Hearing loss is one of the five most prevalent health problems of older people. But, it is the least treated health problem. Approximately six out of every 10 individuals over the age of 60 has a treatable hearing impairment. Less than 30% of these people seek any type of hearing assistance and when they do many are told that hearing loss is a natural consequence of the aging process. Others simply tell no one of their difficulties and are astounded by the suggestion that people may already know about their hearing loss. Why do we ignore, misinterpret or attempt to minimize our hearing problems?

Much of our hesitance has to do with society’s feelings about the hearing impaired. More than any other impairment, we fear the process of hearing loss. How many times do we refer to the effects of hearing loss as “selective hearing?” This implies the will to break off communication or to ignore people with some intention of hostility. As the saying goes, “There is none so deaf as those who will not hear.” And yet the effects of hearing impairment are real and involuntary.

Some who do seek hearing assistance are simply told that hearing loss is a natural process which goes hand-in-hand with aging. As we fear aging, we tend to fear hearing loss. The well meaning emphasis on the natural process of aging ignores the impact of hearing loss. Hearing loss affects our daily interactions with others, making social conversations and interactions less fun and less fulfilling. The individual with a hearing loss may find himself in the process of social withdrawal commonly associated with aging.

This process is a self-removal from those who care and the social activities which emotionally sustain us all. The fact is, we have the same needs for social and emotional involvement no matter what our physical age. We cannot afford to ignore the restricting impact of hearing loss on our lives. Hearing loss is a treatable disorder and requires appropriate care.

We don’t always even recognize the symptoms of hearing loss. The first effect is almost always denial of the problem. Comments fixing the blame for poor communication on others are commonplace. The phrase “people these days don’t speak clearly enough”. Anger over the problem may surface as the sufferer blames others for this problem, which separates them or leads to a feeling of isolation. Finally this isolation may cause depression over a problem for which there may not appear to be a solution. Of course this is simply not true.

Hearing Loss is in most cases a treatable condition. It is very possible to improve hearing, if not medically, then through the use of amplification. Hearing aids help, and in most cases extend the vitality and improve the quality of lifestyle experienced by those with hearing loss.

All Hearing Loss should be evaluated as it is simply not possible, contrary to the belief of many, to assess one’s own hearing without a proper examination. An evaluation is a simple, painless procedure. The effects of the loss may vary greatly from individual to individual. This may be due in part to the fact that the same hearing loss may be caused by different factors. Also the impact of the hearing loss varies depending on the lifestyle and communication needs of each person.

The importance of professional testing to determine the individual effect of hearing loss and the prognosis for amplification cannot be overemphasized.

All hearing aids should be fitted professionally. Professional evaluation depends on a knowledgeable professional with appropriate experience and training. Find out what training a professional has before you commit to an evaluation. Differences in testing and evaluation can mean the difference in a useful fitting or an annoying or impractical device.

As hearing aids become more complex (and as a consequence more expensive) it is important that they are fitted by people that understand what they are doing and they are not merely selling a product.

Hearing Aids should also themselves be evaluated periodically. Varying success stories from individual users indicate that it is the professional application of amplification which can actually increase the benefit of a hearing aid, more than the hearing aid product itself. Find out what the realistic expectations for improvement may be in your situation. A professional evaluation can determine if the product needs to be readjusted to meet your changing communication needs.

Modern technology incorporated into hearing aids means that considerably more satisfaction is obtained with well fitted instruments. However it is also important to recognize that a hearing aid is not a “new ear” it is simply there to help the individuals residual hearing. Hearing aids enhance sound to fill in the gap between natural sound and your diminished ability to hear.

While there are many styles and circuit differences, all hearing aids consist of a microphone that changes sound waves into electrical impulses; an amplifier that increases the strength of the electrical impulse; a receiver (loudspeaker) that translates the now-strengthened electrical impulses back into sound waves; and a battery to provide the energy to operate the hearing aid.

Styles of Hearing Aids

Behind-the-ear (BTE)

Hearing Aid: Well suited for mild to profound hearing loss. All the hearing aid components are contained in a small, slim case worn behind the ear. Amplified sound is conducted through an acrylic earmould worn in the ear. This style is a flexible and reliable choice.

Receiver In The Ear (RITE)

A radical advance in hearing aid design, these ultra-small ear canal devices use sophisticated sound processing technology to set a new standard in aesthetics and comfort. These can be used for mild to severe losses.

Custom built Aids

These aids are precision built to match not only the shape of the individuals ear but also can be configured to match the hearing loss very precisely. In some case they are made using 3D printing technology and computer assisted design programs.

In-the-ear (ITE)

Hearing Aid: Suitable for mild to severe hearing loss. All components are contained in a nylon polymer shell that fits within the bowl of the outer ear and extends into the ear canal. Sound is conducted into the ear through the receiver in the ear canal.

In-the-canal (ITC)

Hearing Aid: Best suited for mild to moderate hearing loss. All components are contained in a nylon polymer shell that fits in the opening to the ear canal and within it. Less conspicuous than the ITE type of hearing aid.

Completely-in-the-canal (CIC)

Hearing Aid: Generally best suited for mild to moderate hearing loss. All components are contained in a nylon polymer shell that fits completely within the canal and is slightly recessed. These are commonly referred to as “invisible” hearing aids although the degree of visibility is determined by the shape of the individual ear.

 

Insio CIC Mocca

 

Hearing Aid Circuitry

Digital Sound Processors

These are programmable chips using the latest technology in computer programmable hearing aids. Sound is split into multi-channels and within each channel the characteristics of this sound can be digitally specified to match the listener’s unique hearing profile. Feedback problems can be reduced and the hearing aid can automatically adapt to changing sound environments.

Some models offer multi-programming options for increased applications in varying noise environments. Directional microphones markedly increase speech recognition in noise background. User satisfaction studies indicate greatest levels of user satisfaction in background noise with directional microphones.

Wireless Communication

Many hearing aids these days are capable of communicating via Bluetooth with other devices, sound from telephones, laptops. tablets and even television can be streamed directly into the aids making the use of these devices easy and simple. Some hearing aids can be controlled remotely from smartphones making them easy to use as visual displays enable people to easily see what their hearing aids are doing.

Note: Kieran McCarry is a UK trained Hearing Aid Audiologist, who has spent more than 20 years in the hearing aid business. He has worked in Malaysia for 12 years and is now the Owner and Managing Director of Clarisound.

Hearing Loss And Hearing Aids
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