Hearing is often taken for granted. You may not truly appreciate how complex and wonderful it is that your brain can perceive and interpret vibrations and understand them as sounds. Sometimes, due to accidents, aging, poor ear-care habits, and other factors, you may have a hearing impairment, hearing loss, or deafness. Hearing aids help you hear better when you have hearing loss or impaired hearing.
Hearing loss, deafness, or impaired hearing is used to define a situation where you are partially or totally unable to hear sounds. You may notice that you have problems understanding speech, especially when you are in areas with a lot of background noise. In such scenarios, you will benefit tremendously from hearing aids.
If you are severely deaf and are forced to read lips to communicate effectively, hearing aids may not be of much help for you.
You should be able to differentiate between the different classes of hearing loss. Hearing loss is when you have a reduced ability to hear sounds with the same sharpness as others.
Deafness is when you cannot understand speech via hearing, even when the volume (sound) is amplified. There is also profound deafness where you cannot detect any sound at all.
The pinna usually collects sound waves. The waves move down the auditory canal, hit the tympanic membrane (eardrum), and cause it to vibrate. The vibrations are picked by the ossicles in the middle ear, amplified, and then transported to the inner ear. The inner ear has small hair-like cells that convert the vibrations to nervous impulses that the brain can interpret.
There are three primary types of hearing loss, namely:
In conductive hearing loss, vibrations are not passing through the outer ear to the inner ear. There are dysfunctions in the inner ear, the auditory nerve, or brain damage in sensorineural hearing loss. Mixed hearing loss is a combination of the two.
A hearing aid is battery-powered and is designed to improve your hearing. A hearing aid is designed to be tiny enough to fit around your ear or inside your ear and make some sounds louder. Hearing aids have three parts that are:
From this explanation, you can notice that whereas a hearing aid may be effective for conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss may require other corrective methods. Sensorineural hearing loss may require surgery or other corrective methods, as discussed with your doctor.
To get a hearing aid, you may be required to visit an ear, nose, and throat surgeon. The ENT surgeon will evaluate your hearing loss and can treat your hearing loss. An audiologist will also be well placed to diagnose a hearing aid for you.
It would be best if you avoided mail-order hearing aids since this may not be well-fitting and may not improve your hearing loss. You should also consider getting two hearing aids if you have hearing loss in both ears.
The right device for you will depend on:
There are two main types of hearing aids, namely:
Analog hearing aids convert sound waves to electrical signals and amplify them. The analog hearing aids are cheaper and have a simple volume control mechanism.
Digital hearing aids convert sound to numerical code and amplify it. The code contains information about the direction of a sound, its volume, and pitch. These hearing aids make it easier to selectively modulate the sounds you want to be amplified while keeping out background noise.
Most digital hearing aids will adjust these sounds automatically. Though a bit more expensive, digital hearing aids are smaller, powerful, and provide better results.
Hearing aids are styled in 3 main ways, each differing in size, where they are placed, and the clarity of the sound. These include:
The canal hearing aids fit into the ear canal and are difficult to see. There are two types: an in-the-canal (ITC) hearing aid and a completely-in-canal (CIC) hearing aid.
An ITC is designed to fit your specific ear canal, while a CIC is tinnier and may be nearly hidden inside your ear canal.
Both the ITC and CIC are effective for mild and moderate hearing loss but may be difficult to adjust and remove due to size limitations. The ITC and CIC may be inappropriate for children or adults with problems dealing with tiny devices.
ITE hearing aids fit perfectly on your outer ear and often have a hard plastic covering the electronics. ITE hearing aids are helpful for mild and moderate hearing loss but may be inappropriate for kids with growing ears.
BTE hearing aids are housed in a hard plastic cover behind your ear. BTE aids have a plastic ear mold fitting inside the outer ear and directing sound into your ear.
You may also find a mini BTE aid that fits perfectly behind your ear. Mini BTE hearing aids have a small narrow tube that is directed into the ear canal.
Mini BTE hearing aids are much more advantageous since they do not have ear wax building up around them. The latter makes voices clearer. Mini BTE aids are not for everyone, but they help with mild to severe hearing loss.
Both the RIC and RITE have a behind-the-ear component connected to a receiver on the ear or in the ear canal. These models allow low-frequency sounds to enter the ear naturally while high-frequency sounds are amplified via the hearing aid.
RIC and RITE hearing aids are appropriate for you if you have mild to profound hearing loss.
While there are numerous hearing aid brands out there, you may choose certain brands that work for you such as: