News & Information

Jan 31 2018

Why hearing aids are not like glasses

If you have glasses you probably remember that moment when you were fit with your first pair: the moment the world came into focus. With glasses the improvement in our vision is often dramatic and immediate. Many people who wear hearing aids ask why it is not the same for hearing.

The vast majority of people who are fit with hearing aids also notice a significant improvement in their hearing and quality of life very quickly. However, with hearing aids there is normally an adaptation period, and they do not typically restore hearing levels to exactly 100 percent.

So, why the difference? The main reason is that our hearing system is very complicated. Vision loss requiring glasses is usually a matter of focusing the light on the retina properly. The retina itself works fine, but the lens does not bend the light in away that creates a clear image. Corrective lenses focus the light properly. However, if the retina itself is damaged, further treatment will be needed and corrective lenses may not help, depending on the condition.

The most common form of hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss, results from damage or loss of tiny hair cells in the inner ear that pick up incoming sound and turn it into an electrical signal for the brain to process. This type of hearing loss is more akin to retinal damage in the eye and therefore difficult to treat. As we loose these inner ear hair cells, not only do we loose volume, but it becomes harder to discriminate sounds. This causes sounds to become distorted or unclear. The more hair cells that are lost, the more distorted sound becomes.

Correcting the loss of volume is fairly simple, we just need to provide amplification to incoming sound. Improving discrimination is more difficult. Once the hair cells are lost, they do not come back. So, any sound amplified by the hearing aid still needs to be converted to an electrical signal by your inner ear. If you have lost a significant amount of hair cells, the incoming sound from the hearing aid can still be ditorted as it passes through the damaged inner ear.

Modern hearing aids can help by clearing up the signal as much as possible. They do this by giving priority to speech and filtering out some unwanted sound such as background noise. These features give the innear ear as clear a signal as possible to work with.

In short, this is why hearing aids are not like glasses. The most common form of hearing loss is more complicated than the most common form of visual impairment. Despite this, hearing aids can offer a great deal of help and improve quality of life dramatically for people who require them.

For more information please contact Accurate Hearing at one of our convenient locations:

Lower Sackville: 902-252-3004

Cole Harbour: 902-406-4327

 

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