Frequently Asked Questions on Hearing Aids
People today seem to shy away from getting hearing aids because they have some preconceived ideas about the devices; however, modern hearing aids have come a long way from their older, bulkier counterparts. They are now much more streamlined, and some styles even allow them to be hidden in the ear, rendering them completely invisible to an outside observer.
Specific devices have great extra features and benefits that will enable users to reconnect with the world and the people around them. Hearing is a vital sense with which we use to work, play, and socialise, and the satisfaction rate among hearing aid users is reported at more than 70 percent.
While it is true that hearing aids cannot perfect your hearing or return it entirely to the state it once was, they can vastly improve quality of life for people with mild, moderate or severe hearing loss. Each year more than 100,000 Australians choose to be fitted with hearing aids and the same common questions come up time and time again.
1. Can hearing aids really improve my hearing?
This depends on the type and severity of your hearing loss:
Conductive hearing loss is caused by some sort of interference preventing the proper transmission of sound waves from the inner ear to the cochlea. This could be due to obstruction or damage.
This type of hearing loss can even be caused by a buildup of earwax in the ear canal. As the sensitive inner ear and auditory nerve are working correctly, the issue is sometimes temporary. In other cases, medical intervention may be necessary to fix the issue. However, if the hearing loss is caused by an abnormality like stenosis (narrowing) of the ear canal or fused ossicles, the damage may be considered permanent and may need to be treated with traditional or bone conducting hearing aids.
Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the sensory hair cells of the inner ear. When damaged, they cannot move and flex correctly; this results in signals not being sent through the auditory nerve to the brain accurately. These signals contain information about the loudness and clarity of sounds, so hearing loss is experienced when they are weakened.
This damage can be caused by exposure to loud noise, age, illness, injury or medication. No matter the cause of the damage, hearing aids will help as long as the inner hair cells are not damaged too severely. An audiologist can assess the severity of the damage and advise on the most suitable aid.
2. What styles of hearing aids are available today?
There are many different levels which range from basic to medium to premium, and many different styles which range from invisible to over the ear.
- Behind-The-Ear (BTE) – The most common hearing aid style. It hooks over the top of the ear to rest behind, and is attached to a custom-made earmold by a thin, transparent plastic tube. This style is very commonly chosen for young children as the earmold can be replaced as the child grows.
- In-The-Ear (ITE) – Custom made hearing aid where all parts are contained in a shell that fits within the lower portion of the outer ear.
- In-The-Canal (ITC) – Custom made hearing aid, contained in a tiny case that fits in the ear canal with the smaller portion showing in the outer ear.
- Completely-In-Canal (CIC) – The hearing aid is encased and fits in the canal of the ear so that only the tiny removal handle shows.
- Receiver-In-Canal (RIC) – This is similar to the BTE aid, but the clear plastic tube is replaced by a tiny wire to connect the receiver. These are great for first time hearing aid wearers as they are discreet and easily fitted, yet still powerful.
- Invisible Products – Custom made to rest in the second bend of the ear canal. Only removal handle is visible.
- Bone Conduction hearing aids – Bone conduction hearing aids create vibrations that are sent across the skull to the inner ear, directly stimulating the cochlea where these vibrations are perceived as sound. These are necessary if there is an issue with the outer and middle ear components, as the ear canal and middle ear can be completely bypassed.
3. How do hearing aids work?
Hearing aids are sophisticated devices, and the way they work depends on the technology that is encased in the aid. Very simply, air conduction hearing aids have four essential parts: Microphone, Amplifier, Loudspeaker and Power Supply.
The microphone captures sound waves and converts them into an electrical or digital signal. The amplifier then strengthens or boosts this signal and sends it to the loudspeaker where it is converted back to sound and transmitted to the inner ear. Here, the wearer detects an amplified sound.
The power supply makes all of this possible. The technology used differs between hearing aid styles, and as some of the more prominent aids have greater power, they may be better suited to those with severe hearing loss. Keep in mind, the smaller hearing aid styles may not be powerful enough to provide you with the amplification you need.
Bone conduction aids work by converting sound into mechanical vibrations and transmitting them across the skull directly into the inner ear. The cochlea needs to be healthy and working well for this hearing aids to work, they are mainly used in cases of conductive hearing loss.
4. How much do hearing aids cost?
There is an extensive range of hearing aids on the market today, with a wide variety of price points. They can range from a couple of hundred dollars for basic products, to thousands of dollars for the more complex and less obtrusive aids.
The price will vary depending on the technology that is used in the hearing aid. Devices with Digital Signal Processors will be more expensive as the technology used is more sophisticated. These devices can intelligently determine what types of noises need to be amplified and which need to be reduced.
More expensive hearing aids use advanced technology, enabling them to quickly change volume for different sounds. For example, speech (i.e. somebody talking directly to you) will become louder, while traffic and background noises (such as typing or rustling leaves) will significantly decrease in volume.
Cheaper analog aids will be sufficient for simple amplification of all sounds, while switching volume between sounds will require more advanced features – and therefore, in some cases, a higher price tag. With all this being said, it’s best to try a few different models and options to get the best aid for you at the best price.
5. Is there an adjustment period for using hearing aids?
It will usually take a little time to get used to wearing hearing aids, but this will vary from person to person.
Hearing loss is a complex problem. When it is experienced, the auditory cortex in the brain adjusts to hearing sounds at a lower volume, so when hearing aids are worn, the typical volume of some sounds can be processed as too loud initially. Sometimes people say that the sound of their voice sounds like it is coming through a barrel, or that wind/traffic noises can be alarming at first. This will go away as the brain adjusts. Users ultimately profess a satisfaction rate of 70 percent with their hearing aids.
To get used to your aids, you can try wearing them for a few hours the first day and then an hour or so longer each subsequent day. Wear them where you are most comfortable at first. For example, while having one on one conversations or listening to an audiobook. Wait a few weeks before you try them out in a noisy environment as it can be overwhelming hearing everything at an amplified volume right off the bat. Try not to get discouraged – just remember that this is a process and everything will feel more natural soon.
A good audiologist will work with you to make the transition go as smoothly as possible.
6. How should I care for and look after my hearing aids?
To take care of your hearing aids, ensure they are in their case when you are not wearing them. Most aids are quite small and easy to misplace. Modern-day hearing aids are sturdy and robust, but they cannot handle improper care. By looking after them correctly, you could maximise their lifespan and minimise repair. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Make sure hands are clean and dry when handling your aids as the microphone input can become blocked.
- Take care not to drop your aids when inserting or removing them as they may not withstand hard impacts.
- Avoid contact with moisture and water, even if it is stated that your aids are water resistant.
- Open the battery door when aids are not in use so battery life is preserved and feedback cannot be picked up.
- Invest in a good quality drying case; hearing aids are regularly exposed to the elements, perspiration and oils from the body, so routinely drying them will extend the life of your aids.
- One of the biggest causes for repair is moisture and earwax buildup so keep your aids clean with a soft, dry cloth. Cleaning once per day is good practice.
7. How can I find out if I need a hearing aid?
If you suspect you, or someone close to you is experiencing hearing loss, the best way to find out is by seeing a hearing practitioner. Taking an hour out of your day to visit an audiologist for a thorough hearing test can significantly improve your quality of life, should you require treatment.
Click here to book a free hearing test now.
Other Frequently Asked Questions:
How long can I expect my hearing aids to last?
With a little care and proper use, hearing aids typically last around three to five years.
How do I insert the battery?
Hearing aid batteries are just like any other battery and have a positive and negative side. Just match up the “+” sign on the battery with the “+” sign on the battery door. Generally, the correct position is positive side up.
How do I turn my hearing aid off?
Just open the battery door, it is not necessary to completely remove the battery.
Can I sleep in my hearing aids?
It is best to remove hearing aids before sleep, and this is an excellent time to put them in a drying case to make sure they are dried out from the day.
Can I swim or shower with my hearing aids?
It is not advised to keep your hearing aids inserted while bathing or swimming, even the water-resistant models are susceptible to water damage if too much water comes into contact with them.
What do I do if my hearing aid needs to be repaired?
Contact your hearing care professional for instructions on where to send or take your hearing aids; it is essential that you only get repairs carried out by specialists.
Will a hearing aid restore my hearing back to normal?
While a hearing aid vastly improves a person’s quality of life, by giving them back the enjoyment of being able to easily take part in a conversation thanks to some smart amplification technology, they will never be able to restore hearing completely.
Will I need one or two hearing aids?
This depends on your hearing loss, if you only have loss in one ear you may be ok with wearing just one aid, but age and hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noise generally affects both ears.
Your hearing aid practitioner will be able to see your hearing loss profile for both ears and be able to recommend a suitable solution. Users of dual hearing aids typically report a higher satisfaction level than those who wear a single aid.
If you suspect you have a hearing loss, no matter how mild, or if you have noticed a change in your ability to hear certain things lately click here to book a free hearing test now.
There are lots of things to hear in this world and hearing aids may be able to bring more joy and ease to your life by allowing you to enjoy these sounds.
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