WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HEARING AIDS
Hearing tests for hearing aids
A hearing test is necessary to get an accurate assessment of your hearing health. It will uncover any degree of hearing loss. It doesn’t matter if you need a hearing aid or just need to update your hearing aid. A hearing test will make sure that we have all the information needed to make the right decision. We need to know the extent of your hearing loss and the specifics. This will help us choose the most appropriate hearing aids. It will also help your audiologist adjust the hearing aid settings appropriately.
According to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, there are more than 38 million adults in the U.S. who could benefit from wearing hearing aids. Therefore, there is a significant need for these devices.
Hearing Aid Technology
The way hearing aids work is to take in a sound signal, process it digitally, and then send an enhanced signal down the ear canal. This allows a person who is hard of hearing to interpret incoming sounds better. But, with the rise in modern technology, there are now quite a few additional options which have an impact on the cost.
Hearing aids use “channels” to process sounds coming in. These channels use the audio spectrum and enhance different frequencies and pitches depending on the needs of the patient, allowing for customization. Basic models may have two program channels, compared to more advanced devices might have more than eight. This allows for more detailed control over the types of noises that are enhanced. It helps to provide a better hearing experience overall, depending on the type and severity of hearing loss.
Telecoils and FM radio
Frequently, hearing aids also come with features to connect wirelessly to FM radio or receive phone signals directly to their hearing aid devices through a telecoil. A telecoil is a small copper wire coil located within some hearing aids and cochlear implants. It is designed to communicate with telephones and loop systems through an electromagnetic wireless signal. This helps eliminate the need for a microphone to process the incoming sounds.
Feedback noise management
Hearing aids contain both a microphone and a speaker. They can produce annoying and unpleasant feedback noises, usually a high pitch whistling sound. Feedback management systems for basic hearing aids deal with this problem by turning down the amplification, but advanced systems will eliminate the feedback without having an impact on audio volume.
Many of the top of the line, expensive hearing aids on the market offer technology above what is required for effective hearing. But, many of these technologies can be viewed as an investment, which in turn improves the quality of life of the user.
For instance, some models have Bluetooth connectivity, which allows users to connect to smart devices. Since the Bluetooth signal is digital, it can be sent directly to the hearing aid’s processor and then re-emitted by the speaker. This helps reduce the risk of feedback.
Higher Quality Hearing Aids
Advanced hearing aids also offer binaural processing. This allows them to process incoming sounds in the same way the brain would process auditory information. Signal timing can help eliminate annoying delays or inconsistencies between the sounds produced.
Higher quality hearing aids also have features that cancel out wind noise. Wind noise can be frustrating, because it prevents users from enjoying outdoor activities. Wind noise drowns out the important sounds that people want to be able to hear. By eliminating wind noise, it can lead to vast improvements in quality of life and encourage people to be more active and outside.
Finally, more expensive models can learn to adapt by tracking preferences and automatically implementing them when they detect a new environment. This eliminates the need to make so many adjustments on the go.
TYPES OF HEARING AIDS
Digital hearing aids will contain a microphone to pick up sound, a computer chip that will amplify and process the sound, a speaker to send the signal to your ear and a battery. These are the guts or components of the hearing aid. They are packaged into several different hearing aid styles. A hearing care professional will consult with you to consider many factors, provide you with proper hearing aid information and help you find the best hearing aid for you.
There are two main groups of hearing aids: in-the-ear (ITE) styles and behind-the-ear (BTE) styles with many different sizes.
The following hearing aid types are considered ITE styles. Their sizes range from virtually invisible when worn to filling the entire area of the ear.
- Invisible-in-the-canal (IIC) and completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids: IIC and CIC styles are the smallest hearing aids out there. They fit deeply in the ear canal and typically fit to help correct mild or moderate hearing loss. The size and lack of visibility when worn depend on the size of the ear canal. With such a small size, they are highly cosmetic for people who want a discreet hearing aid solution.
- In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids: This style sits comfortably just outside the ear canal and provides clear and powerful sound for all levels of hearing loss. It can be removed and adjusted easily since it’s molded to fit the unique contours of your ear with external buttons to make sound adjustments.
- In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids: ITC styles sit in the lower portion of the outer ear bowl. They are comfortable and easy to use. And because they are slightly larger, they have a better battery life, fit a wider range of hearing loss and are easier to handle.
- Half Shell (HS) hearing aids: Low profile hearing aid styles range from half-shell (HS) designs that fill half the bowl of the outer ear to designs that fill almost the entire outer ear bowl. The size of a low-profile makes it easier for people with dexterity issues since it is easier to handle than the tiny sizes. Low profile hearing aids are large and accommodate helpful extra features like directional microphones, volume controls and program buttons.
Behind-the-ear styles have increased in popularity lately thanks to innovations that make the tiniest BTE hearing aids. These can be some of the most cosmetically appealing with very tiny ear tubes and ear tips that discreetly fade into the ear canal. They are large enough to include features for a variety of hearing losses, have great battery life and are easy to handle.
- Mini BTE hearing aids with slim tubes and tips: Mini BTE styles are made to hide behind the outer ear and have ultra-thin tubing that discreetly route sound to the ear. This style is very popular. They have a greater variety of ear tips to accommodate a greater degree of hearing loss.
- Receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) or receiver-in-canal (RIC) hearing aids: RITE and RIC styles have a speaker built into the ear tip instead of the main body of the hearing aid. This allows the speaker of the hearing aid to be positioned closer to the eardrum while the microphone and processor are in a small case that sits behind the ear.
- BTE hearing aids with earmolds: BTE styles that come with earmolds can fit any type of hearing loss, from mild to profound. Their longer shape follows the contour behind the outer ear and can generally house more features, controls and power than any other style of hearing aid.
HEARING AID FITTING
After a hearing healthcare professional recommends hearing aids, there are several factors to be considered when selecting and fitting a hearing device. The best fit for you will depend on the severity and type of hearing loss you have as well as the following factors: price, cosmetic, social, career demands, other physical needs, and accessories.
Hearing aids are very personalized technology, so not every brand, style or technology is suited for everyone. Two people with the same hearing loss could end up with different hearing aids based on other criteria. Comparing and reviewing hearing aids can be difficult. Talk things out with your audiologist about what options and features are right for you.
Audiologists will perform the initial fitting. They will fine-tune and adjust levels to ensure you are getting the most from the devices. There will be an adjustment period when wearing new hearing aids. It takes time to get used to new hearing aids. Even if you’ve worn hearing aid before. Wear the hearing aids according to the instructions of your audiologist and keep them informed of any issues that may be experienced.
Hearing Aid Prices
Hearing aid prices vary depending on what you’re looking for. Hearing aids can vary from a more basic unit with traditional features, to a more advanced device with all the latest technologies and features.
Most hearing aids are digital and require professional fitting and programming. The programmer can set them to amplify precisely the frequencies needed for each person. As the level of technology increases from basic to advanced, hearing aid features are more automatic and adjust quickly to any listening situation. Some hearing aids today even have features like voice prompts for low battery and program changes.
Hearing aids are like tiny computers for your ears. Because of the sophisticated technology and miniature size, hearing aid prices can vary greatly. Features, size and level of personalization can all account for changes in cost.
Hearing aids are an investment in quality of life
Even though hearing aids may seem expensive, it is important to remember that it is an investment in your quality of life. A hearing device is something that enables you to get back to enjoying the lifestyle that you had before.
HEARING AID UPKEEP
While many audiologists offer hearing device cleaning at no cost, it is important to know how to properly maintain and clean your device in order to protect your investment. Use a dry cloth or tissue every day to remove dust, earwax or moisture from your hearing aids. Clean and exam the hearing aids daily and perform a listening check to help you recognize the condition of your hearing aids so you will know when attention or repair is needed.
If your hearing aid needs repaire by the manufacturer.
You can troubleshoot many hearing aid problems can be troubleshooted from home or with the help of your audiologist.
Do your hearing aids need repair?
- Are you hearing static sounds, background noise or more feedback?
- Does the sound intermittently cut in and cut out?
- Is there a high level of distortion?
- Are there holes or cracks in the shell of ITE hearing aid?
- Is the battery draining faster than it normally does?
- Are there any broken or missing components on the hearing aid?
If your hearing care provider is unable to fix the problem, your hearing aid may need to be sent to the manufacturer to be repaired. These types of repairs are sometimes covered under the manufacturer’s warranty. Your hearing care provider can advise about the warranty status or any out-of-pocket costs that may be incurred.
At Colorado ENT, we offer a range of affordable hearing aids, depending on your needs and budget. Many of these hearing aids are customizable and can quickly connect with your iPad, iPhone, smartwatch or tablet. They can also be set to detect and prioritize speech, ensuring that you can converse more naturally with the people around you.
To find out more about affordable hearing aids, contact us today.