Choosing a hearing aid is not easy. Picking the model and make of hearing aid involves a lot of considerations. But before we venture into that, let us have a look at what are Hearing Aids indeed. These are electrical devices which amplify sound reaching the ear. They help those with hearing loss hear better and have a comfortable life.
What does a Hearing Aid do?
The device helps in the rehabilitation of persons with hearing loss. It amplifies the sound reaching the ear. It has three parts – a microphone, which collects the sound and converts it into electrical impulses, an amplifier, which enhances the impulses, and a receiver, which converts the impulses back to sound. An ear mold delivers the enhanced sound to the ear drum.
Types of Hearing Aids
Hearing aids are broadly classified into air-conduction and bone-conduction types. In an air-conduction type, an ear mold transmits the enhanced sound near the ear drum. But in a bone conduction type, instead of the receiver, a vibrator vibrates the skull bone and stimulates the inner ear directly.
We have different types of air-conduction hearing aids –
- Body worn type – the sound reception and amplification occur at the chest level by a
case worn and an ear mold delivers the amplified sound to the ear. This affords maximum enhancement of sound.
- Behind the ear type – the whole unit is housed behind the ear and only a small tubing comes forward to transmit the sound into the ear.
- In the ear type – the entire hearing aid is incorporated in a small ear mold which stays in the ear. They look better from outside compared to the above two.
- In the canal and Completely in the canal types – the entire hearing aid can be pushed into the canal and nothing is visible outside.
- Spectacle type – the spectacle frame contains the hearing aid unit. It was popular in earlier days when people clubbed it with a pair of spectacles.
Who needs a Hearing Aid?
Those with hearing loss need hearing aids. The old who have decreased hearing capacity are benefited immensely by these devices. They are useful for some of the younger generation who suffer from nerve related deafness. We provide hearing aids to small children, who suffer from hearing loss, soon enough, so that it doesn’t affect their development. A few persons who have ear diseases prefer getting a hearing aid rather than undergoing surgery.
Choosing a Hearing Aid
When it comes to picking a hearing aid there are a lot of factors to consider. The list is very long but I have picked the most important ones which I tell my patients –
- Type of hearing loss – certain types of devices are better suited for certain types of losses. The body worn type gives maximum amplification and hence is well suited for severe cases. The behind the ear type is better when it comes to loss at higher pitches. The smaller the device the lesser the enhancement.
- Recruitment problem – in some individuals there is abnormal loudness at certain pitch. This makes them uncomfortable. They need appropriate devices.
- Appearance – the size and appearance of the device are very significant. Smaller ones are more appealing. This aspect plays an important role in the patient wearing the hearing aid after buying.
- Fitting of the ear mold – Many patients complain of foreign body feeling due to a faulty ear mold which causes constant irritation.
- Both ears or one – In old age, we suggest hearing aids for both ears to maintain direction sense. Still if someone wants to use only in one ear, we factor in the dexterity of the patient.
- Cost – devices are available at a myriad of prices. It is prudent to choose the type and make and use it for a few days before paying. Ask your audiologist for a hearing aid trial before buying.
For expert opinion on what hearing aid is best for you please discuss with one of the audiologists in our team. They shall help you navigate through this confusing journey.
Problems Associated with their use
Many patients do not use the hearing aid after buying it. The common reasons are –
- Poor benefit
- Irritation in ear
- Wax in ears
- Loudness intolerance
- Background noise
- Battery problem
- Poor service
You must remember that, when the device comes from the manufacturer, it has a flat configuration. Just like we adjust our radio to the appropriate frequency and loudness, we must tune the hearing aid to the appropriate levels of loudness at different frequencies. This is based on the most recent audiometry test. This test measures your hearing at different frequencies in each ear and plots a graph. This graph changes during the course of one’s life. Hence an audiologist will have to tune the hearing aid a few times subsequent to buying for optimum functioning. So buy from a center which has a good post sales service.
When one ear is deaf but the other is functional, we have a special device in which, sound from the deaf ear is collected and sent to device fitted on the other ear via Bluetooth. The device in the other ear presents it to the ear drum. This way patient hears sounds from both sides.
Implantable Hearing Aids
New devices are available which vibrate the small bones inside the middle ear, directly stimulating them. This requires a surgery under general anesthesia. Vibrant sound bridge and Envoy are some devices of this type.
We use Cochlear Implants in those individuals and children who cannot benefit from hearing aids, because of a severe degree of hearing loss. These are inserted into the ear surgically and they stimulate the nerve of hearing directly. The cochlear implant surgery is done in children as soon as the diagnosis is made. We shall be discussing about cochlear implants in a different article.
If you have any doubts or clarifications regarding the article please write to us at shyam.kalyan@worldENTcare.com
For expert opinion on choosing a hearing aid, talk to one of our experts.