Hearing loss is a serious ailment that can have a negative impact on anyone’s life and personality. It can affect professional life, relationships, and emotional and psychological well-being.
However, the good news is that there are hearing aids that can effectively address the problem. Of course, this requires you to select the right hearing aid. You will also need some time and adjustments to become used to it.
What is a hearing aid?
A hearing aid is an electronic device, small in size and powered by the battery.
It’s based on acoustics engineering and it improves hearing by amplifying the sound. These aids seem to be working just fine both in noisy and quiet ambiance.
The technology involved in the working of a hearing aid is simple and can be explained in the following 3 steps:
- It contains a microphone that picks up the sound from the wearer’s surroundings
- It contains an amplifier that amplifies the sound
- It contains a receiver that transmits the amplified sound elements into the ear
Who can benefit?
There are different reasons for hearing loss and not all hearing loss problems can be solved by wearing hearing aids. Statistics say only 20% of all hearing loss cases can be resolved by wearing a hearing aid. The rest 80% would require other medical remedies.
Hearing aids are effective in those cases where the problem is localized in the inner ear. In cases the link between the nerve and the brain is impaired. In both these cases, hearing aids can be effective.
These conditions are caused by ageing, disease, too loud noises, and wrong medications.
Who may not benefit?
Many of the hearing loss instances are due to problems in the middle ear, eardrum, and ear canal. These cases are termed conductive hearing loss and treated with more invasive medical intervention such as a surgery. But these medical interventions may not be right for everyone. The general rule of thumb is if your external ear and ear canal are normal, the hearing aids will help you.
In some cases, people are born with ear defects. These could include an absence of the ear canal or the external ear. This implies that the ordinary hearing aid cannot be used by these people. For such cases of hearing loss, a special device is used. It tries to solve the problem by sending amplified sound waves with the help of skull bones into the inner ear.
Types of hearing Aids
The components and features are largely similar across different hearing aids available on the market. They include a microphone, an amplifier, a loudspeaker, and batteries to power these electronic parts.
However, you can find many types of hearing aids on the market in a wide range of price brackets and features ranging from basic to premium. The difference mainly lies in Design, Technology, and Distinctive Features. For example, the acoustics engineering has developed a great deal over the years, and now we have amplifiers that completely cancel the ambiance noise such as the headphones provided in the flight. Despite so much noise, you are able to listen to your favorite music without any trace of surrounding noise. These technologies and products are quite expensive.
Similarly, the amplifier in the hearing aid devices analog or digital variations and that will have a significant bearing on the quality of sound and the prices of the device.
Some kinds of hearing aids have earpieces that direct the sound waves into the air to improve the sound quality.
There are different styles of hearing aids available in the market. And these are:
BTE hearing aids
Behind-the-ear or BTE hearing aids are placed on the rear side of the ear. Most of the electronic parts of the device are encased in a plastic body. An earpiece of clear tube is connected to the device that takes the sound into the ear. This kind of hearing aid is best for children who need different sizes of earmold as they grow. These devices are sturdy, and easy to clean and handle.
This kind of hearing aid can be placed both on the ear and behind the ear. This is relatively smaller and a thin and almost invisible tube connects the earpiece. The earpiece in the Mini BTEs is in comfortable-fit designs. But they can also come in the traditional earmold model. Mini BTEs have superior design and technology that ensures there is little ?plugged up’ feeling or occlusion in the ear canal. The result is an increased level of comfort and more aesthetic and cosmetics value.
This kind of hearing aid fits into the outer part of the ear. In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids are larger in size and completely cover the outer ear. This can be easier to handle than smaller aids for some people.
This variety of hearing aids is very small in size and sits right into the ear canal opening, covering it completely. These in-the-canal (ITC) aids contain tiny hearing aid cases in a CIC design with a completelyin-the-canal fit. This is the smallest size of hearing aids available and has significant cosmetics as well as listening advantages. Since it is so small, it’s difficult for children to handle it. People take time to adjust to it.
Analog & digital hearing aids?
Analog hearing aids amplify all the sounds that it receives. This means it makes the sound louder both noise and speech without making a distinction. Some of these Analog devices have microchips with programmable features that allow you to choose from a list of settings for different noise profiles or listening environments. For example, you can have different sound settings for the library, restaurant, and a soccer field. The microchip based analog hearing aids can feature many different sound settings for different environments.
The sound settings can be changed by a button that’s fixed on the device for this purpose. However, this kind of hearing aid device is becoming less popular now.
Digital hearing aids send digital sound bytes into the ear rather than ordinary sound waves. They have all the features and qualities of the analog hearing aids including the option to program it for different sound profiles and listening environments. Digital hearing devices are equipped with fast processing computer chips that can analyze the sound it receives and make a distinction between the speech and noise. The processing of the sound is intensive and complex during the process of amplifying the sound. The result is all unnecessary sounds such as those emanating from the environment are detected and cancelled.
Digital hearing devices offer more flexibility and options in programming that makes it possible to create somewhat customized hearing aid solutions for individual needs of hearing losses. A digital device can store a huge number of programs so there are options for sound settings compared to analog devices. Because of these reasons, digital hearings aids are more popular.
As hearing aids have become much smarter with computer chips and memories built-in to the devices, the possibilities to enhance the features have become proportionately so much more. As a result, hearing aid devices are available with special and optional features that can offer solutions for different communication needs.
Your digital hearing device may have a directional micron phone feature that will amplify the sound coming from a particular direction it is supposed to pick the sound from.
T-coil is a telephone switch that allows you to hear better on the telephone by switching from microphone setting to ?T-coil’ setting. All the new wired phones are supposed to be compatible with hearing aids. In this setting, all the environment noise is cancelled and the microphone of your hearing device is switched off so that it does not catch the sound you make and send back into your ears as you speak with somebody.
You can also expect special features in your hearing aid devices such as direct audio plug-in option for remote microphone, TV, FM radios, computer, etc.
More advanced varieties of hearing aids can find solutions for any specific hearing loss problems. These features may also provide solutions for specific listening needs. But as you try to get more enhanced features in your device, the cost will also surge along with it.
How to know what you need?
The first step should be to consult an ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat) doctor and seek his advice for your problem. He is a specialist who can diagnose the severity and causes of the hearing loss. It may involve some tests and a session with the audiologist. Finally, the doctor may either give you a hearing aid from his stock if he maintains it or he may advise you to buy one from the market for which he would provide all the specifications. If you have hearing loss problems in both the ears, your doctor would advise you to wear the aids in both the ears.
Hearing loss is a serious problem that can affect one’s self-esteem apart from hurting his professional and personal life. However, the problem can be solved to a great extent by wearing suitable hearing aids. The good news is that there are wonderful products out there in the market and they seem to offer perfect solutions to all the problems relating to hearing loss.