Hearing aids offer so many benefits to those who wear them with hearing loss, but because of where they are worn some natural properties of the outer ear that benefit our hearing are compromised. It’s important to understand how these changes to the outer ear will affect the wearer’s perception of sound.
The ear is made up of three main parts: the outer, middle, and inner ear. Each area plays a different and significant role in our ability to hear. Typically, inner ear or nerve damage is the cause of hearing loss, this damage is permanent and there is no cure for it. Although hearing aids cannot fix the damage, they do amplify sound which improves the wearer’s ability to hear and understand speech. Because the outer ear is accessible and funnels sound into the other parts of the ear, this is where hearing aids are worn.
The outer ear is made up of two parts, the pinna and the external auditory canal. The pinna is the part of the ear we can see and what people typically think of when they think of an ear. The pinna leads to the ear canal which connects to the eardrum and goes on to the middle ear. Most of us probably don’t think too much about our ears but each ear is unique (even the two on your head are different from one another!) and their unique shapes, sizes, twists, and turns affect how you hear.
The main function of the outer ear is to funnel sound into the middle and then inner ear, but it also helps us localize where sound is coming from and even amplifies certain sound frequencies. This ability to amplify certain frequencies is called the natural ear canal resonance and it is one of the largest contributors to how we perceive sound. Although the natural ear canal resonance is different for each individual, the average adult ear has a resonance around 2000-5000Hz which means that high-frequency sounds are amplified when passing through the outer ear. When something is inserted into the ear canal, like a hearing aid, this natural amplification is lost.
This is an important factor to consider when fitting and adjusting hearing aids. Luckily with current technology hearing health care specialists, audiologists and hearing aid dispensers can fine tune hearing instruments to best replicate the natural ear canal resonance and give wearers a more natural perception of sound. Hearing aids offer so many benefits for those with hearing loss but it can be a difficult transition for many to accept that they need hearing assistance. Giving hearing aid wearers the most natural sound possible is important, but counseling them on how and why their perception of sound will be affected can be just as crucial.
Hears Hearing & Hearables understands what are the issues to fitting hearing aids are and changing the acoustics of your ear. Reach out to us and consult with us as we can help you with this concept. Hearing is important. Happy Hearing!