Understanding how hearing aids work, and can they make you hear better?

Hearing aids are used by people of all ages

Sound is such a critical part of our lives. It's a fundamental sense for all people and the more you can hear, the better life becomes.

One of the most important ways that sound is received is through your ear (and then brain). Hearing deficits are usually caused by nerve damage in one or more parts of your ear and can lead to permanent hearing loss if not treated.

Hearing aids work with tiny electrical impulses to help restore lost hearing and prevent further hearing loss or reduce how much you have to rely on other senses like vision.
How hearing aids work

How do hearing aids work?

When sound enters your ear, it travels through the outer ear and eardrum. It then hits your middle ear where the hammer, anvil and stirrup help transfer sound energy through to the inner ear. The inner ear contains cochlear hair cells that convert sound vibrations into electrical signals.

These electrical nerve impulses are then sent to the brain, processed and interpreted as a specific sound like speech or music.

When you have hearing loss because of nerve damage, hearing aids can take over the job of sending electrical impulses from the cochlear hair cells to the brain and help you hear better.

How hearing aids help

You may wonder how hearing aids can help you when your auditory nerve is damaged.

Well, hearing aids pick up these electrical impulses and transmit them through to the brain using sound waves. Sound waves are produced by a tiny battery power source in the hearing aid and then amplified for you to hear. The sound is transmitted into a small speaker (microphone) worn behind or next to your ear and then transmitted into the ear canal.

Your ear canal amplifies the speaker's sound so it's even louder for you to hear. These amplified sound waves bypass the damaged ear drum and inner ear and are sent on to the brain for processing.

Because the battery power source amplifies sound, it can make sounds seem louder. However, you have to be able to hear these amplified sounds through your damaged auditory nerve first so that you can understand what you're listening to.

What are the different types of hearing aids?

The different types of hearing aids are categorized by their size, function and how they work. For example, behind-the-ear hearing aids are the smallest in size and fit behind the ear. In-the-ear hearing aids are slightly bigger than behind-the-ear models but still smaller than most over-the-counter hearing aids.

They fit partially or completely into the ear canal. And finally, in cases of more severe hearing loss or other medical conditions, a full shell hearing aid may be required, which is worn on the outside of the ear.


A behind-the-ear (BTE) is the most common type of hearing aid. It's typically a small device that fits snugly behind the ear, extending into the ear canal. A BTE typically has one or two tubes that connect to a custom ear mold to fit securely in your ear.


An in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aid is a smaller type of BTE. They fit partially or completely into the ear canal where they produce sound much more directly than a traditional BTE. Most people find them to be very comfortable and effective.


A completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aid is a type of ITE hearing aid that fits inside the ear canal. This can be done with or without the use of an ear mold. CIC aids are typically smaller than ITE models, but because they're placed further into the ear canal, they typically don't block out as much background noise like CIC aids do.

They can also work better in cases of conductive loss where there's some damage at the entrance of the ear canal.


A receiver-in-canal (RIC) hearing aid is a type of ITE hearing aid that partially fits into the ear canal. It has a receiver that sits just inside the ear canal which helps to eliminate external noise. RICs also have a tube that extends out of the ear and may connect to an ear mold to help keep the device in place.


An invisible hearing aid is a special type of ITE that may be made with a mold, which gives it a more natural-looking appearance. Invisible aids are less visible than other ITE models and are typically used for people who have sensitive skin or those who consider their hearing aids an important part of their daily routine.

When is it time to see a doctor?

There are numerous reasons people consult an otolaryngologist or other qualified audiologist. Some of the more common ones include:

  • You have a hearing loss that is affecting your quality of life.
  • You're experiencing sudden-onset hearing loss (often called SOH).
  • Your hearing aids don't work.

Seeing a doctor for your hearing may be the best option. After a thorough examination by an otolaryngologist, it will be determined which type of treatment is best for your hearing loss.

Hearing aids help people with mild to moderate hearing loss

Hearing aids can help you understand better when you're around others. They can also help you to communicate with friends and family, and hear the phone if you have a hearing loss. There are advancements being made all the time that can help you hear better from behind the ear and in-the-ear models.

You may even be able to use your iPhone now without relying on an iPhone hearing aid, because your smartphone has voice-over features built in to it.

When you need a hearing exam, be smart about it and ask for a hearing aid fitting. This is the only way to know what type of hearing aid you need and if one is even right for you.

A licensed audiologist will go over everything with you during your first visit. The fitting will ensure that your hearing aid works well in noise and with different listening environments.

Hearing aids improve hearing ability in noisy environment

Hearing aids improve communication in crowds, because hearing aids help you to hear better, you can understand what people have to say to you in a crowd, on the phone or in a group setting. They not only help with understanding others, they also make sure that your voice is louder than the other person’s voice when you’re speaking.


The following infographic shows a list of the various noises when you are out and about. Any noise over 70-80db over a long period of time may cause damage to your hearing. A noise of over 120dB may cause immediate harm to your ears

hearing infographic16

Hearing aids are used by people of all ages

Hearing aids are prescribed to people who are experiencing any age-related hearing loss. They can also be used after certain procedures and injuries, or if you have a certain type of hearing loss that doesn't respond to other treatments. If you are having difficulty hearing, it is important to speak up. Many times hearing loss issues can be corrected.

This problem usually becomes apparent when you have difficulties understanding speech in noisy environments, or when you have trouble understanding people with strong voices. It can also become apparent when you are unable to understand conversations during a conversation.

You may not be able to hear someone unless they raise their voice above a certain level or speak slowly so that the words are easier to hear.

Hearing aids can make life better

Hearing aids also help you with a number of day to day activities. They help you understand conversation better, which can affect your social life, coworkers and customers. Hearing aids are also important if you have a child who is having to struggle with learning disabilities or if he or she has trouble communicating in noisy places, such as school.

Most people believe that hearing aids will not help them with their speech and communication abilities, however this is not the case as many people experience improvement in both these aspects after getting a hearing aid. Hearing aids are primarily used to improve communication skills and ability in various environments, where people are talking (crowds) and listening (speaking).

Who can benefit from wearing a hearing aid?

People who can benefit from using hearing aids are pretty much anyone with a hearing loss. That includes the elderly who have hearing loss due to age (presbycusis), or anyone with a mild to moderate hearing loss in one or both ears.

  • Hearing aid technology has increased dramatically in the last 5 years, making it easy for people to get a customized hearing solution that will allow them to hear and understand better.
  • How hearing aids work is based on several factors including the type of hearing loss, the age of the patient, and how much it costs to get a hearing aid.
  • The best way to explain how hearing aids work is with an example. Let's say you have a mild to moderate hearing loss in one ear, and since you are right-handed (let's assume), your biggest problem is not being able to hear conversation when you're at a social event in a noisy room where there's music playing. This is because most people speak at roughly 75 decibels (dB) and most rooms are about 65 dB with the music volume turned up.
  • A hearing aid that is tuned to the music volume will amplify the music coming into your ear while simultaneously turning down the music in your inner ear so you don't have a lot of feedback or sound overlap.


How hearing aids work is simple to understand. They can help people with varying degrees of hearing loss, from mild to severe and in both ears or one ear. There are different types of hearing aids available out there and the main thing to remember is that there are as many different solutions as there are types of hearing loss.

If you're experiencing trouble understanding conversations, even in quiet places, it is important to speak up about your concerns.

You can't get a hearing aid if you don't talk about it with your doctor or audiologist. Hearing aids are one of the most effective ways to improve your hearing abilities and your quality of life.

Give it a try, you might be surprised by the results.

Other Questions

How to care for your hearing aid

Hearing loss affects peoples of all ages and it can have a huge impact on your quality of life.

With new advances in technology, hearing aids are small, convenient and easier to use than ever before. They're designed for adults, children, infants and even people with special needs. The progression of hearing loss through the years can also be slowed down with modern technology.

If you're experiencing hearing loss, it's important to see your doctor right away for a proper diagnosis.

Your hearing can be tested by your physician and more mild cases of hearing loss may be treated with a non-surgical procedure called sound therapy. People who experience profound hearing loss may have to turn to surgical procedures.

But even if you've been diagnosed with severe hearing loss, there are still some things that make wearing old fashioned ear trumpets uncomfortable or just aren't practical anymore. Modern technology has created tiny, powerful listening devices that work well for people with severe hearing loss.

What type of hearing aid should you use?

In general, a hearing aid will make your daily life easier by making sounds easier to hear for you. This will make different situations in life more enjoyable, whether it's at home with your family and friends, the sounds of nature or watching television.

Powerful hearing aids are the only method of treatment that can improve your quality of life and help restore your ability to enjoy many activities that you have taken for granted for years.


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NicK Le Page

Experience : Hi, I am Nick, and I have suffered with ear problems my whole life, mainly tinnitus. I have tried a lot of products to help protect my ears over this period, and several devices to block out the constant ringing

“Are you having problems hearing? If so, those around you already know it. Hearing loss is no laughing matter, so don’t be a punchline.”

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