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How A Hearing Aid Works

At its most simplistic there are four major electrical components of a modern hearing aid.  They are:

1) The Microphone

This may be a single microphone with a single port which would not enable the hearing aid to have a directional function.  It could be a single microphone with two ports which does provide some limited directionality function or it could be dual microphones which, aligned to a sophisticated chip, can provide a variety of directional functions.

The microphone gathers the sound from the environment and changes it from an analogue sound wave to a digital electronic signal which is passed on to the microchip or processor

2) The Microchip

This is the core of the hearing aid.  It takes the incoming sound from the microphone and processes it according to the programmed algorithms.  The incoming signal may be divided into a number of frequency bands so that different frequencies can have differing degrees of amplification applied.  This allows for the frequency response to be shaped and with the vast majority of hearing losses greater amplification applied to the higher frequencies.  Modern day microchips or DSPs (digital signal processors) work very much faster than their predecessors, have a much greater capacity for multiple functionality and are very much smaller, so capable of providing sophisticated technology in the smallest of devices.

3) The Receiver

Ironically the Receiver does not receive sound, that’s the role of the microphone, it transmits sounds.  It is a miniature loud speaker.  It is connected to the microchip and turns the electronic signal into a sound wave which is passed directly into the ear.  It is usually protected from damage through wax or moisture.

4) The Battery

A hearing aid is an electrical device and therefore requires a source of electrical power.  Hearing aid batteries come in a variety of sizes.  There are also a variety of different types, including rechargeable, but by far the most common is Zinc Air.

All of these components are housed with a casing that is designed to fit either in the ear or behind the ear.  Sound is delivered either electronically having been converted into an electrical signal or as an actual sound wave down very thin tubes.  These tubes can be fed directly into the ear canal or be secured within an ear mould which is usually custom made to fit an individual’s ear.

At its simplest a hearing aid takes sound in through the microphone, amplifies it with a microchip processor and transmits it into the ear from the receiver

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