A Primer On Hearing Aids
Introduction to hearing aids
If you think you may have
a hearing loss, you are not alone. According to the Hearing
Alliance of America, more than 28 million people in the US have
a significant loss of hearing. Hearing loss is the third leading
disability following arthritis and hypertension. Even with the
high numbers of individuals with hearing loss, only about 1 million
hearing aids are sold a year. This is an indication that the
hearing health-care industry has been lax on its job of educating
consumers on hearing loss and the improved technology of hearing
aids. Over the past few years, tremendous advancements have been
made in hearing instrument technology. We are now able to offer
a superb level of sound quality in tiny instruments, practically
invisible to most observers.
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What will hearing aids do for me?
aids will not restore normal hearing. The ear is just too complex
to imitate. But, hearing aids can increase awareness to sounds and their
sources. This is extremely important because communication cannot happen
if you are not even aware that someone is attempting to communicate with
you. Hearing aids can make most speech available at a comfortable volume
based on your specific hearing loss. Keep in mind that the brain is the
processor of speech. It is not realistic to expect the hearing aids to
restore speech understanding as soon as you put them in your ears. It
may take a few weeks to adjust and benefit from this introduction of sound.
Hearing aids keep the brain active in the processing of sounds. Hearing
aids also decrease stress levels and simply make communication easier.
Hearing aids have limitations.
As mentioned before, they will not restore normal hearing. Hearing
aids will not "cut
noise. They can be adjusted to lessen the effects of background
noise but a complete extraction of background noise is not possible.
Many times background noise is other people's speech. One cannot
get a device to "cut out" the exact same signal that it is made
to amplify- speech. A hearing aid will increase awareness to
sounds, including sounds you may not want to hear. For example,
many people with a hearing loss forget that footsteps have a
sound, the refrigerator has a motor, and computers have fans.
Hearing aids re-introduce these sounds to the impaired ear and
the brain has to adjust to this addition. Eventually the brain
should get to the point where it realizes what these sounds are,
and that they can be ignored.
Finally, hearing aids will not
provide benefit if they are sitting in a drawer. They must be
worn regularly, daily. It takes commitment and a positive attitude
to reap benefits from hearing aids. With today's technology and
a good professional to assist you in adjustments, there is no
reason why a hearing aid should end up in a drawer.
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Choosing a hearing
not one particular hearing aid that is the best on the market
and will be appropriate for every hearing loss. Selecting a hearing aid
depends upon personal preference along with degree and shape of hearing
loss. You may have heard stories about other people's experience with
hearing aids. Let me warn you that every hearing loss is different and
everyone's listening needs are different. You may have previous experience
with a company that can influence your decision. Almost every hearing
aid company is moving towards a programmable and digital line
with slightly different sound processing strategies, but the outcome is
usually similar: a circuit that amplifies clearly.
There are two main decisions to make in purchasing
a hearing aid: size and circuit. Hearing aids come in different
sizes. These sizes range from the larger behind-the-ear
hearing aid to the smallest completely-in-the-canal
hearing aid, which generally
cannot be seen. A hearing health-care professional (licensed and certified
1. audiologist or 2. hearing instrument specialist) can help you decide
which size will provide the best benefit for your particular hearing loss.
(The smallest hearing aids are not for severe and profound hearing losses
due to their limitations in power/volume).
From left to right:
a new hearing aid, the main cost factor is the circuit. Circuit
options include: digital circuits, analog programmable circuits,
and analog conventional circuits. Both digital and programmable hearing
instruments offer flexibility in the fitting process of the hearing aids
because the instruments are actually programmed in the office of your
chosen professional. This listening program can be adjusted based on what
the wearer likes/dislikes and based on the changes in your hearing loss.
You do not have to adjust volume on these two circuits; it is done automatically.
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The basics of hearing
Conventional hearing aids increase the volume of all incoming
sound with some minor adjustments possible, has user-adjusted
volume control, adds some noise and distortion to the signal you hear
through the aid, analog signal, sometimes makes loud sounds too loud and
soft sounds not loud enough, cannot change listening program based on
your likes/dislikes or changes in your hearing.
Programmable hearing aids are programmed in professional's
office with some flexibility in adjustments based on your likes/dislikes
or changes in hearing, is analog signal, a little distortion
and noise with amplification, automatic volume control, soft
sounds are treated differently than loud sounds.
Digital hearing aids are today's most advanced
technology available to consumers in hearing instruments, programmed
in professional's office with the most flexibility in adjustments based
on your likes/dislikes or changes in hearing, digital signal which is
clearer and free from distortion, automatic volume control, treats soft
sounds differently than loud sounds, brings you clarity instead of loudness.
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Two ears or one
you have a hearing loss in both of
your ears, two hearing aids are recommended. This provides
a more natural signal to the brain: normal hearing is with two
ears. Equal hearing in both ears helps with understanding speech
and locating the source of sound. When one ear is amplified and the other
with a hearing loss is not, causing unequal hearing, the task of localizing
(finding sound source) is difficult. An example of the importance
of localizing is as follows: when crossing the street you may hear a car
horn and it is imperative to locate the source and direction of the sound.
Also, if you have a hearing loss in both ears but have only one
hearing aid, you will have to constantly turn your "good" ear
to the speaker.
Can you put a price on your hearing? Hearing aids can be
expensive. The price depends upon the size of the device and
the circuitry. The price covers the research and development from the
manufacturer; time spent with the professional during the fitting and
adjustments; and an insurance policy that specifies warranty along with
loss and damage coverage. Successful users of hearing aids usually
wear their instruments every single day from the time they wake
up until they get ready for bed at night. Hearing aids can last several
years if cared for appropriately. If you consider several years of use
on a daily basis, the price of the hearing instrument is usually
minimal compared to the great advantages of hearing.
In conclusion, it is important
to make educated decisions concerning hearing loss and hearing
aids. Hearing aids can offer significant benefits to those with hearing
loss, more benefits now than ever. You can find out information on hearing
aids by searching the web or consulting with your local professional.
about hearing aids