Senior couple walking and discussing how hearing aids work

How Do Hearing Aids Work?

Published: July 15, 2020

Updated: October 13, 2022

Hearing aids are powerful technological tools designed to make life and social interactions easier for you. But, to get the most out of your hearing experience, it helps to know how hearing aids work.

If you are reading this, you’ve probably become the proud new owner of a hearing aid. In this day and age when technology evolves and improves at such a fast pace, hearing aids are designed with many different styles and features. This article will help you to better understand what a hearing aid is, how it works, and we share some quick helpful tips.

Who manufactures hearing aids?

Several hearing companies are responsible for the development and distribution of hearing aids. Commonly known manufacturers include Oticon, Starkey, Phonak, Widex, and Signia. 

Hearing loss is a complicated issue, especially the spectrum of people it affects. That is why these companies dedicate their efforts to producing quality hearing aids to meet the needs of a wide range of people with hearing loss

What is a hearing aid?

It’s all in the name, hearing aid – your “ear assistant.” A hearing aid is a small electronic device designed and programmed to assist with different degrees of hearing loss. It has a microphone that picks up sound, an amplifier that modifies the sound, and a speaker that sends the modified signal to the ear. The hearing aid battery plays a vital role as it helps power up the whole process. The general parts of a complete hearing aid include:

  • Slim tube,earmold or receiver wire (behind-the-ear model only)  – is attached to the top part of the hearing aid body, positioned in the ear canal and directs sounds from the hearing aid through into the ear. 
  • Battery door (battery operated hearing aids only) – which opens and closes to allow for battery charging, or in most modern hearing aids, allows for the hearing aid to be switched on and off. 
  • Volume control – which helps you control the level of loudness – is an optional feature. Majority of hearing aids allow volume adjustments by either pressing a button on the back of the device or using an App or both. 
  • Program button -which helps you to switch from one listening program to the next -is an optional feature. Majority of hearing aids allow this function either pressing a dedicated button on the back of the device or using an app, or both.

What are the different hearing aid types?

There is a wide range of hearing aid types, from practically invisible to filling the entire part of the outside of your ear. There are three main hearing aid types:

  1. Behind-The-Ear (BTE): Suitable for people of all ages and all degrees of hearing loss. The body of the hearing aid fits comfortably behind the ear. They are either attached to a custom earpiece molded according to your unique ear shape and size. Or the device is attached to a slim tube with a dome, available in a variety of lengths and sizes. The size of this BTE-style device varies depending on the degree of loss. 
  2. Receiver-in the Canal: The body of this device also fits behind the ear with the receiver of the hearing (encapsulated in a dome) placed in the ear canal. Having the receiver in the ear canal allows the body of the hearing aid to be slightly smaller than a standard BTE hearing aid. 
  3. In-The-Ear (ITE):  These are custom-made to fit completely in the outer ear and initial part of the ear canal. They are more suitable for certain degrees of hearing loss.
  4. In-The-Canal:  Also known as Completely-in-the-Canal (CIC). These hearing aids are inserted down the ear canal and therefore the most discreet. Due to their smaller size, they are dependent on the degree of hearing loss of the user. Due to their smaller size, they are dependent on the degree of hearing loss of the user. 

What is the technology behind hearing aids?

Digital sound processing has replaced older analogue technology that makes all sounds equally loud. Digital amplification manages the incoming sound signal so that soft, normal and loud sounds are comfortable and clear when it arrives at your ear. They also suppress background noise so that speech is easier to listen to and understand, especially in noisy environments.

The latest digital hearing aids make use of wireless technology and telecoils, which pick up magnetic signals and process them as sound into your hearing aid. If you have a hearing aid in each ear, wireless technology helps them communicate with one another, so that they work as one balanced hearing system. 

How do hearing aids help you?

Hearing aids help people with hearing loss improve their hearing and communication ability. Remember, it’s all in the name – hearing aid – your “ear assistant”. Your “ear assistant” aims at enhancing sound signals, especially those important for speech recognition and understanding, to help you manage conversations and communication with more ease. It also helps you to be more aware of your surroundings, engage in lifestyle activities and can improve your hearing confidence. Research has shown that hearing aid use leads to increased social interaction, reduced social isolation and improved well-being which all helps to reduce cognitive decline as we become older as explained in Dementia and Hearing Loss in Adults

Majority of digital hearing aids offer additional features to improve listening comfort especially in challenging listening situations, such as increased background noise, wind exposure  when outdoors, etc. These adaptive features such as microphone directionality, wind noise suppression, feedback management, and noise reduction strategies operate automatically but can also be manipulated manually by the user in some devices. 

Manufacturers have developed more sophisticated devices that meet the demands of modern life. Some hearing aids can connect to your phone via Bluetooth. Some can also connect to devices around your home, like TVs, tablets and other smart tech. Some include programs for various listening environments, like restaurants, stadiums, and transportation. 

For additional information on the benefits of using hearing aids, please see Benefits of Hearing Aids | Lexie Hearing. You will also find useful information by visiting What to Expect When You Get Your Hearing Aids.  

Quick facts

Remember that hearing aids will only amplify sound and NOT restore your hearing to “normal”. You may still experience communication difficulties, particularly in increasingly noisy situations.

  • Hearing aids have an adjustment period; it takes time to get used to new hearing aids. We, therefore, advise you to be patient with yourself and your hearing aids. Be patient, practice, and persevere. Here are some  Tips for Getting Used to Hearing Aids.
  • Hearing aids improve the quality of life and connect you to the world you live in.
  • To maximize your ability to manage your hearing especially in those challenging listening situations,  we suggest using some communication methods together with your new hearing aids, which you can learn more about by reading Learning to Communicate with Hearing Aids | Lexie Hearing.
  • Hearing aids SHOULD NOT BE SHARED. They are custom-made and programmed to suit the hearing needs of the wearer.
  • Your hearing healthcare professional, or Lexie Expert, will help you choose the right hearing aid.

How do Lexie hearing aids work

Lexie hearing aids are true hearing aids that can be adjusted according to your hearing needs. Once you get your Lexies, you’ll connect them to the Lexie app via Bluetooth where you can make adjustments to your hearing aid. A team of Lexie Experts is available via voice or video call to assist you should you require assistance. Lexie hearing aids offer an impressive range of features, like:

  • Directional hearing
  • Noise reduction
  • Telecoil functionality (exclusive to Lexie Lumen)
  • Crisp phone calls
  • Crystal clear sound
  • Advanced battery power
  • Sweatproof technology
  • Telecoil functionality (only available with Lexie Lumen device)

You can read more about Lexie hearing aids, here

Article updated on July 18, 2022.

Image of post writer Katlego Mogapi.

Written by Katlego Mogapi

B. Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology


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