What is a hearing aid?
Hearing aids are small electronic devices that you select with the help of your hearing professional. They are worn in or behind your ear. They amplify sound so that a person with hearing loss can listen, communicate, and participate more fully in daily activities. Hearing aids can help people hear better in both quiet and noisy situations. However, only about one out of five people who would benefit from a hearing aid actually use one.
A hearing aid has three basic parts: the microphone, amplifier and receiver (speaker). The hearing aid receives sound through the microphone, which converts the sound waves to electrical signals and sends them to the amplifier. The amplifier increases the power of the signals and then sends them to the ear through the receiver.
How can hearing aids help?
How can I find out if I need a hearing aid?
Do all hearing aids work the same way?
Analog aids convert soundwaves into electrical signals, which are then amplified. Analog devices can be adjusted or programmed to meet the needs of each user. This is done by your hearing professional. The use of analog processing in hearing aids is virtually extinct today.
Digital aids convert soundwaves 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 a hearing professional 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.
Which hearing aid will work best for me?
You and your hearing professional should work together to select a hearing aid that best suits your lifestyle and needs, and that also fits your budget. Style and features can affect cost and the most expensive hearing aid may not always be the best suited device for you.
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.
What questions should I ask before buying a hearing aid?
- What features would be most useful to me?
- What is the total cost of the hearing aid?
- Is there a trial period to test the hearing aids?
- What fees are nonrefundable if the aids are returned after the trial period?
- How long is the warranty?
- Can the warranty be extended?
- Will loaner aids be provided when repairs are needed?
- What instruction and services will the hearing professional provide?
How can I adjust to my hearing aid?
Become familiar with your hearing aid’s features. Work with your hearing professional until you are comfortable and satisfied
How can I care for my hearing aid?
- Keep hearing aids away from heat and moisture.
- Clean hearing aids as instructed. Earwax and ear drainage can damage a hearing aid.
- Avoid using hairspray or other hair care products while wearing hearing aids.
- Turn off hearing aids when they are not in use.
- Replace dead batteries immediately.
Are new types of aids available?
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.
Can I obtain financial assistance for a hearing aid?
Medicare does not cover hearing aids for adults. However, diagnostic evaluations are covered if they are ordered by a physician for the purpose of assisting the physician in developing a treatment plan.
What research is being done on hearing aids?
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.
Another promising research focus is to use lessons learned from animal models to design better microphones for hearing aids. NIDCD-supported scientists are studying the tiny fly Ormia ochracea because its ear structure allows the fly to determine the source of a sound easily. Scientists are using the fly’s ear structure as a model for designing miniature directional microphones for hearing aids. These microphones amplify the sound coming from a particular direction (usually the direction a person is facing), but not the sounds that arrive from other directions. Directional microphones hold great promise for making it easier for people to hear a single conversation, even when surrounded by other noises and voices.
What is the difference between an Audiologist and a Hearing Instrument Dispenser?
Audiologists are not the only people allowed by law to dispense hearing aids. The hearing aid specialist (also know as a hearing aid dispenser) is licensed to perform basic hearing tests for the purpose of selling and servicing hearing aids and related products. This individual has a minimum of an associate’s degree (in whichever major they chose) that includes four hearing-related classes.
How do I know if I have hearing loss?
You may have hearing loss if…
- You hear people speaking but you have to strain to understand their words.
- You frequently ask people to repeat what they said.
- You don’t laugh at jokes because you miss too much of the story or the punch line.
- You frequently complain that people mumble.
- You need to ask others about the details of a meeting you just attended.
- You play the TV or radio louder than your friends, spouse and relatives.
- You cannot hear the doorbell or the telephone.
- You find that looking at people when they speak to you makes it easier to understand.
Why should I get two hearing aids?
Localization (knowing where the sound came from) is only possible with two ears. Localization is not just a sound quality issue; it may also be a safety issue. Think about how important it is to know where warning and safety sounds (sirens, screams, babies crying, etc) are coming from. Using both ears together also impacts how well you hear in noise because binaural hearing permits you to selectively attend to the desired signal, while “squelching” or paying less attention to undesired sounds such as background noise.
People cannot hear well using only one ear. There are studies in the research literature which show children with one normal ear and one “deaf” ear are ten times more likely to repeat a grade as compared to children with two normally hearing ears. Additionally, we know that if you have two ears with hearing impairment, and you wear only one hearing aid, the unaided ear is likely to lose word understanding ability more quickly than the ear wearing the hearing aid.
Binaural hearing allows a quality of “spaciousness” or “high fidelity” to sounds, which cannot occur with monaural (one ear) listening. Understanding speech clearly, particularly in challenging and noisy situations, is easier while using both ears. Additionally, using two hearing aids allows people to speak with you from either side of your head – not just your “good” side!