From their days as huge trumpet-shaped devices to the “portable” bulky boxes weighing several pounds that were worn around the neck – hearing aids have come a long way. New technology has transformed them into sleek and powerful sound-amplifying machines.
There are now five basic hearing aid types, all designed to make life more enjoyable for the nearly 38 million Americans who have hearing loss. The smallest digital hearing aids can easily be concealed inside an ear, and deliver nearly perfect sound quality. And nearly all modern hearing aids manage to pack a microphone, amplifier circuitry, tiny loudspeaker (receiver) and batteries into an amazingly discreet, lightweight device.
Hearing loss is typically associated with aging, but one in three cases of hearing loss is caused by exposure to noise. Frequently listening to loud music and jobs that involve working in noisy environments can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss, other issues that may decrease a person’s ability to hear include inner ear damage, a ruptured ear drum, trauma to the skull, and earwax buildup along with ear and sinus infections.
Children sometimes experience hearing loss, usually temporary, following repeated ear infections. Illnesses such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes can also lead to hearing loss. And specific types of medication - including aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen when taken in large doses and some antibiotics - may cause hearing loss.
Hearing loss can creep up on you so slowly that you may not be aware there is a problem at the beginning. Humans do an amazing job of adjusting to sensory loss, and you may only notice the wonderful world of sounds that you have been missing after you get a hearing test and are fitted with a hearing aid.
Consider getting a hearing test soon if you can answer yes to one or more of the questions below:
Do people often ask you to turn down the volume when you’re watching TV or listening to music?
Do you often ask people to repeat what they said?
Have you noticed that it is particularly difficult for you to accurately hear “t,” “s” and “d” sounds?
Is it much harder for you to figure out what people are saying when you are in a noisy environment?
Is it easier for you to understand what people are saying when you can see their face, as opposed to when you’re talking on the telephone?
Hearing aids are available in five basic formats. The type of hearing aid that will work best for you will be determined by the amount of hearing loss you’re experiencing, your age, lifestyle, budget and personal preference. Your doctor or hearing aid healthcare professional will help you choose the right device for your needs.
Behind-the-ear (BTE): This type of hearing aid is composed of a small plastic case that is placed behind the ear, which is connected via a clear tube to an earpiece/ear mold. This style is inexpensive, sturdy and easy to clean. Since the earpiece can be easily replaced, this type of aid works especially well for growing children. BTE aids are also suitable for people with severe-to-profound hearing loss
"Mini" BTE ("on-the-ear"): These devices have significantly thinner tubes, and can support smaller earpieces than the standard BTEs. Some people find that Mini BTEs are more comfortable to wear and reduce the audio feedback that can be experienced with standard BTEs. Concerns about the appearance of the larger BTEs are also successfully addressed with these smaller, more discreet aids. These are appropriate for people with mild to moderately-severe hearing loss.
In-the-ear (ITE): These tapered devices fill or fit into the bowl-shaped area of your outer ear (the “concha”) instead of fitting inside the ear canal as ITC/CIC aids (see below) do. Their larger size makes them easy to insert, remove and operate even for folks who have dexterity issues or arthritis. ITE aids are available in “Full Shell” and “Half Shell” formats. The Full Shell covers the entire bowl of your outer ear, and is suitable for people with severe hearing loss. The Half Shell style fits into the lower half of the bowl of the outer ear, and is appropriate for people with mild to severe hearing loss.
In-the-canal (ITC) aids and completely-in-the-canal (CIC): These hearing aids are small enough to fit partly or completely into the ear canal. ITCs are slightly larger than the tiny CICs. Because of their small size, they are mostly invisible when worn. Both types, but particularly digital CICs, do an exceptional job of filtering out background noise. ITC and CIC aids are appropriate for people with mild to moderate hearing loss. However, their small size may make them more difficult to insert and remove for some people, and those with small or curvy ear canals may not be able to wear CIC aids.
Invisible-in-the-Canal (IIC): These are the tiniest aids currently available, and are virtually invisible when worn. About the size of a raspberry, IIC aids are worn deep inside your ear canal. A clear plastic cord attached to the hearing aid is used to remove it. Appropriate for people with mild to moderate hearing loss, but people with very small or curvy ear canals may not be able to wear IIC aids.
Analog hearing aids amplify sounds, but don’t discriminate between the sounds you want to hear (speech or music) and background sounds. This can create difficulties in noisy places. To compensate, some analog aids offer various settings for use in specific environments such as quiet places (a library), noisy rooms (restaurants), or large spaces (sport stadiums). Settings can be switched by simply pushing a button on the hearing aid.
Digital hearing aids also amplify sound, but do so far more precisely than analog models. The small computer chips in digital aids can discriminate between different types of sound waves and duplicate how people naturally hear, enabling voices or desirable sounds like music to come to the forefront while reducing background noise. Digital hearing aids can also be programmed to match the specific needs created by the wearer’s hearing loss pattern. Overall, digital hearing aids provide a far more natural and nuanced hearing experience than analog aids.DentalPlans.com has partnered with Amplifon to give you access to a FREE hearing card that gives you access to discount hearing products & services. Call us at 1-888-488-7834.
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