the user can listen to them through the hearing aid.

In order to achieve all of the above the hearing aid must be connected to a computer to be programmed by a hearing professional who understands each individual’s hearing needs. Most hearing aids can be programmed to help with all types and severities of hearing loss just by changing the programming. This allows patients who have a change in hearing over time to continue to use the same hearing aids as only the settings have to be updated.

Modern hearing aids use a lot of power so batteries made for hearing aids have to carry a strong enough charge to operate these miniature workhorses all day for several days. This is why hearing aid batteries need to be replaced about every two weeks or more often for smaller batteries.

When you think about all that a hearing aid has to do it is not surprising that such a wonderful, miniature, smart little device is so expensive. Hearing aids today are making magnificent use of the best modern technology has to offer and help so many hard of hearing people hear better today than ever before. I am so glad that this technology is available for me and for my patients. It is an exciting time to be an audiologist and to help people hear better for life.

This blog posted by Suzanne Yoder, Au.D. Doctor of Audiology and owner of HearWell Center. Please visit our website for more information