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1) What is a hearing aid?
It is a small electronic device that you can wear in or behind your ear. A hearing aid makes some sounds louder so that a person who is suffering from hearing loss can listen, communicate, and participate more effectively in daily activities. With the help of hearing aids people can hear more in both quiet and noisy situations. But only about one out of five people who would benefit from a hearing aid actually uses one.
There are three basic parts of a hearing aid: a microphone, amplifier, and speaker. Hearing aids working process- it receives sound through a microphone, which converts the sound waves to electrical signals and sends them to an amplifier. The amplifier raise the power of the signals and then sends them to the ear through a speaker.
2) How can hearing aids help?
Hearing aids are generally useful in bettering the hearing and speech comprehension of people who is suffering from hearing loss that results from damage to the small sensory cells in the inner ear, called hair cells. This type of hearing loss is known as sensorineural hearing loss. The damage can occur due to many reasons such as disease, aging, or injury from noise or certain medicines. A hearing aid magnifies sound vibrations entering the ear. Surviving hair cells detect the larger vibrations and convert them into neural signals that are passed along to the brain. The greater the damage to a person’s hair cells, the more severe the hearing loss, and the greater the hearing aid amplification needed to make up the difference. However, there are practical limits to the amount of amplification a hearing aid can provide. In extreme cases like when the inner ear is too damaged, even large vibrations will not be converted into neural signals. In this situation, a hearing aid would be of no use.
3) How can I find out if I need a hearing aid?
If you think you might have hearing loss and could benefit from a hearing aid, visit to an audiologist or otolaryngologist. An otolaryngologist is a physician who specializes in ear, nose, and throat disorders and will investigate the cause of the hearing loss. An audiologist is a hearing health professional who diagnose and measures hearing loss and will perform a hearing test to evaluate the type and degree of loss.
4) Are there different styles of hearing aids?
Yes, there are three basic styles of hearing aids. These styles differ by size, their placement on or inside the ear, and the degree to which they amplify sound. These styles are explained as follows:
Behind-the-ear (BTE): These hearing aids consist of a hard plastic case worn behind the ear and connected to a plastic earmold that fits inside the outer ear. It’s electronic parts are held in the case behind the ear. Sound travels from the hearing aid through the ear mold and into the ear. BTE aids are used by people of any age group for mild to profound hearing loss.
A new kind of Behind-the-ear aid is an open-fit hearing aid. These are small, open-fit aids fit behind the ear completely, with only a narrow tube inserted into the ear canal, enabling the canal to remain open. Due to this reason, open-fit hearing aids are better choice for people who experience a buildup of earwax, although these type of aids are less likely to be damaged. In addition, some people may prefer the open-fit hearing aid because their perception of their voice does not sound plugged up.
In-the-ear (ITE): These hearing aids fit completely inside the outer ear and are used for gentle to severe hearing loss. The case holding the electronic components is made of hard plastic. Some ITE aids may have some additional features installed, such as a telecoil. A telecoil is a small magnetic coil that allows users to receive sound through the circuitry of the hearing aid, rather than through its microphone. This makes it easier to hear conversations over the telephone. A telecoil also helps people hear in public places that have installed special sound systems, called induction loop systems. Induction loop systems can be found in many churches, schools, airports, and auditoriums. ITE aids usually are not recommended for young children because the casings need to be replaced often as the ear grows.
Canal aids fit into the ear canal and are available in two styles. The in-the-canal (ITC) hearing aid is designed 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 styles of canal hearing aids are used for mild to moderately severe hearing loss.
Due to small size of canal aids cause difficultly for a person to adjust and remove. In addition, canal aids have less space available for batteries and additional devices, such as a telecoil. They generally are not recommended for young children or for people with severe to profound hearing loss because their reduced size limits their power and volume.
5) Do all hearing aids work the same way?
Hearing aids work differently depending on the electronics used. The two main types of electronics are analog and digital.
Analog aids convert sound waves into electrical signals, which are amplified. Analog/adjustable hearing aids are custom built to meet the needs of each user. The aid is programmed by the manufacturer according to the specifications recommended by your audiologist. Analog/programmable hearing aids have more than one program or setting. An audiologist can program the aid using a computer, and the user can change the program for different listening environments—from a small, quiet room to a crowded restaurant to large, open areas, such as a theater or stadium. Analog/programmable circuitry can be used in all types of hearing aids. Analog aids usually are less expensive than digital aids.
Digital aids convert sound waves into numerical codes, similar to the binary code of a computer, before amplifying them. Because the code also includes information about a sound’s pitch or loudness, the aid can be specially programmed to amplify some frequencies more than others. Digital circuitry gives an audiologist more flexibility in adjusting the aid to a user’s needs and to certain listening environments. These aids also can be programmed to focus on sounds coming from a specific direction. Digital circuitry can be used in all types of hearing aids.
6) Which hearing aid will work best for me?
The hearing aid that will work best for you depends on the kind and severity of your hearing loss. If you have a hearing loss in both of your ears, two hearing aids are generally recommended because two aids provide a more natural signal to the brain. Hearing in both ears also will help you understand speech and locate where the sound is coming from.
You and your audiologist should select a hearing aid that best suits your needs and lifestyle. Price is also a key consideration because hearing aids range from hundreds to several thousand dollars. Similar to other equipment purchases, style and features affect cost. However, don’t use price alone to determine the best hearing aid for you. Just because one hearing aid is more expensive than another does not necessarily mean that it will better suit your needs.
A hearing aid will not restore your normal hearing. With practice, however, a hearing aid will increase your awareness of sounds and their sources. You will want to wear your hearing aid regularly, so select one that is convenient and easy for you to use. Other features to consider include parts or services covered by the warranty, estimated schedule and costs for maintenance and repair, options and upgrade opportunities, and the hearing aid company’s reputation for quality and customer service.
7) 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 your hearing aid’s features. With your audiologist present, practice putting in and taking out the aid, cleaning it, identifying right and left aids, and replacing the batteries. Ask how to test it in listening environments where you have problems with hearing. Learn to adjust the aid’s volume and to program it for sounds that are too loud or too soft. Work with your audiologist until you are comfortable and satisfied.
You may experience some of the following problems as you adjust to wearing your new aid.
8) 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:
9) Are new types of aids available?
Although they work differently than the hearing aids described above, implantable hearing aids are designed to help increase the transmission of sound vibrations entering the inner ear. A middle ear implant (MEI) is a small device attached to one of the bones of the middle ear. Rather than amplifying the sound traveling to the eardrum, an MEI moves these bones directly. Both techniques have the net result of strengthening sound vibrations entering the inner ear so that they can be detected by individuals with sensorineural hearing loss.
A bone-anchored hearing aid (BAHA) is a small device that attaches to the bone behind the ear. The device transmits sound vibrations directly to the inner ear through the skull, bypassing the middle ear. BAHAs are generally used by individuals with middle ear problems or deafness in one ear. Because surgery is required to implant either of these devices, many hearing specialists feel that the benefits may not outweigh the risks.
10) 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. Additional studies focus on the best ways to select and fit hearing aids in children and other groups whose hearing ability is hard to test.