Hearing aids cannot restore normal hearing, but they can improve damaged hearing by amplifying soft sounds. Most are digital, and all are powered with a hearing aid battery. There are several styles of hearing aids, varying in size, the placement in the ear, special features, and price. Regardless of the type, each has a small microphone that collects sounds from the outside environment. A computer chip with an amplifier converts the incoming sound into digital code. This code is analyzed and adjusted based on the extent of your hearing loss, your listening needs, and the level of the sounds around you. These amplified sounds are converted back into sound waves and delivered to your ears through speakers in the aid.
Types of Hearing Aids
- Completely in the canal (CIC) or mini CIC – custom molded to fit inside your ear canal; the smallest and least visible type
- In the canal (ITC) – custom molded to fit partly in your ear canal
- In the ear (ITE) – custom molded to fill the outer part of your ear
- Behind the ear (BTE) – hooks over the top of your ear and connects to the ear canal with a tube
- The receiver in canal or receiver in the ear – hooks over the top of your ear and connects to the ear canal with a thin wire
- Open fit – a variation of behind-the-ear with a thin tube; keeps the ear canal very open
Before you buy a hearing aid, it is important to explore all your options to understand which type will work best for you. Visit your doctor for an evaluation to rule out other causes of hearing loss, like earwax buildup or infection. If you don’t have an audiologist, have your doctor refer you to one for a hearing check. When discussing hearing aid options, think about your future needs; make sure the aid you’ve chosen is capable of increased power so that it will still be useful if your hearing worsens.
Additional Features of Hearing Aids
- Wireless connectivity – wireless interfacing with Bluetooth-compatible devices (cell phones, music players, televisions)
- Telecoils – eliminates the sounds from your environment and only picks up the sounds from the telephone; pick up signals from public induction loop systems that can be found in some churches or theaters, allowing you to hear the speaker, play or movie better.
- Direct audio input – allows you to plug into audio from a television, computer or music device with a cord
- Variable programming
- Environmental noise control
- Noise reduction
- Rechargeable batteries
- Remote controls
- Directional microphones
The more you wear and use your hearing aid, the faster you will get used to it. The goal is that in time, you will find a hearing aid that you are comfortable with and that responds to your needs.
Getting Used to Your Hearing Aid
- Give yourself time to adjust; the more you use it, the more quickly you will adjust to the amplified sounds.
- Practice using your aid in different environments; it will sound different in different places.
- Your hearing will never feel like it used to; hearing aids won’t return your hearing to normal.
- Seek support and stay positive; consider joining a support group for people with hearing loss.
- Go back for a follow-up appointment; have your doctor answer any questions you may have.
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