There are several types of technology that assist some deaf people to hear more than they do without the technology.  There are two main types of technology that are worn.  They are:

  • hearing aids – these are worn on the outside of the ear
  • cochlear implants – these have a component that is surgically implanted as well as a component that sits on the outside of the ear

Whilst these two things can look similar, they actually work in very different ways.

Hearing aids

As noted, these are entirely external to the body and their sole purpose is to amplify sound to assist the deaf person in his or her perception of sound.  For some but not all, hearing aids also assist in the perception of speech.

The word “perception” is very important because, unlike glasses, hearing aids do not and cannot correct how sound is heard.  They only amplify sound and speech.

So, if the deaf person has a damaged auditory nerve – which is often the case – whilst a hearing aid will assist him or her to perceive sound by making it louder, it will still be heard as distorted, incomplete or both.

Obviously, this is very different to most people’s experience of glasses whereby vision is unclear, blurry and/or indistinct but by putting on glasses, everything is seen sharply and clearly.  This is because glasses are correcting how the eye sees.

In addition, hearing aids also tend to amplify all sounds equally, so background noise can be difficult as often these noises are heard just as loud as sounds that the user is trying to hear.  There are some technologies that can assist a hearing aid user to cut out background noise; these require the speaker to wear a special microphone.

For more information on cochlear implants, click here