Below are some of the most common questions we are asked about hearing aids. If you do not find an answer to your question, call Shelby Hearing Center, Shelby, NC at (877) 465-6068 and we will be happy to assist you.
A hearing aid is a small electronic device that is worn in or behind your ear. It makes some sounds louder so that 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.
Hearing aids are primarily useful in improving the hearing and speech comprehension of people who have hearing loss resulting from damage to the small sensory cells in the inner ear. This type of hearing loss is called sensorineural hearing loss. The 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. In addition, 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.
If you think you might have hearing loss and could benefit from a hearing aid, you need to consult a professional. Look for your local audiologist or ask your physician for a referral. An audiologist is a hearing health professional who identifies and measures hearing loss and will perform a hearing test to assess the type and degree of loss.
- Automatically increase soft sounds and reduce loud sounds
- Reduce whistling
- Reduce background noise
- Enhance speech
It depends on the level of technology of the digital hearing aids as to how much flexiblilty the audiologist has when programming hearing aids to your specific needs.
You and your audiologist should select a hearing aid that best suits your needs and lifestyle. Price is also a key consideration. Similar to other equipment purchases, style and features affect cost. However, don’t use price or cosmetics alone to determine the best hearing aid for you. 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. Listen to your audiologist, he/she has years of education and training to recommend the hearing aids appropriate for your hearing loss, lifestyle and financial concerns.
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? (Most manufacturers allow a 30- to 60-day trial period during which aids can be returned for a refund.) What fees are nonrefundable if the aids are returned after the trial 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?
Please fully consider this:
- Your hearing loss needs to be evaluated by a professional to ensure it’s not part of a bigger problem.
- “One size fits all” does not apply to hearing aids. Everyone’s hearing loss, ear shape, personal needs and wants are different and should be treated individually.
- Inexpensive devices can sometimes equal poor quality.
- There is no follow up care available. Hearing aids need to be properly maintained and your hearing healthcare needs to be followed by a professional. By purchasing online, you may not have adequate care and there may be a significant cost to you to maintain your hearing aids.
Hearing aids are an investment in your overall health. It’s important that you are able to take the time you need, get your questions answered and have the follow up care necessary for being a successful hearing aid user. Purchasing face-to-face is paramount to the success of your hearing aids.
Become familiar with your hearing aid’s features. With your audiologist present, practice putting in and taking out the aid, cleaning it, identifying right and left aids, and replacing the batteries. Ask how to test it in listening environments where you have problems with hearing. Learn to adjust the aid’s volume and to program it for sounds that are too loud or too soft. Work with your audiologist until you are comfortable and satisfied.
- 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.
- Invest in a device that will help with moisture and bacteria.
Certainly, researchers are looking for ways to enhance a hearing aid’s ability to capture and process signals (sound waves) to deliver those signals (sounds) to one’s inner ear and brain. In most cases, hearing aids are the best way to deliver that sound for people with sensorineural hearing loss (damage to the inner ear causing hearing loss). The major goals are to provide high fidelity sound, better understanding in background noise, all with no feedback. Sounds simple, but, it really is like getting the elephant into the Volkswagen.
Studies are also continuing for implantable devices. As this point in time, these devices are used to treat children and adults who cannot be helped with hearing aids. Cochlear implants are surgically implanted electronic devices that provide signals directly to the auditory nerve. Another implantable device is the Auditory Brainstem Implant. You may have heard recently of the little boy in North Carolina who was the first child to receive this surgically implanted device which provides signals directly to the brainstem. It is different than a cochlear implant and is used when both the cochlea and auditory nerve are damaged causing deafness.
Finally, research is being done to treat the damaged hair cells in the cochlea with stem cells. Until recently, SNHL (sensorineural hearing loss) was generally considered a permanent condition. A new stem cell trial, which launched in January 2013 in the United States, could change that thinking. In addition, scientists are exploring whether gene therapy can prolong the life of hair cells and also in regenerating them from embryonic or adult stem cells.