What is a Hearing Aid?
A hearing aid is a device that can be worn within or behind the ear to improve hearing. This device allows people with some degree of hearing loss to be more engaged and in tune with their surrounding environment.
A hearing aid comes in three levels of sophistication. There are basic, mid-level, and high-end technologies available at different cost levels. Enhanced digital, programmable, self-regulating hearing aids with Bluetooth connection, smartphone control, and direct iPhone connection are an example of the technology that are now available.
The right level of technology and cosmetic aspects are something that is personal as well as related to your type of hearing loss and eardrum issue. The detailed evaluation by Dr. Slaughter and William J. Boggess, M.S. in our office, is necessary to inform you of all of your options.
Who is a candidate for a hearing aid?
Patient’s who have hearing loss that affects their ability to communicate with friends, family, and coworkers can benefit from the modern hearing aids, even if the amount of loss is mild. If you or your family have felt frustration at your lack of understanding, it is worth having a thorough evaluation of your ears and hearing to see the cause and options.
How Do Hearing Aids Work?
A hearing aid consists of three sections: the microphone, the speaker, and the amplifier. The microphone works by picking up the sounds in the surrounding area. These sound waves are then converted into electrical signals. The amplifier amplifies the signals before sending them into the speaker and into the ear. A simple way to think about it is that the hearing aid takes sound waves, amplifies them, then sends them as amplified sound waves towards the ear drum.
hearing loss Symptoms
A hearing loss can manifest itself in many different ways. Sudden hearing loss can be from simple issues such as a wax occlusion or from more serious conditions such as sudden hearing loss syndrome. Most hearing loss progresses at a very gradual rate. Many people won’t realize they have a hearing loss until a friend or family member makes a comment about their hearing. Some people have a lot of demands placed on their hearing and as such are “tuned in” to any minor changes in hearing.
If you feel that your hearing may have been reduced or a friend or family member has noticed hearing loss, it should be evaluated right away. Any sudden hearing loss can be from an inflammatory reaction in the inner ear and this should be evaluated promptly. This type of hearing loss is potentially reversible if treated within a few weeks of the onset.
What Causes Hearing Loss?
The two most significant factors in hearing loss are aging and exposure to loud noises. It is very common to experience gradual hearing loss as you age. In fact, almost half the population over the age of 50 years old experience some degree hearing loss. When we are chronically exposed to loud sounds, we gradually damage our hearing organ (cochlea) causing hearing loss and difficulties understanding speech. Other risk factors for loss of hearing include:
- Trauma to ear/head
- Genetic conditions
Unfortunately, most types of hearing loss cannot be reversed. Luckily there are options to improve your hearing with hearing aids. Dr. Slaughter will conduct a thorough examination to determine the cause and extent of your hearing loss before offering treatment options.
Types of hearing loss
There are three types of hearing loss.
- Conductive hearing loss. This type of hearing loss is caused by a mechanical problem such as wax in the canal, ruptured eardrum, fluid behind the eardrum, or broken middle ear bones. Many times medical or procedural therapies can correct this type of loss.
- Sensorineural hearing loss. This type of hearing loss occurs in the inner ear (cochlea) and may be permanent if not treated early enough. It may be related to genetics, inner ear diseases, viral inflammation, noise exposure, or other causes. Some people refer to this as a “nerve hearing loss”. Medical therapy and some procedures can correct this condition but many times a hearing aid is the only option.
- Mixed hearing loss. This type of hearing loss is a mixture of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. It is part mechanical and part sensorineural in nature. Many times we can correct this type of loss with medical or surgical therapy or with hearing aids.
Our office offers the convenience of having Dr. Slaughter to provide a thorough medical evaluation of your ears. Also, Bill Boggess, our audiologist, has state of the art equipment for hearing testing and hearing aid evaluation.
Different Types of Hearing Aids
Hearing aids can be styled and worn three ways: in the ear, in the ear canal, and behind the ear.
- In The Ear: The hearing aid is placed in the “conchal bowl”, the indentation in our ear that surrounds the ear canal.
- In The Canal: The hearing aid is fit cozily in the ear canal. The aid is customized to fit the size and shape of the ear canal.
- Behind The Ear: This is the most common style of hearing aid. A hearing aid is placed behind the ear. The hearing aid is connected to a small clear tube that sits in the ear canal to deliver the amplified sound waves. These devices are very popular as separation of the hearing aid from the amplified sound waves provides a superior and clearer sound with less feedback.
Hearing aids can also be either analog or digital.
- Digital: These aids convert sound waves into a digital code that is amplified into sound waves. This creates a superior, cleaner, and more natural sound.
- Analog: These hearing aids convert sound waves into electrical signals that is then amplified into sound. As technology has advanced most patients are opting for the superior digital product but analog hearing aids are typically less expensive.
impact of hearing loss
Studies have shown that untreated hearing loss can affect your overall health. Hearing loss can be indicative of a larger health issue. Many diseases can produce hearing loss. Inner ear viral inflammation, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and brain tumors are just a few examples. Left undiagnosed these conditions can worsen over time.
Communication is critical to social interaction. Studies have shown that people with hearing loss can become socially withdrawn and depressed.
As a result, job performance, income potential, and the ability to learn in a changing work environment are all issues common with hearing loss. Coworker’s perception of the person with hearing loss can suffer as they mistake hearing loss for lack of ability or knowledge.
How Are Hearing Aids Placed?
To begin with, we start with a detailed hearing evaluation by our Audiologist, William J. Boggess, to identify the type and degree of hearing loss. This is performed in our state of the art soundproof booth, using an audiometer and special headphones.
In the event that hearing loss is identified, you will be evaluated by Dr. Slaughter to identify if any medical or surgical therapy could correct the hearing loss.
If a hearing aid is the right treatment option for you, our audiologist will spend a hearing aid evaluation appointment with you. He will review all the modern hearing aids, levels of technologies, types of fit and visibility. This will also take into consideration the situations where you need the amplification the most, your level of activity, your level of manual dexterity, the costs implications and insurance coverage, among other factors. This critical step assures a successful fitting with the right instrument for you.
Sinus & Snoring Specialists is a full-service ENT medical practice that can serve all of you ear, hearing, and hearing aid needs in one convenient location.