Hearing Aids – Know the Difference…
Hearing aids are medical devices, and as such they need to be prescribed and fitted by someone trained and qualified to do this. Buying a hearing aid without an initial face-to-face consultation, professional fitting, and subsequent follow-ups could result in you purchasing an ineffective hearing instrument for your loss, or worse, damaging your hearing further. Additionally, the consultation includes an examination, which can highlight other serious ear-health conditions. Consumers should seek out an Audiologist for proper diagnosis of hearing loss and fitting of hearing aids.
FDA information on Hearing aids and Personal Sound Amplifiers
Hearing Aid Styles
Hearing aids have improved greatly with the advent of digital technology. If you’re picturing big and bulky devices with questionable sound quality, you’ll be pleased to learn today’s instruments are smaller, more comfortable and provide sound that is more natural. They are available in a variety of sizes and styles, so finding one that appeals to your lifestyle needs and cosmetic preferences should be easy.
Here are the types available:
- Receiver-in-the-Canal (RIC)
- Behind-the-Ear (BTE)
- Completely-in-the-Canal (CIC)
- In-the-Canal (ITC)
- In-the-Ear (ITE)
Hearing Aid Technologies
Hearing aid technology has improved drastically over the past couple of decades. Early devices relied on vacuum tubes and bulky batteries, but today’s instruments take advantage of digital signal processing, microchips and computerization. Keeping track of the latest technological features can be challenging, but we’ll cover a few of the more popular options here.
Some of the breakthroughs in hearing aid technology include the following:
- Gain processing, which reduces background and microphone noise for a clearer sound.
- Digital feedback reduction with built-in cancellation, which reduces or eliminates squelching and feedback.
- Digital noise reduction, which reduces background noises for better, more reliable speech recognition.
- Directional microphones, which provide better directionality by having one microphone focus on the sound source while the other decreases background noise.
- Automatic programming, which utilizes preset programs that automatically adapt to a range of different sound environments.
- Bluetooth, which lets users stream signals from other electronic devices directly to their aids, improving their versatility and convenience.
- Rechargeable technology, which frees users from the hassle of disposable batteries. By utilizing lithium-ion batteries, users can get up to 24 hours of performance with a single charge, allowing them to wear their hearing aids all day long.
Choosing a Hearing Aid
If you are experiencing hearing loss, odds are good that you’ll benefit from a hearing aid. But choosing the right one is no simple task. Narrowing the choices down can be tough, but there are a few important things you should take into consideration before choosing a hearing aid.
What Are Your Hearing Needs?
First, you’ll need to have an audiologist assess your hearing loss. Severity is measured in degrees, based upon your hearing loss range in decibels. It ranges from normal (-10 to 15 dB) to profound (91+ dB), with a total of seven different degrees.
Equally important is the frequency of your hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss resulting from damage to the outer or middle ear affects low frequency sounds, while sensorineural hearing loss, in which damage occurs to the inner ear, results in a loss of high frequency sounds.
You’ll need to choose a hearing aid that targets the frequencies you have trouble comprehending.
What Are Your Lifestyle Needs?
Functionality is an important consideration. With so many available features, you’ll need to decide which ones matter most to you.
You’ll also have to take into account your lifestyle needs. Whether you enjoy quiet, intimate gatherings with a few close friends or an active outdoors lifestyle that includes a lot of background noise, there is a hearing aid designed specifically for your activity level.
What Is Your Cosmetic Preference?
Cosmetic preference is a key factor in choosing a hearing aid. Since you’ll be wearing it every day, it’s got to not only feel good but appeal to your confidence.
Hearing aids are available in a variety of sizes and styles, some visible while others are implanted deep within the ear canal, rendering them virtually undetectable. Many are custom-molded to fit each individual’s ears.
What Is Your Budget?
Hearing aids range widely in cost. Finding the right product for your needs depends upon a thorough hearing evaluation by a qualified audiologist, who will provide a recommendation perfectly suited to your type and degree of hearing loss and budget, as well as other lifestyle factors.
Hearing Aid Fitting, Verification & Counseling?
Equally important to the hearing aid selection is the fitting, which involves programming your hearing aids and making adjustments to provide the correct levels of amplification for your particular hearing loss. Verification testing is also a best practice that our office performs on every single hearing aid worn to make sure that the hearing aids are set appropriately to each patient’s prescription levels. Counseling is also a necessary step to ensure you have realistic expectations, and is crucial for long-term success.