- Conductive hearing loss (CHL): This type of hearing loss can be acquired or congenital and is caused by a blockage or damage in the outer and/or middle ear stopping sound to efficiently pass through to the inner ear. Common causes can include: blockages of the ear canal by impacted wax or foreign objects, a perforated eardrum, outer ear infection also know as “swimmers ear”, otosclerosis, partial or complete closure of the ear canal, fluid in the middle ear, also known as “glue ear”, or damage to the middle ear bones.
- Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL): This type of hearing loss is caused by damage to, or malfunction of, the cochlear (sensory part) or the hearing nerve (neural part). The main cause of SNHL is the natural ageing process, however, excessive noise exposure, inner ear disease such as Meniere’s Disease, viruses, certain medications and head injuries are other factors that can lead to this type of hearing loss.
- Mixed hearing loss (MHL): This type of hearing loss occurs when both a conductive and sensorineural hearing loss is present at the same time.
The onset of hearing loss is usually very gradual, so you are unlikely to notice any sudden change. There are a couple of unmistakable signs that you can look out for. For example:
- Asking people to repeat themselves
- Wanting the television or radio volume at a louder level than others
- Problems communicating in group situations or when there is background noise
- Difficulty understating people on the telephone or people are asking you to speak more softly on the phone.
- Difficulty hearing in a movie theatre or any other entertainment venue
- Difficulty understanding people in the car
- You find you are keeping to yourself in social environments because it is easier and more comfortable not having to struggle to hear what is going on around you.
If such situations are familiar to you, you should have a hearing test with a certified hearing specialist to be on the safe side.
If you are having problems hearing soft speech then this is a loss of sensitivity or audibility. Sounds are not loud enough for you and this deficiency requires you to turn up the television or ask others to speak louder. Feeling like you hear pretty well but people “mumble” too much, is often related to high frequency hearing loss. This type of loss makes hearing consonants such as “t”, “sh”, “f”, “p”, “s” and “th” more difficult than vowel sounds. As an example, the words “cap” and “cat” are hard to distinguish from each other during conversation. This sometimes results in inappropriate answers to questions or hearing but not understanding others. If you have difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments then this difficulty is often due to speech processing problem or poor signal-to-noise ratio in the communicative environment. An example is when you can’t understand speech clearly in a crowded room or noisy environment and this causes you to regularly ask other person to repeat themselves or “giving up” on a conversation.
If you notice that your hearing is not as good as it used to be, you should search for a hearing specialist in your area. He or she can determine the causes and degree of the hearing loss and prescribe the hearing aid that’s right for you. Should you need to see an ear, nose, and throat physician (ENT), the hearing specialist will send you to your G.P for a referral. When it comes to caring for the system and answering any questions you may have, a hearing specialist is your professional contact.
In the past hearing aids were rather larger and unattractive. Modern hearing aids, however, are not only stylish, but often almost invisible. The rapid development in technology and design has meant that more and more people can experience life to the fullest (both at work and in their free time) thanks to the most modern hearing aids.
Tell your hearing healthcare professional everything about your lifestyle and about everything that seems to keep you from hearing as well as you would like. The more information you provide, the better the solutions your professional can provide. Your loss needs to be discussed in detail so that the proper recommendations can be made.
- Discuss openly your expectations. Make sure that your hearing healthcare professional is able to explain which of your expectations are realistic and which are going to be more difficult to achieve. You will need to communicate any questions that come up during the fitting and trial period.
- Wear your hearing aid. When adjusting to a new hearing aid it is important to wear the instrument to give your ears and brain time to get used to the sound.
- Keeping a diary and sharing your everyday experiences could assist your professional when he/she is trying to make the proper adjustments. The more feedback you provide your hearing healthcare professional, the better they can fine tune your instruments. The adjusting of a hearing aid after the fitting can be the most important part of the process, making the instrument as helpful and comfortable as possible.
- Be Patient! The average patient takes a few weeks to fully appreciate the benefits their hearing aids can provide.
- New hearing aid technologies provide benefits like never before.
- Your hearing loss is more noticeable than hearing aids will ever be.
- Conversations will be less stressful by not having to ask others to repeat themselves as much.
- Television volumes set at levels comfortable to others.
- Conversation on the phone made easier
- Enjoy the theater, church services, shopping, and being with family and friends with the confidence of being able to hear and communicate in many different situations.
- Hear the pleasant sounds of nature: water falls, birds and leaves rustling in the park or even the pleasant sound of a cat purring.
Proper regular maintenance will help ensure a dependable working condition and a longer life span of your hearing instruments.
- To prolong battery life, open battery doors or turn off your instruments when not in use.
- Store instruments in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight or heat.
- Moisture from normal use may enter the device and cause corrosion of internal components. Use a hearing aid dehumidifier, often known as a “dry aid kit,” to reduce moisture build up.
- It is recommended that you clean your instruments often. You should wipe your hearing aids with a dry cloth before insertion and after removal. This will help remove the earwax at night when it is moist and then again after any remaining particles have dried overnight. Your hearing healthcare professional will instruct you on the proper cleaning procedure.
- Use the brush or tool provided to remove wax or debris from the device. Hold the instrument upside down or sideways when brushing the tip of the canal; this will allow the debris to fall out instead of going back into the device.
- Never get the instrument wet. Remove from ears before showering or swimming.
- Should instruments accidentally be exposed to water, immediately remove the battery and lay on a towel to allow them to dry naturally. Do NOT try to accelerate the process using a microwave or hair dryer. The heat may cause more damage than water. Use a hearing aid dehumidifier, often known as a “dry aid kit,” to reduce moisture.
- Keep instruments away from children and pets, as they can be harmful if accidentally swallowed.
- After showering, dry ears thoroughly before inserting your hearing instruments.
- If you have a dog, be careful where you store your hearing aids. You should store them in a place that is high enough that the dog can not get to them and destroy them.
Yes, even the best hearing aids require repairs and adjustments occasionally. Also consider that as we live our lives, our senses continually change; a regularly scheduled visit to your hearing healthcare professional is therefore important. Your hearing healthcare professional can keep you up-to-date on the latest advancements, features, and options and will also monitor your hearing health. You have a responsibility to your family and yourself to have your hearing and your instruments checked regularly to provide you with optimum benefit.
For individuals with equal or fairly equal hearing loss, it is usually beneficial to use two hearing instruments. This is called binaural amplification. Simply put, our brain is designed to work with a two-ear system and therefore most hearing aid users report a more balanced sound when using two hearing aids. Not everyone notices binaural benefits, but most do. Binaural benefits include improved localization. Our brain uses input coming from both ears to localize sounds in our environment. It recognizes where a sound is coming from due to a slight difference in intensity and timing between the two ears. Our brain also uses input coming from both ears to better focus on a desired signal when the desired signal is in the presence of background noise. This advantage is called binaural squelch. Another advantage noticed by some binaural hearing aid users is an increase of overall volume when both ears are aided. That is, the addition of two ears does not double the sound but does increase the intensity of a sound a few decibels. This phenomenon is called binaural summation.
The whistling that can occur with any amplifying device is called feedback. Feedback occurs when sound coming out of the hearing aid goes back into the hearing aid and re-amplifies again. This re-amplification results in the hearing aid becoming unstable and going into “oscillation”. This instability creates the whistling sound. This is the same occurrence as a microphone that squeals during a presentation or concert.
Hearing aids can feedback if they are not seated into the ear properly, if they are too loose, if they are turned up too loud, or if there is an internal hearing aid circuit problem. Most current digital hearing aids are more stable than previous models and therefore do not feedback as much. Also, some newer digital hearing aids have feedback control circuitry in them. The more sophisticated feedback suppression involves a changing of the phase of a sound (by inserting a reverse phase signal into the mix or by shifting the phase of the sound). There are also some feedback control circuits that notch or lower the gain of the hearing aid at the point on the frequency response curve where the feedback is being generated.
Unfortunately there is no simple answer to questions about hearing aid costs. Some of the factors that help determine the cost of a hearing aid includes the level of technology used to design the instrument, the size of the instrument, any extra options ordered, warranties, location of the dispenser’s office, hearing aid manufacturer and model, etc. In general though, hearing aids are often separated into low-end (economical), mid-range, and high-end (premium) categories. Low-end instruments generally have a limited amount of current technology built into them and often cost less. High-end products often come with the best technologies currently available and cost the most. Mid-range hearing aids fall in between in both technological advancements included and price. It is wise to hear your hearing healthcare provider’s recommendations and ask for the pros and cons of each.