Ask An Expert: How Do Hearing Aids Work?

Q: How do hearing aids work?

Are there surgeries or medications I can take to treat my hearing loss rather than get hearing aids?

A: At their most basic, hearing aids are microphones that convert sound into electrical signals. An amplifier increases the strength of the signal, then a receiver (speaker) converts it back to sound and channels it into the ear canal through a small tube or earmold. A battery is necessary to power the hearing aid and to enable amplification.

Fine-tuning a hearing aid mold.

Fine-tuning a hearing aid mold.

There are alternative forms of treatment for hearing loss (instead of hearing aids), though only 5% of hearing loss in adults can be improved medically or surgically. It all depends on the type of hearing loss you have experienced. There are three different types of hearing loss:

  1. Sensorineural: The most common type, it occurs when the inner ear nerves (and hair cells) are damaged and do not properly transmit auditory signals to the brain. This can be treated with hearing aids.

  2. Conductive: This is typically the result of obstructions in the ear, and can usually be treated medically or surgically.

  3. Mixed: This is a sensorineural hearing loss along with a conductive loss component. The conductive loss is first addressed, and then the remaining sensorineural loss can often be managed through hearing aids.


Mark Nickel BC-HIP, B.Sc.
Robertson Hearing Centre