An Introduction to Hearing Aids
September 17, 2019
In this article, we take a brief look at some of the features and benefits that come with hearing aids.
It is hard to overstate how important a hearing aid is for those who need them. Not so long ago, hearing loss was a permanent problem that had to be endured for the rest of your life, today it is practically curable.
By allowing a person to hear clearly again, a hearing aid can offer them a new lease of life. The following guide will help you understand what hearing aid is and how to find the right one for you.
The Hearing Exam
As with glasses, hearing aids are often quite different from one person to the next. They are uniquely programmed to deal with the exact kind of hearing loss you are dealing with. Like glasses, you have to identify the types of problems you are dealing with; the type of sounds you need to be silenced and the type of sounds you need to be amplified. All this is decided through an ear examination.
Once your audiologist has figured out the difficulties you are having they can adjust your hearing aid accordingly.
Once you have been recommended a model you should undertake a trial period to make sure it is the right kind of hearing aid for you. Depending on the manufacturer and the retailer, trials usually run from 30 to 60-days which is enough time to make sure that it works well and that it is comfortable. A trial is a great way for your audiologist to find out if there are any adjustments that need to be made.
The Main Components of a Hearing Aid
Hearing aid microphones serve the same purpose as any other microphone, which is to increase the volume of a sound. By converting sound vibrations into an electrical current a microphone can then amplify the sound making it easier to hear. There are several types of microphone which are distinguished by the direction in which they point. Some microphones pick up sound in front of them while others pick up sound from every direction. The microphone in a hearing aid sends its electrical signal to the processor.
This is a key part of what makes a hearing aid good. The processor is programmed to discriminate between types of sound, separating background noise from vocal noise for example. The way the processor is set up will define what the listener hears and in turn whatever the listener tends to struggle with usually should be accounted for in the programming of the processor. The move from analog to digital hearing aids saw a leap forward in the processor's ability to eliminate undesirable sounds.
The amplifier increases the amplitude of the electric signal that is produced by the microphone, making it louder. It is located between the microphone and the receiver. The amplified signal is sent via the processor to the receiver and then into the ear.
After the sound has been picked up and processed it must be delivered to the ear by the receiver. Also known as a speaker, the receiver carries the processed soundwave from the amplifier and sends it back into the ear as a vibration. The receiver is usually placed inside the ear canal where it can deliver the sound easily to the listener.
As with all batteries, the batteries in a hearing aid are used to power the device. Originally, they were fitted with disposable batteries. Depending on the type of hearing aid these could last anywhere between 5 and 20 days. After a while, hearing aids were designed with rechargeable batteries which most people opted to recharge overnight. Recently, hearing aids have switched back to using disposable batteries. The new button cell zinc-air batteries they use are much smaller and longer-lasting than their predecessors (10-16 days).
An Alternative: Cochlear Implants
An alternative to hearing aids is available in the form of Cochlear Implants. These implants, which involve surgery, are usually reserved for people with hearing loss so severe that a regular hearing aid will not work.
Whereas hearing aids amplify the sound coming into the ear, cochlear implants attempt to substitute the part of the ear that no longer works.
Like hearing aids, cochlear implants have external microphones and sound processors that are placed just behind the ear. However, rather than translate the electrical signal from the microphone back into an amplified vibration, they deliver it directly to the nerves inside the ear.
Modern medicine has helped deal with many of the problems that come along with aging. Hearing is no different, and as you can see from what has been written, most hearing issues can be treated with the help of a hearing aid.
The benefits of wearing a hearing aid go beyond having the ability to hear. Hearing loss has been linked with dementia and is known to disrupt the social life and happiness of sufferers. With technology as discreet and affordable as ever, there is no reason to not benefit from this medical aid.
Please see a specialist if you have any concerns about your hearing or the hearing of a loved one.