Are Hearing Aids to Hearing the same as Glasses are to Vision?

Are Hearing Aids to Hearing the same as Glasses are to Vision?


What is easier to correct? Hearing loss or vision loss?

Most of us see hearing aids and glasses as similar devices, just for different senses. They are used to help compensate for a loss in a sense, whether hearing or vision.

However, what hearing aids do for hearing loss is quite different than what glasses do for vision loss. The job of glasses is much more simple than the job of hearing aids. I’ll explain further below.

Whether it is glasses, contacts, lasic surgery, or lens implants, all solutions correct vision by adding or changing the magnifying glass of the eye (the lens of your eye). Once the magnification is corrected, the brain pathways are most often intact and ready to process the visual cues. If there is nerve damage, glasses (a change in the magnification) do little to correct them (as is the case with detached retinas or macular degeneration).

With most vision loss, it is the eye that needs a new magnifying glass. However, the equivalent “lens” in the ear would be the eardrum and the middle ear bones. These remain normal in over 90% of hearing loss cases.The cause of hearing loss is often related to the sensory cells or the nerves, rather than the “lens”.

Since it is the cells or nerves of the ear that are damaged, and thus the auditory pathways of the brain are not functioning at 100% capacity, hearing aid technology has to make sounds audible, but also synchronize signals, reduce noise, search out speech and separate from other sounds, and a host of other technologically difficult functions. All of these have to occur within milliseconds (1000 milliseconds = 1 second).

Thus the comparison of glasses to hearing aids is like comparing apples to oranges. Traditional glasses simply correct a defective magnifying glass with intact brain pathways, while hearing aids have to overcome damage to sensory and/or nerve cells, requiring a large amount of technology and audiology service in order to maximize the patient’s hearing abilities.

While both glasses and hearing aids are necessary solutions to help correct a loss of a sense, they do so in very different ways.