Hearing aids are an essential device for people who struggle with hearing loss or impairment. They can make sounds clearer and easier to understand and have come quite a ways from their first designs. So, how do today’s hearing aids work?

Types of Sound-Assistive Devices

Three different kinds of devices can aid someone’s hearing, and each differs in purpose, function, and design. Choosing the right device for your hearing needs depends on several factors as well.


Hearing amplifiers (also called Personal Sound Amplification Products) are an over-the-counter version of your typical hearing aid. While this sounds great, hearing amplification devices amplify all sounds and may not fit everyone’s custom hearing loss pattern.


PSAPs are pretty similar to reading glasses in the sense that they amplify all sound and are “one size fits all.” While some may come with volume and amplification options, not all do. This can make things difficult for people who struggle with hearing loss.

Hearing Aids

Hearing aids are currently a prescription item, but we may see affordable, over-the-counter versions in the future under Biden’s executive order. Unlike PSAPs, hearing aids amplify sound using a three-part system consisting of a microphone, amplifier, and speaker.


In this system, the microphone picks up sounds, the amplifier processes and adjusts them, and the speaker plays the sound into the ear. The three-part system makes hearing aids programmable to suit each patient’s hearing loss needs, as amplifiers can adjust different types of sound, kind of like an audio mixer.

Cochlear Implants

Unlike hearing aids and PSAPs, cochlear implants must be surgically implanted into the user’s brain. The implants themselves are made of two parts: an external component and an internal component. The outer part contains a microphone, speech processor, and transmitter, and the inner part has a receiver located under the skin just behind the ear. The receiver connects to the brain via several tiny electrodes.


Cochlear implants do not amplify sound but instead recreate the sensation of hearing for users. These devices are designed to bypass damaged sections of the inner ear to directly stimulate the auditory nerve that allows us to listen to sounds.

Which Device Should I Choose?

Choosing the right hearing aid or auditory assistive device really depends on your personal needs. When choosing a hearing aid, consider:

  • How often will you be using it?
  • How long will it take to adjust to the hearing aid?
  • What kind of sound settings will you need the most?
  • What is your budget?
  • How will the device fit in your ear?

Of course, always speak with your doctor about hearing options before purchasing a hearing aid, and thoroughly work through any questions you may have with both your primary care physician and hearing specialist. To browse hearing aid accessories and other assistive devices, visit Medical Supply Depot.



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