Have you recently been diagnosed with hearing loss in Louisville? If so, you’re likely to benefit from hearing aids. New users are bound to have lots of questions about these devices. Don’t worry – we’ve got answers!
The following FAQs are ones your Louisville audiologist encounters most often.
WHAT IS A HEARING AID?
A hearing aid is a small electronic device worn in or behind your ear. It makes some sounds louder so a person with hearing loss can listen, communicate and participate more fully in daily activities. A hearing aid can help people hear more in both quiet and noisy situations. However, only about one out of five people who would benefit from a hearing aid actually uses one.
A hearing aid has three basic parts: a microphone, amplifier and speaker. The hearing aid receives sound through a microphone, which converts the sound waves to electrical signals and sends them to an amplifier. The amplifier increases the power of the signals and then sends them to the ear through a speaker.
HOW CAN HEARING AIDS HELP?
Hearing aids are primarily useful in improving the hearing and speech comprehension of people who have hearing loss that results from damage to small sensory hair cells in the inner ear. This type of hearing loss is called sensorineural hearing loss. Damage can occur as a result of disease, aging or injury from noise or certain medicines.
A hearing aid magnifies sound vibrations entering the ear. Surviving hair cells detect the larger vibrations and convert them into neural signals that are passed along to the brain. The greater the damage to a person’s hair cells, the more severe the hearing loss and the greater the hearing aid amplification needed to make up the difference. However, there are practical limits to the amount of amplification a hearing aid can provide. If the inner ear is too damaged, even large vibrations will not be converted into neural signals. In this situation, a hearing aid would be ineffective.
HOW CAN I FIND OUT IF I NEED A HEARING AID?
If you think you might have hearing loss and could benefit from a hearing aid, visit your Louisville audiologist, who may refer you to an otolaryngologist. An audiologist is a hearing health professional who identifies and measures hearing loss and will perform a hearing test to assess your type and degree of loss.
ARE THERE DIFFERENT STYLES OF HEARING AIDS?
There are three basic styles of hearing aids. They differ by size, their placement on or inside the ear and the degree to which they amplify sound.
- Behind-the-Ear (BTE) hearing aids consist of a hard plastic case worn behind the ear and connected to a plastic earmold that fits inside the outer ear. The electronic parts are held in the case behind the ear. Sound travels from the hearing aid through the earmold and into the ear. BTE aids are used by people of all ages for mild to profound hearing loss. A new kind of BTE aid is an open-fit hearing aid. Small, open-fit aids fit behind the ear completely, with only a narrow tube inserted into the ear canal, enabling the canal to remain open. For this reason, open-fit hearing aids may be a good choice for people who experience a buildup of earwax, since this type of aid is less likely to be damaged by such substances. In addition, some people may prefer the open-fit hearing aid because their voice does not sound “plugged up.”
- In-the-Ear (ITE) hearing aids fit completely inside the outer ear and are used for mild to severe hearing loss. The case holding the electronic components is made of hard plastic. Some ITE aids may have certain added features installed, such as a telecoil. A telecoil is a small magnetic coil that allows users to receive sound through the circuitry of the hearing aid, rather than through its microphone, making it easier to hear conversations. A telecoil helps people hear in public facilities that have installed special sound systems, called induction loop systems. These can be found in many churches, schools, airports and auditoriums. ITE aids usually are not worn by young children because the casings need to be replaced often as the ear grows.
- Canal aids fit into the ear canal and are available in two styles. The in-the-canal (ITC) hearing aid is made to fit the size and shape of a person’s ear canal. A completely-in-canal (CIC) hearing aid is nearly hidden in the ear canal. Both types are used for mild to moderately severe hearing loss. Because they are small, canal aids may be difficult for a person to adjust and remove. In addition, canal aids have less space available for batteries and additional devices such as telecoils. They usually are not recommended for young children or for people with severe to profound hearing loss because their reduced size limits their power and volume.
WHICH HEARING AID WILL WORK BEST FOR ME?
The hearing aid that will work best for you depends on the type and severity of your hearing loss. If you have a hearing loss in both ears, two hearing aids are generally recommended because two aids provide a more natural signal to the brain. Hearing in both ears also will help you understand speech and locate where the sound is coming from.
You and your Louisville audiologist should select a hearing aid that best suits your needs and lifestyle. Price is also a key consideration because hearing aids range from hundreds to several thousands of dollars. Similar to other equipment purchases, style and features affect cost. However, don’t use price alone to determine the best hearing aid for you. Just because one hearing aid is more expensive than another does not necessarily mean it will better suit your needs.
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. Other features to consider include parts or services covered by the warranty, estimated schedule and costs for maintenance and repair, options and upgrade opportunities and the hearing aid company’s reputation for quality and customer service.
WHAT QUESTIONS SHOULD I ASK BEFORE BUYING A HEARING AID?
Before you buy a hearing aid, ask your audiologist these important questions:
- What features would be most useful to me?
- What is the total cost of the hearing aid? Do the benefits of newer technologies outweigh the higher costs?
- Is there a trial period to test the hearing aids? What fees are nonrefundable if the aids are returned during the satisfaction period?
- How long is the warranty? Can it be extended? Does the warranty cover future maintenance and repairs?
- Can the audiologist make adjustments and provide servicing and minor repairs? Will loaner aids be provided when repairs are needed?
- What instruction does the audiologist provide?
HOW CAN I CARE FOR MY HEARING AIDS?
Proper maintenance and care will extend the life of your hearing aids. Make it a habit to:
- 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.
- Keep replacement batteries and small aids away from children and pets.