That tiny device that sits either behind or inside your ear is actually a marvel of modern technology. Do you know the various parts of a hearing aid and how they work?
You have probably paid a pretty penny for your device and know the importance of cleaning and maintaining them. Knowing the various parts of your hearing aids and what they do will help you to understand your devices better and why they need the loving care that you give them.
The BTE (Behind the ear) hearing aid.
A modern digital hearing aid may be small in appearance but they are a complex piece of technology. The most popular BTE (Behind the ear) model is comprised of the following various parts,
This is the part that connects your hearing aid to the tip or mould that is inserted into the ear. It is positioned at the back of the device and connects to a small thin tube.
The microphone picks up the sound from your environment. It the converts the sounds waves to an electrical signal or a binary code. The microphone will usually be on the top of your device so that it is not obstructed and can pick up sound from front and back as well as your left and right.
The microphone then sends the sound to the amplifier which increases the volume of the sound. The amplifier will not be seen as it sits within the hearing aid.
The amplifier then sends the increased sound to the ear through the receiver. The receiver is the part that you put into your ear. It usually comes in two types. It can be a soft flexible tip or a solid plastic mould. Which option you use will be decided by your audiologist.
This is the part that allows the audiologist to adapt the hearing aid settings to your individual needs depending on your level of hearing loss. These microchips are becoming more and more complicated and are able to offer the hearing aid user a much better experience due to the increased capability of the hearing devices.
The battery compartment.
This is the housing where the battery is inserted. Probably the most fragile part of the device and the part that we use most often. The type and size of the battery will determine how long your hearing aid works before it (the battery) needs to be replaced. The larger the battery the longer it will last.
The control button.
Whilst not shown on the model above, this small button usually sits to the front of your device for easy access. It is used for volume control and settings such as the telecoil or “T” setting allowing you to use your hearing aids with an induction loop system.
The ITE (In the ear) hearing aid.
The increasingly popular ITE model of hearing aid comes in various guises. They are becoming smaller and smaller all the time. They come in models that fit very deep into the ear canal or sit just inside the canal.
The technology involved is the same . The microphone still picks up the sound and transforms it into sound waves. It then sends it to the amplifier where the sound is increased to a level that has already been pre programmed according to your level of hearing loss. That sound is then sent to your ears through the receiver.
Only the size and scale are different from the BTE models. These smaller devices will generally only be suitable for people with mild or moderate hearing loss.
For those with severe or profound hearing loss the larger BTE models are best as they are generally more powerful.
The extras in a modern digital hearing aid.
While it all sounds very simple, the modern digital hearing aid is in fact an extremely complex structure. When you consider that the larger BTE models are about an inch in length and the ITE models much smaller again, it is a marvel that they can get these devices to do so much more than just pick up and transport sound to our ears.
The technology within digital hearing aids today is such that they can be used in conjunction with our smartphones or tablets. The ReSound LiNX 7 model (see my review here) includes features such as wireless bluetooth technology, remote control from your wireless device, audio streaming and so much more that it is truly mind boggling.
Looking after the parts of a hearing aid.
Because of the complexity of the modern digital hearing aid they can be very easily damaged. Repairs or replacements can be very expensive so the best thing to do is to ensure that you take care of them.
There are two main causes of hearing aid failure and both of them can be prevented.
1. Ear wax.
This can be a real problem for the devices that sit within the ear. Our ears produce wax naturally and with the hearing aid being inside the ear then wax can tend to get into the small tip of the receiver and block it up. Wax can also build up on the soft tip or the mould of the BTE (Behind the ear) models
If not removed it can prevent sound from getting from the receiver to the inner ear and can also damage the internal workings of the device. Using wax guards is one way to prevent this build up but having a good regular cleaning programme for your hearing aids is also vital.
You should inspect your hearing aids at least every second day (I do it every morning). If wax is present remove it and give the device a clean with a soft cloth. Never use chemicals on your device as they can corrode the small electronic parts inside.
Moisture/water is the nemesis of your hearing aids. Never ever wear your devices in the bath or shower. Also be careful when going outside. If it is raining or likely to be sure you can get your hearing aids under cover. If you are caught out then remove your devices until you get indoors.
Any water getting into your hearing aids will likely be fatal for them as it will corrode the delicate circuitry and render the device useless.
You also need to watch for moisture building up in the small thin tube of the BTE models. To much moisture here and the devices will fail to carry the sound properly to the ears. Once again a simple cleaning programme will keep your aid in perfect working shape.
Every night when going to bed, check the tube. If you see moisture then disconnect the tube from the hook section and blow through it. Then leave it overnight to dry out fully.
As usual, I would love to hear from you regarding anything to do with hearing health. If you have any questions then please get in touch. If you want help then leave a comment and I will get back to you asap. You can also contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org