What are hearing aids?
Hearing loss is simply a loss of hearing. Most people lose their hearing ability as they age, but in many cases, hearing loss is caused by an injury from noise, certain medicines, or functional deterioration and disorders of different kinds to the small sensory cells in the inner ear.
A small, wearable electronic device called a hearing aid is designed to improve hearing by making sound audible to a person who has some level of hearing loss. It is a battery-operated amplifier that helps you pick up sounds in the environment when it is difficult to hear them, except for distant sounds or extremely low voices.
The hearing aid fits in different ways on different people, mostly depending on the type and degree of hearing loss one has. It is often used by people with mild hearing loss, who struggle with hearing soft sounds, to understand words that have a similar speech pattern and to improve direct communication with others. That is to say, one can understand sound more, listen to the sound of music or a sermon, be able to participate in conversations with those who only communicate in speech, gain more freedom, or enjoy the flexibility of sound flowing from their smartphone, television, or other advanced gadgets into their hearing aids.
Hearing aids are not a cure for hearing loss though. Even though a hearing aid can help a person hear more in both quiet and loud environments and don’t cause additional harm in one’s ability to hear, it doesn’t work for everyone. In fact, research suggests that only about 1 out of 5 people would benefit from using a hearing aid.
How does a hearing aid work?
Sound from the environment is collected by a small microphone inside the hearing aid;
A computer chip with an amplifier converts the incoming sound into digital code;
It analyses and adjusts the sound based on your hearing loss, listening needs, and the level of the sounds around you;
The amplified signals are then converted back into sound waves and delivered to your ears through speakers.
What are the different styles of hearing aids?
Hearing aids don’t come in just one shape and function. In the same way as there are varying levels of hearing loss, hearing aids differ by necessary function, cost, the size of your ear canal, and how much sound they amplify. The right kind of hearing that will work best for you depends more on the level of deafness you are on, and how severe it is.
1. Behind the Ear (BTE): Dedicated to cases of severe or profound deafness or to people with an ear canal too small to accommodate an in-ear device, a behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid is a small hard plastic device that is worn behind your ear. It is connected to an earmold that fits in your outer ear. The earmold conveys sound from the hearing aid into your ear. This is the most common style of hearing aids and one of the easiest to use.
2. Receiver Inside the Ear (RITE): A receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) hearing aid is similar to a BTE, but the part that sits behind your ear is smaller and less visible. It also includes a remote earpiece that slides into the entrance of the ear canal. This device offers a great amplification power to overcome mild to severe hearing conditions, though it is not suitable for complex hearing needs. They can also be more tricky or uneasy to use.
3. In the Ear (ITE): With In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids, the hard plastic case holding the electronics fits completely inside the outer ear. It can’t be seen from behind, but it is visible from the side.
4. In the Canal (ITC): In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids are similar to ITE aids, but they are a bit smaller and fill just the opening of the ear. This style of hearing aids are usually not so effective for those that have severe hearing loss.
What are some features of hearing aids that improve speech listening?
Noise reduction: All hearing aids have some amount of noise reduction available. The amount of noise reduction varies.
Directional microphones: This technology makes it possible to prioritise the sound depending on where it is coming from. The sounds emitted in front of you will be better perceived than those emanating from the sides or the back.
Rechargeable batteries: Some hearing aids have rechargeable batteries or a compatible charger. This can make maintenance easier for you by eliminating the need to regularly change the battery.
Wireless connectivity: Thanks to Bluetooth technology, connecting to home devices (telephone, television, laptop, etc.) makes you receive sound directly in your hearing aid. If necessary, some devices also have a direct audio input.
Remote controls: Some hearing aids come with a remote control, so you can change features without the need to touch the device.
Programming: It is possible to change certain settings, like program, listening needs, noise reduction, when using an independent remote control or a smartphone application. It becomes unnecessary to remove your hearing aid to manage it. Your preferences are remembered.
Environmental noise control: For people with hearing loss, loud rushing noises when outdoors make speech comprehension extremely difficult. Some hearing aids offer functions to analyse the characteristics of the sound and make it suitable for you for the environment you are in.
Check with a specialist to determine whether a hearing aid is needed or effective:
You and your family can’t make the right decision about whether or not you need a hearing aid without professional help. It is important to make a comprehensive and expert judgement based on the results of hearing tests, your lifestyle and affordability, daily environmental sounds, and the relationship of conversation that is important for each person.
Please consult a hearing aid counsellor before, who specialise in both hearing loss and hearing aids knowledge.