HEARING AIDS EXPLAINED
What is a hearing aid?
A hearing aid is a powered device designed to assist with hearing. It makes amplifies sound so that a person with hearing loss can communicate better and thus participate more fully in daily activities.
A hearing aid can improve hearing for those who have a hearing deficit - in both quiet and noisy situations. A hearing aid has three main parts: the microphone, an amplifier and speaker. Sound is received through a microphone, which converts the sound to an electrical signal. The amplifier increases the power of the signal and then send it to the ear through a speaker.
HOW CAN HEARING AIDS HELP?
Hearing aids are used to help improve the speech comprehension of people who have hearing loss usually resulting from nerve or age related deafness. This type of hearing loss is called sensorineural hearing loss and results fro damage to the inner ear strctures notably the “inner hair cells”. The damage can also occur as a result of disease, noise exposure or certain medications, exposure to radiotherapy or surgery. Other forms of hearing loss result in dysfunction of the middle ear structures and causes a conductive hearing loss which may also benefit from hearing aid use.
When using aids for the nerve deafness and particularly for age related hearing loss or presbycusis - the hearing aid magnifies sound stimulus entering the ear. The greater the damage to the inner ear structures such as the hair cells, the more severe the hearing loss, and the greater the hearing aid amplification required. There are limits to the amount of amplification a hearing aid can provide. If the inner ear is too damaged, even maximal amplification wiht even the most powerful hearing aid will not be helpful.
WOULD I BENEFIT FROM WEARING A HEARING AID?
If you think you might have hearing loss take our online hearing quiz. The next step is to arrange for a formal hearing test with an accredited audiologist. Some types of hearing loss may also necessitate review with your GP or otolaryngologist.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT STYLES OF HEARING AIDS?
Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids have a case that is placed behind the ear and connected to a plastic mold that fits inside the outer ear. Sound travels from the hearing aid through the earmold and into the ear. BTE aids are used for mild to profound hearing loss.
BTE aid open-fit hearing aid has a narrow tube inserted into the ear canal allowing the external ear canal to remain open. This open-fit hearing aid may be a good choice for people who have some residual heairng and also can avoid the occlusion effect.
The Receiver in the ear canal (RIC) hearing aid is a newer type of BTE. The ear piece is placed directly in the ear canal The microphone and the amplifier are in the case behind the ear. The earphone wire is used to connect the earphone and the case is slimmer than the conventional BTE tube phone.
In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids fit completely inside the ear canal and are usually indicated for mild to moderate hearing loss. The case holding the electronic components is made of hard plastic.
In the Canal aids fit into the ear canal and are available in two styles. The in-the-canal (ITC) hearing aid is made to fit the size and shape of a person’s ear canal. A completely-in-canal (CIC) hearing aid is nearly hidden in the ear canal. Both types are used for mild to moderately severe hearing loss.
DO ALL HEARING AIDS WORK THE SAME WAY?
Hearing aids work differently depending on the components and technology used.
Most aids are digital. They convert sound into electrical code and used a programmable algorithms to amplifying the signal. Information about a sound pitch, loudness and direction can be programmed. It allows the ability to amplify certain frequencies more than others. These aids also can be programmed to focus on sounds coming from a specific direction which is helpful depending on circumstances such a on-one-on conversation, TV watching our being in a meeting. New aids have wifi compatibility to connect with smart devices and also utilise rechargeable inductive technology.
WHICH HEARING AID WILL WORK BEST FOR ME?
The hearing aid that will work best for you really depends on the type and severity of your hearing loss. If you have a hearing loss in both of your ears - two hearing aids are usually recommended as this provide a natural signal to the brain. Hearing in both ears, or binaural hearing, also will help you understand speech better and localise where the sound is coming from.
The is also a personal aspect to selecting the hearing aid - in determining the situations in which you need to improve your hearing. In consultation wiht your audiologist - a hearing aid choice would also consider your needs and lifestyle. Nowadays, there is a plethora of choice with regards to style and added features.
A hearing aid does not restore normal hearing but can optimise your hearing where indicated by our hearing professional. The aim of using a hearing aid is to help you to hear your best. With good fitting, tuning and practice a hearing aid should help improve your interactions with the world around you.
Other factors to consider include services covered by the hearing aid cost, ‘bundled care’, fitting and tuning of the aids, the warranty, estimated maintenance and repair costs, options and and customer service.
WHAT QUESTIONS SHOULD I ASK BEFORE BUYING A HEARING AID?
Before you buy a hearing aid, ask your audiologist these important questions:
What features are most useful to me?
What is the total cost of the hearing aids?
Is there an option to trial a demo aid? After purchasing the aids is there a satisfaction guarantee? What fees are nonrefundable if the aids are returned after the trial period?
How long is the warranty? Does the warranty cover future maintenance and repairs? What is the cost if I loose the aid (or if my dog eats it?!)
Can the audiologist make adjustments and provide servicing and minor repairs? If my aids are being repaired can I use a loan unit?
HOW CAN I ADJUST TO MY HEARING AID?
Hearing aids take time and patience to use successfully. Wearing your aids regularly will help you adjust to them. Become familiar with the hearing aid’s features. It is helpful to have the audiologist show you the features and assist you with place and removing the aid. Learning how to adjust the aid’s setting such a volume or programs is usually not difficult. Many newer aids have a phone app that can adjust the aid as well. You should feel comfortable to work with your audiologist until you are satisfied.
WHAT ARE COMMON ISSUES SEEN WITH NEW HEARING AID WEARERS?
Hearing aids can feel uncomfortable. Some individuals may find a hearing aid to be slightly uncomfortable at first. Check with your audiologist how long you should wear your hearing aid while you are adjusting to it.
Your voice sounds too loud. The “plugged” sensation that causes a hearing aid user’s voice to sound louder inside the head is called the occlusion effect. It is very common for new hearing aid users. Check with your audiologist to see if a correction is possible. Most individuals get used to this effect over time.
Feedback issues from my hearing aid. A whistling sound can be caused by a hearing aid that does not fit or work well or is clogged by wax. See your audiologist for adjustments.
Hearing background noise. A hearing aid does not completely separate the sounds. Adjusting the hearing aid may needed. Talk with your audiologist.
Hearing a buzzing sound when using a phone. Some people who wear hearing aids experience problems with interference caused by mobile phones. Both hearing aids and mobile phones are improving, so these problems are occurring less often. When you are being fitted for a new hearing aid, take your phone with you to see if it will work well with the aid.
HOW CAN I CARE FOR MY HEARING AID?
Proper maintenance and care will extend the life of your hearing aid. Make it a habit to:
Keep hearing aids away from heat and moisture.
Clean hearing aids as instructed. Earwax and moisture can damage a hearing aid.
Turn off hearing aids when they are not in use
Keep replacement batteries and small aids away from children and pets.
CAN I OBTAIN FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FOR A HEARING AID?
Hearing aids are covered through the office of hearing services for pensioners - you can check with your audiologist of the http://www.hearingservices.gov.au/. Some aids to require a ‘top’ up payment.
Private health insurance and DVA also offers some financial contribution for hearing aid purchase - you institution and audiologist can advise further.
WHAT RESEARCH IS BEING DONE ON HEARING AIDS?
Researchers are looking at ways to apply new signal processing strategies to the design of hearing aids. Signal processing is the method used to modify normal sound waves into amplified sound that is the best possible match to the remaining hearing for a hearing aid user.
In addition, researchers are investigating the use of computer-aided technology to design and manufacture better hearing aids. Researchers also are seeking ways to improve sound transmission and to reduce noise interference, feedback, and the occlusion effect. Directional microphones hold great promise for making it easier for people to hear a single conversation, even when surrounded by other noises and voices.
WHERE CAN I FIND ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON HEARING AIDS?