If you suffer from a hearing impairment like 21 million other Americans, you may consider buying a hearing aid. Before you do, determine whether a hearing aid will work for you and what to look for when shopping for one.
How does a hearing aid work?
A hearing aid is an electronic device with a small microphone to amplify weak sounds through a small speaker. You must have some ability to hear for the device to work. And because hearing loss affects people in different ways, you need to get the right device for you.
Why do people lose their hearing?
Medically, there are two major types of hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss involves the outer and middle ear. It usually results from a wax blockage, a punctured eardrum, birth defects, ear infections or it may be genetic. Conductive hearing loss generally can be corrected surgically.
Sensorineural, or nerve, hearing loss involves damage to the inner ear. It can be caused by aging, prenatal and birth-related problems, viral and bacterial infections, genetics, trauma (such as a severe blow to the head), exposure to loud noises, the use of certain drugs, fluid buildup or a benign tumor in the inner ear. Sensorineural hearing loss usually can't be repaired surgically; it's usually corrected with a hearing aid.
How can I tell whether I need a hearing aid?
Get an ear examination from a licensed physician. An examination will insure there are no underlying illnesses or medical problems associated with the hearing loss. Sometimes a hearing loss can be a symptom of a medical condition. As a result, you'll want to be wary of advertisements for hearing aids dismissing the need for an examination. In addition, don't feel pressured into buying a hearing aid. Ask for more information or a second opinion.
What are the different kinds of hearing aids?
There are several types of hearing aids. Each type offers different advantages, depending on its design, levels of amplification, and size.
There are four basic styles of hearing aids for people with sensorineural hearing loss…
1) In-the-Ear hearing aids fit completely in the outer ear and are used for mild to severe hearing loss.
2) Behind-the-Ear hearing aids are worn behind the ear and are connected to a plastic earmold that fits inside the outer ear. BTE aids are used by people of all ages for mild to profound hearing loss.
3) In-the-Canal (ITC) hearing aids are customized to fit the size and shape of the ear canal and are used for mild or moderately severe hearing loss. A Completely-in-Canal (CIC) hearing aid is largely concealed in the ear canal and is used for mild to moderately severe hearing loss.
Do all hearing aids work the same way?
The inside mechanisms of hearing aids vary among devices, even if they are the same style. Three types of circuitry, or electronics, are used…
1) Analog/Adjustable: The audiologist determines the volume and other specifications you need in your hearing aid, and then a laboratory builds the aid to meet those specifications.
2) Analog/Programmable: The audiologist uses a computer to program your hearing aid. The circuitry of analog/programmable hearing aids will accommodate more than one program or setting.
3) Digital/Programmable: The audiologist programs the hearing aid with a computer and can adjust the sound quality and response time on an individual basis. Digital circuitry provides the most flexibility for the audiologist to make adjustments for the hearing aid.
What can I expect from my hearing aids?
Hearing aids will not restore normal hearing or eliminate background noise. Adjusting to a hearing aid is a gradual process that involves learning to listen in a variety of environments and becoming accustomed to hearing different sounds. Try to become familiar with hearing aids under nonstressful circumstances a few hours at a time.
For more information, contact Welborn Clinic’s Audiology Department at 426-9371 or log onto www.welbornclinic.com.