What Is a Hearing Aid?
A hearing aid is a device that is worn behind or in the ear to increase the sounds that a person can hear in their environment. This enables the person with hearing loss to engage more fully in everyday life. Wearing a hearing aid can prevent or correct feelings of isolation that may occur due to hearing loss.
How Do Hearing Aids Work?
The primary function of hearing aids is to the hearing and speech capabilities for individuals who have experienced hearing loss related to damage within the tiny sensory cells in the inner ear. This is described as sensorineural hearing loss.
There are three parts to a hearing aid: a microphone, amplifier, and speaker. The microphone picks up sounds, such as another person’s voice or the ringing of the telephone. The sound waves that enter the microphone are converted into electrical signals that then increased by the amplifier and sent into the ear through the speaker.
Why Should I Get A Hearing Aid?
Studies have linked untreated hearing loss to:
- Irritability, negativism, and anger
- Fatigue, tension, stress, and depression
- Avoidance or withdraw from social situations
- Social rejection and loneliness
- Reduced alertness and increased risk of personal safety
- Impaired memory or ability to learn new tasks
- Reduced job performance and earning power
- Diminished psychological and overall health
Hearing Aids Styles
Hearing aids may be worn in the ear, in the ear canal, or behind the ear.
- Behind-the-ear Hearing Aids: The most familiar; this type has a small, hard case that sits behind the ear. The case, which houses the electronic parts of the hearing aid, connects to an ear mold that sits within the outer ear. Newer models of behind-the-ear hearing aids are now available. This type has an open fit in which the bulk of the hearing aid sits behind the ear, and a small tube carries sound waves from the plastic case to the ear canal.
- In-the-ear Hearing Aids: The aid is situated entirely in the outer ear area. In some models, the hard plastic case may house a telecoil. This magnetic coil, carries sound through the circuitry of the hearing aid. The telecoil may make it easier to hear in public places in which a sound system is used and over the telephone.
- Canal Hearing Aid: A type that fits snugly within the ear canal. The in-canal device, is customized to the shape and size of the ear canal. Another type, the completely-in-canal sits a bit further within the canal where its appearance may be well concealed.
The two primary forms of electronics are:
- Analog: Analog hearing aids take in sound waves and convert them to electrical signals which can be amplified.
- Digital: Digital hearing aids take in sound waves and convert them to numerical code that can be amplified.
What Are The Best Hearing Aids Today?
Quality hearing aids may be purchased from a number of reputable vendors. More than a specific brand, the “best hearing aid” is found by working with an experienced audiologist and ENT physician who offer personalized care. The discussions that occur in our office revolve around each person’s individual hearing loss diagnoses and their needs and expectations.
Hearing Aid vs Cochlear Implant
The cochlear implant represents a significant advancement in treatment for the hearing impaired. This device is appropriate for people whose hearing loss is too profound to be mitigated with hearing aids alone. The purpose of the cochlear implant is to improve a person’s sense of sound through direct stimulation of the auditory nerve. This technique bypasses the ear completely and can restore hearing in children and adults who have suffered severe damage to the sensory cells in the inner ear.
Do Hearing Aids Work For Deaf People?
Limitations to the amount of amplification that is available in hearing aids make this method of care most suitable for people with mild to moderate hearing loss in one or both ears. Cochlear implants may be a viable solution to restore hearing in the deaf.
How Much Will A Hearing Aid Change My Hearing?
Hearing aids improve people’s ability to hear and engage with the world around them by amplifying sounds in the immediate environment. While wearing a hearing aid, a person can expect to be able to hear sounds at a reasonable distance. Advanced technologies are making it easier to hear in both quiet and noisy rooms. However, the quality of sound is not perfect and can take some getting used to.
How Long Do Hearing Aids Last?
Most hearing aids last an average of five to eight years. This may be longer or shorter depending on the type of hearing aid selected. Historically, behind-the-ear hearing aids have lasted longer than in-the-ear types. However, with newer models and technology, this may be changing.
Tips For Best Hearing Aid Performance
- Remove your hearing aids at night.
- Open the battery doors every night.
- Every night, use a clean, dry tissue to gently wipe the outer part of your hearing aids. If you have earmolds, use the cleaning tool loop to clean the earmold’s opening.
- Keep hearing aids away from extreme heat and cold.
- Do not wear hearing aids while applying makeup or hair products.
- Do not get hearing aids wet.
- Keep hearing aids and batteries away from children and pets.
- Replace dead batteries when low battery beep occurs.
- Remove the sticker from the back of the battery and place it on your calendar every time you replace your battery. Wait a couple of minutes after removing the sticker before inserting the battery into your hearing aid.
- Schedule a six-month hearing aid follow-up appointment to have your hearing aids cleaned and any questions/concerns addressed.
When To Change My Hearing Aid Batteries
Depending on the type of hearing aid selected and the amount of usage, batteries may need to be changed every 3 to 10 days. Batteries should be replaced if the quality of sound decreases. Some hearing aids have a feature that signifies low batteries with a beeping sound.
How To Take Care Of Hearing Aids
- Ear wax can block the “speaker” part of the hearing aid. It is beneficial to schedule a periodic ear exam and cleaning with your doctor.
- Hearing aids should be cleaned only with a soft, dry cloth. Water and moisture could damage the electronics of the hearing aid and render it disabled.
- When not worn, hearing aids should be kept in a dry, safe place where children and pets cannot reach them.
- Listen for “feedback,” a slight whistling sound. This may indicate a buildup of ear wax or poor fit.
The Family’s Role & Hearing Loss
The family plays a critical role in helping to meet the emotional and psychological needs of your hearing-impaired family member. It is a role filled with understanding and support. Consider the following when speaking to someone with a hearing loss:
- Attract their attention. There is little benefit in speaking if they do not realize you are talking to them.
- Always face the person. They need to watch your face for clues. Lip movements and body gestures are an important part of their listening.
- Move closer. Voices can fade around corners and across distances.
- Speak slowly and distinctly. Louder is NOT better. Yelling will distort the words and hurt your throat.
- Wait and watch. Stop when you see signs of uncertainty. Repeat yourself. Start again and watch to be sure that you are being understood.
- Save important talk for appropriate times. Discuss important matters during ideal hearing conditions. Find a quiet, calm environment.