Hearing loss affects more than 30 million Americans, which amounts to more than 10 percent of the population. Not being able to hear well can have a big impact on your personal, social, and professional life. If a noticeable decrease in the ability to hear and comprehend is affecting your quality of life, it’s time to learn more about your options regarding hearing loss treatment with hearing aids.
Why Might You Need a Hearing Aid?
Before discussing hearing loss treatment with hearing aids, let’s focus on why you might need a hearing aid in the first place. Unless there is an injury involved, hearing loss tends to be a gradual process. With this type of hearing impairment, you may not even realize your hearing capabilities are diminishing until friends and family members make comments. For instance, you may find yourself being asked to turn down the TV when you can barely hear it. You may also benefit from a hearing aid under the following circumstances:
• You have trouble hearing higher-pitched tones
• You have difficulty clearly hearing conversations in crowded or outdoor environments
• Your daily life is being affected because of your inability to hear clearly
Could You Benefit from a Hearing Aid?
Not all possible sources of hearing impairment are correctable with hearing aids. In some instances, there are other treatments that may restore your hearing capabilities. Other times, you may have a type of hearing loss that requires surgical implants or repairs made to inner ear structures. Exposure to loud sounds or age-related changes within your ears may also damage tiny hairs that transmit sound information to your brain.
It’s also possible to develop impaired hearing because of meningitis or other illnesses. Certain medications can also contribute to hearing problems. Because of the many possible contributing factors that could affect the ability to hear, it’s important to narrow down a likely source of your hearing impairment before making any recommendations for treatments. A further assessment of your hearing may involve:
• Tuning fork tests
• Audiometer tests – e.g., wearing earphones and identifying various tones, sounds, and words
• A physical exam of the affected ear to look for earwax buildup or other blockages
How Do Hearing Aids Work?
If it’s determined that your hearing loss is due to inner ear damage, you may be considered a good candidate for hearing loss treatment with hearing aids. These devices work by using the same basic components that transmit sound from your external environment into your ear. Hearing aids do not reverse hearing loss. What they do is amplify the sounds in your environment so you can hear the sounds you were previously having difficulty detecting.
Most hearing aids available today are digital, which makes it easier to make appropriate adjustments as necessary. All devices of this nature work with a special type of battery known as a hearing aid battery. Small microphones collect external sounds. A computer chip within the device then converts the sounds to a digital code. After these sounds are analyzed, the sound level is adjusted based on your specific level and type of hearing loss. The amplified signals are converted to sound waves again and delivered via specially sized speakers to your ears. Hearing loss treatment with hearing aids also involves a consideration of factors such as:
• Your unique listening needs
• Your general lifestyle
• Any ear abnormalities that are affecting your hearing abilities
What are Your Options with Hearing Aids?
All hearing aids come with the same basic parts. However, there are many different styles available for your consideration. This is why another important part of hearing loss treatment with hearing aids involves selecting a style that’s right for you. Open fit models are especially popular today because of the many features that can be included with this design.
Some people do like smaller designs. But smaller is not always better for some hearing aid wearers. If you need a device with more power, you may benefit from a larger design. However, even larger styles can be worn discreetly.
As the name implies, completely-in-canal (CIC) hearing aids are designed to fit within your ear canal. CIC devices are recommended for individuals with mild to moderate hearing loss. CIC hearing aids are also the smallest devices available. They are also the least visible style. You’re not going to get extra features like a directional microphone. However, some appealing CIC characteristics include:
• Fewer instances of issues with wind noise
• Some models are practically invisible
• A more natural feel
With an in-the-canal style, a small part of the device is visible in the outer ear. ITC hearing aids are custom molded, which means they’ll conform to your ear’s shape perfectly. This style is commonly recommended for adults with mild to mildly severe hearing loss. You’ll also be able to enjoy some added features that aren’t available with CIC styles.
If it’s determined that you have a mild to severe hearing impairment, you may benefit from hearing loss treatment with in-the-ear devices. These hearing assistance devices can be custom made in two different styles. One type of ITE hearing aid fills most of the bowl-shaped part of your outer ear. This is called a full shell design. The other type of ITE style is called a half shell, which means it only fills the lower part of your outer ear. Some hearing aid wearers prefer ITE styles for the following reasons:
• They are easier to adjust
• Some models have added features such as volume control
• Longer-life batteries can be used
• Some users find them easier to handle
This is the style most people think of when hearing aids are mentioned. A BTE style hearing device hooks over the top of your ear while resting behind your ear. The hearing aid is then linked to a custom earpiece (“ear mold”) in your ear canal via a tube. It’s generally considered appropriate for individuals with moderate to severe hearing loss. While some people consider BTE models clunky, newer models are designed to be more discreet. Other appealing behind-the-ear features include:
• Easy-to-use dials or buttons
• Better amplification capabilities
• Easier to take in and out
Receiver-In-Canal (RIC) Hearing Aids
Some people have hearing loss that’s limited to a single ear. If this is what you are living with, you may benefit from a receiver-in-canal hearing aid. RIC styles are unique in that they allow you to amplify sounds in the ear that’s weaker by using the stronger ear.
Specialty Hearing Aids
Some hearing aids are designed with special features or for very specific sources of hearing impairment. One example is a tinnitus hearing aid. Devices like this are designed to provide relief for individuals with persistent internal ear noises that may include ringing, humming, or buzzing.
Hearing and activity tracking hearing aids are especially appealing if you are fairly active and you want to track your activity level and your hearing health at the same time. These models come with a special hearing app that allows you to monitor your physical health and your brain health via an app. Features also improve transitions between different environments, like when you go from an outdoor location to an indoor one.
If you are really concerned about not letting others know you are wearing a hearing aid, there are models designed to be completely invisible. It’s an in-the-canal style that’s custom made and completely invisible when being worn.
Open-Fit Hearing Aids
An open-fit style is a variation a BTE style. The main characteristic associated with open-fit models is a thin tube that allows the ear canal to remain open and unobstructed. What this does is allow lower-frequency sounds to naturally enter your ear. The higher-frequency sounds that people with hearing loss often have a difficult time hearing are amplified by the hearing aid. If you have mild to moderate hearing loss, you may appreciate an open-fit style for a number of reasons.
Customizing and Preparing Your Hearing Aid
The next step with hearing loss treatment with hearing aids is to customize your hearing enhancement solution. Your hearing aid tests will be used to produce an audiogram. This is an assessment of your type of hearing loss and the degree of hearing impairment you are experiencing. This information will be used to help you choose a style that’s appropriate for you.
After you’ve selected a style, an impression of your ear canal will be taken so your hearing aid can be custom made. If you’ll need a hearing aid in each ear, an impression of both ears will be taken to ensure that you’ll be getting the right fit for each ear.
Getting Used to Your Hearing Aids
Once your hearing aids are in your ears, you’ll likely find yourself hearing sounds in ways you haven’t heard them in a long time. You may even feel like everything is too loud at first. This is perfectly normal since your brain is adjusting to being able to clearly interpret sounds again.
It will take some time to adjust to one or two hearing aids. Some people are able to do this within days or weeks, while other individuals need months to fully get used to their devices. In order to help you get used to life with a hearing aid, you may be given a wearing schedule.
Thanks to advances in how hearing aids are made and designed, you have a wide range of choices, which means you do not have to live with hearing loss. To see what options are available to you, come in for an appointment at Regional ENT Associates, located in Gallatin and Lebanon. Contact us today to book a consultation!