On popular demand I am back with some technical details around hearing Aids.
As we discussed in my last blog ‘Hearing machines and the dilemma’, hearing loss can have a big impact on your life, be it your work, your relationships to even your emotional well-being. Hearing aids can make a big difference, especially if you pick the right ones and get them adjusted. But it can be an overwhelming process as we have a lot of options and a lot of factors to be considered.
What are hearing Aids and how do they really help?
A hearing aid is a battery-powered electronic device designed to improve your hearing. Small enough to wear in or behind your ear, they make some sounds louder. They simply help you hear better when it's quiet and when it's noisy. Here’s how they work:
A microphone picks up sound around you.
An amplifier makes the sound louder.
A receiver sends these amplified sounds into your ear.
You might be surprised to know that not everyone with hearing loss can benefit from hearing aids. Only 1 in 5 people are actually able to have improved hearing wear them. Most of the time, they’re for people who have damaged their inner ear or the nerve that links the ear with the brain. The damage can be due to:
• Loud noises
If you have hearing loss in both ears, it’s probably best to wear two hearing aids.
Types and Styles of Hearing Aids
I would highly recommend you to work with an audiologist to figure out which kind of hearing aid will work best for you, as well as any special features you might need. As the right device for you depends on multiple factors, like:
The type of hearing loss you have and how severe it is
How well you can manage small devices
Cost. The devices vary greatly in price, from hundreds to thousands of dollars/rupees.
There are two main types of hearing aids:
Analog hearing aids convert sound waves into electrical signals and then make them louder. They’re usually less expensive and have simple volume controls.
Digital hearing aids convert sound waves into numerical codes similar to computer codes, then amplify them. The code includes information about the direction of a sound and its pitch or volume. That makes it easier to adjust the sound to what you need, whether you’re in a restaurant, a quiet room, or a stadium. Most will adjust automatically. Although this type costs more than an analog hearing aid, the results are much better. They’re also smaller and more powerful.
There are three main styles of hearing aids. They differ in size, placement in or on the ear, and how well they make sound louder:
Canal hearing aids fit inside your ear and are harder to see.
An invisible-in-canal (IIC) aid is nearly impossible for others to see. You may put it in every day, or it may be a device you wear for several months at a time.
An in-the-canal (ITC) hearing aid fits your specific ear canal.
Either type can help mild to moderately severe hearing loss. But because of their size, they can be harder to adjust and remove. This style of hearing aid isn’t ideal for children or adults who might have problems with very small devices.
In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids fit completely inside your outer ear. They have a hard plastic case that holds the electronics. They’re best for people with mild to severe hearing loss, but they don’t work as well for children whose ears are still growing.
Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids sit in a hard plastic case behind your ear. A plastic ear mold fits inside the outer ear and directs sound to the ear. BTEs can work for mild to severe hearing loss, but they aren't for everyone.
Receiver-in-canal (RIC) and receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) styles both have a behind-the-ear component that connects to a receiver in the ear or ear canal with a tiny wire. These allow low-frequency sounds to enter the ear naturally and high-frequency sounds to be amplified through the hearing aid. RIC and RITE may be a good choice for people with mild to profound hearing loss.
Be sure to ask if the device you choose has any special features you want. Not all hearing aids have the same ones.
Adjusting to Hearing Aids
It's important to understand that your hearing aid can’t make your hearing what it used to be. But as you use it, you’ll become more aware of sounds and where they are coming from.
When you first get your hearing aids, be patient. It may take some time to get used to them. In most states, you are allowed a trial period after you buy a device. Then, if yours doesn't work out for you, you may get a partial refund and be able to try a different type that works better for you. Also ask about warranty coverage.
Take time to learn how your hearing aids work and insist on a good fit. Work closely with your audiologist to avoid problems such as:
Echo-like sounds from your voice
Feedback or a whistling sound
Buzzing with cell phone use
It may help to start wearing your hearing aids in quiet areas and to keep a diary about how you feel.
Caring for Your Hearing Aid
Your hearing aids will last much longer if you take good care of them. Some tips to keep in mind:
Keep them away from heat, moisture, hair care products, children, and pets.
Clean them as directed.
Turn off your devices when you are not using them.
Replace dead batteries right away.
Hearing aid batteries may last from several days to a couple of weeks. Battery life depends on the battery type, hearing aid power requirements, and how often you use it.
In general, hearing aids can last for 3 to 6 years. You may need a new one sooner if your hearing loss gets worse. Behind-the-ear hearing aids give you more flexibility since they can be programmed for a wider range of hearing loss.
Considering we are living in the digital age and we are constantly innovating in every field, hearing aids too are getting stronger and better every few years. And this often prompts people to upgrade their devices.
Once again I’ll sign off by saying next time you feel someone is having a tough time hearing and understanding language, do send them to an ENT specialist and audiologist to look into their problem and their ears 😊