If an audiologist has recently diagnosed you with hearing loss, you’re not alone. Hearing loss affects a significant number of Americans, so don’t be alarmed. With the help of ENT & Audiology’s Raleigh audiologists, you’ll be able to find the best solutions for your hearing loss.
If your audiologist confirms that your hearing problem stems from damaged hair cells found in the inner ear, you may have what is known as sensorial hearing loss, which is treated with hearing aids.
Why Do You Need Hearing Aids?
Hearing aids are small electronic devices worn inside or behind the ears, which consist of a microphone, speaker, and amplifier, and are useful for making sounds loud enough for the ears to hear clearly and the mind to comprehend in order for an individual to communicate effectively. Hearing aids also make it possible for people with hearing loss to hear clearly both in noisy and quiet environments.
As mentioned, hearing aids consist of three basic parts, each with a vital role to play.
i. Microphone – The microphone is what receives external sound. It then changes these sound waves into electrical signals before transferring them to the amplifier.
ii. Amplifier – Once the amplifier receives the electric signals, it multiplies the intensity of the signals accordingly.
iii. Speaker – The amplified sound is transferred to the ear through the speaker and once the remaining hair cells picks the sound, they convert them into neural signals which the brain is able to pick
The strength of a hearing aid amplification required by an individual is determined by the level of damage to the inner ear. However, there is a level at which even the largest amplification a pair of hearing aids can offer will not be of any assistance. In this case, your audiologist will make alternative recommendations e.g. having a cochlear implant.
Hearing Aid Styles
Hearing aids are classified into two major categories based on where they are worn.
- In-the-ear (ITE) Style Hearing Aids – These are designed to fit inside the outer ear and generally come with a hard plastic to house the hearing aid parts. They are ideal for mild to severe hearing loss complications with some having extra features such as a telecoli; a tiny magnet through which sound is received from the circuitry of the aid rather than through its microphone. They are good for telephone conversations and in places with induction loop systems.
- Behind-the-ear (BTE) Style Hearing Aids – BTEs on the hand are also designed with a hard plastic case that fits behind the ear. This case is attached to a plastic earmold which is what is fitted in the outer ear and transmits sound to the hair cells in the inner ear. These too are ideal for mild to severe hearing loss cases.
Types of Hearing Aids
In-the-ear (ITE) Style Hearing Aids
ITE style hearing aids include:
- In-the-canal Hearing Aids – these are placed on the lower side of the outer ear bowl. People prefer them because they are comfortable and do not block the ear canal.
- Invisible-in-the-canal (IIC) and Completely-in-the-canal (CIC) Hearing Aids – These happen to be the smallest in size and as their names suggest, are not meant to be visible.
- Low Profile Hearing Aids – unlike the IICs and CICs, the Low profile Hearing aids are for those who desire simple handling, therefore, they are slightly larger in size. They are designed to cover half or the entire outer ear bowl. A noteworthy advantage is that they can incorporate added features like volume controls and directional microphones.
Behind-the-ear (BTE) Style Hearing Aids
BTEs are more popular now than before because current hearing aids now come in a smaller size for those who prefer being discreet, which represents a significant percentage of people with hearing loss problems. Despite their size, they can still accommodate different features to suit specific hearing loss challenges.
- Mini BTEs – these come with a discreet ultra-slim tube to transmit sound into the ear.
- Receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) or Receive-in-the-canal (RIC) hearing aids – The most distinct feature about the RITEs and the RICs is the fact that their speakers are designed to fit into the ear tip placing them at a closer distance to the eardrum.
- BTEs with earmolds – these come with a longer shape and fits behind the entire outer ear. A distinctive advantage they have over the others is that they can accommodate more added features.
To ensure the best fit, here are some things to consider:
Generally, hearing aids will vary with the extent of the hearing loss. However, other factors will certainly come into play.
- Ease of handling
- Size Preference
- The additional accessories required
All in all, one needs to first get a recommendation from the doctor and then weigh the pros and cons of each option available before settling on what’s best for their specific needs.
How to Keep Your Hearing Aids in Good Condition
The most basic hearing aids maintenance practice is professional cleaning, you need to rid it of dust, moisture or wax using a soft dry cloth at least daily. Making regular appointments with your audiologist are also crucial to ensure your hearing aids are operating at the optimal levels.