General Question

makethebest's avatar

Do Hearing Aids Remove the Natural Sound Compared to What Normal People Hear?

Asked by makethebest (22points) July 14th, 2014

Are the sounds from a bone conduction hearing aid natural or electronic?

I am asking because I am considering getting one of these for my deaf ear. I wear a hearing aid that amplifies sound in my hearing ear…

The Bone conduction hearing Aid converts the vibrations into sound, but can it do so in a way that the sounds the wearer hears would be natural?

Does anyone know the real answer to this? i cannot find an accurate response though I have done quite a bit of research…

Thanks everyone in advance.

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5 Answers

XOIIO's avatar

All hearing aids are electronic, that’s how they work, they amplify the sound.

gailcalled's avatar

Referring this to our wonderful resident audiologist.

I wear an aid in one ear because of an artificallly induced hearing loss. Ten years ago I took a bad fall and fractured the stapes bone (the smallest bone in the body) and suffered about 70% loss. After several failed surgeries to replace the stapes with a titanium prosthesis, I purchased the hearing aid.

Several generations later, my present aid is very good…particularly with one other person or just a few and without music and background noise. Lots of loud chatter from crowds can be difficult to sort out.

I avoid restaurants that play music. I often lip read when in a crowded situation. For example, I went to an art gallery opening the other day; crowded, alcohol served and a jazz a small room. I read lips for a while, made inane small talk and fled. The other day I returned to the gallery with a friend and some sane conversation.

The aid does not duplicate normal hearing and its magical ability to filter and sort out, but it’s a lot better than not being able to hear. They are staggeringly expensive.

Bill1939's avatar

I am somewhat familiar with the concept of bone conduction hearing devices, but do not know their range of frequencies or media based attenuation and its compensation. In the same way that electric currents move your computer’s speakers, the device will vibrate in response to frequencies from a microphone. I imagine that if you placed the device on a wooden surface it would make that surface act like a speaker and that placed on one’s head and the device will make the skull act like a speaker.

Audibility decreases as frequency increases in both of my ears. My hearing aids are tuned to amplify a range of frequencies to levels that approximate normal hearing. Without higher frequencies speech is less intelligible and birds seem a long way off. They are much closer now. Nothing is as good as natural hearing, however.

sebb's avatar

A bone conducting hearing aid uses your skull to transmit the sound to your cochlea bypassing your outer and middle ear. The sound would be the same as that of a traditional HA. Another thing is the bone conducting HA’s sound will be picked up by the either or both cochlea’s since it is transmitted through the skull.

hearkat's avatar

Hello, I am an Audiologist. In order to be able to give you specific information about how a bone-conduction device would sound to you, I’d need to see your audiogram.

Most hearing instruments use digital processors, but can be set fairly linear should it be appropriate for the patient. Similarly, the amount of noise filtering can also be adjusted to the individual’s preferences.

As others have noted, bone-conduction sends sounds to the inner ear (cochlea) through vibrations in the skull, and the sound is perceived as stronger in the better cochlea (if they’re different) regardless of where the bone oscillator is placed.

If the cochlea in your poorer ear still functions fairly well, you would most likely get the best benefit from a traditional instrument on that ear which would allow the brain to get the most distinct ‘surround sound’ information to each cochlea. Once you utilize bone conduction, the directional difference between ears is reduced, which makes it tougher to focus your attention on the sound you are trying to distinguish from other ambient noises (particularly when there are multiple people speaking). Most of my patients like the perceived balance of sound, even though they still don’t understand as well on the poorer side.

If the cochlea in your poor ear is severe-to-profound, you might like a CROS hearing system, or a bone-conduction system. These devices take the sound from the ‘dead’ ear and send it to the good ear, thus negating the separation of sound that the brain uses to localize sound – similar to what someone with single-sided deafness or a significantly asymmetrical hearing loss experiences already. The benefit is being more receptive to sounds on that poorer side. Some people who have sustained fairly good processing skills do develop the ability to distinguish which sounds come from the better side and which come through the device on the ‘dead’ side. The newest CROS system from Phonak has been a great advance in the technology, for my patients who can’t benefit from a hearing aid on the poorer side and can’t have or don’t want the surgery.

There are some unregulated bone conduction devices on the web, and some hearing aid manufacturers still make bone oscillators, but the main medical device for bone conduction these days are the osseointegrated bone-conduction devices, such as the Baha and Ponto systems. The patients who have had the surgery have done well. There is an evaluation and demonstration process to determine if the patient is a good candidate. The surgeries are covered by many insurers in the US, and some cover the sound processors as part of the system. Traditional hearing instruments are only rarely covered by health insurance in the US.

Let me know if you have any questions!

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