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Hearing Aids PATIENT INFORMATION

Hearing aids are devices that amplify sound much a stereo does. It consists of a microphone that picks up the sounds around us, an amplifier that makes that sound louder and then a speaker that sends the sound waves into the ear. As the technology in stereo systems has improved tremendously over the last few decades, so has the technology in hearing aid design. Many people are reluctant to try a hearing aid based on the experiences of a relative years ago. This should not be a discouraging factor. The hearing aids presently available are of much better quality than those in the past.

There are three basic types of hearing aids available. The first type involves a linear amplifier. This is a simple device which amplifies all tones equally from the low tones to the high tones. This hearing aid works well for persons with a flat hearing loss. That is a hearing loss that is equal in the lower pitches and the higher pitches. This type of hearing aid is not satisfactory for persons with predominantly high tone or high pitch hearing loss, as it would amplify the low tones too much while amplifying the high tones adequately.

The second type of hearing aid is one that preferentially amplifies certain pitches. This type of hearing aid works well for most people and is designed to fit each individual pattern of hearing loss.

The third type of hearing aid involves a computer within the hearing aid that changes the amplification continuously based on the incoming sound. This is usually a much better hearing aid, giving a much better quality of sound. However, it generally costs a good deal more than the others. Some of these aids employ digital technology allowing an even greater tailoring to your particular hearing loss.

The newest technology is implantable bone conduction hearing aids. These devices may be appropriate for individuals who have conductive type hearing loss or single sided deafness. Partially surgically implanted, these hearing aids conduct sound through the bone of the skull to the middle ear.

It is important that anyone you are dealing with concerning a hearing aid give you at least a one month trial period to use the hearing aid and see if it helps. At the end of that month, you should be able to return your hearing aid for a refund if it is not satisfactory. There is usually a minimal nonrefundable fitting fee involved. In addition, it is highly advisable to make sure the person fitting you with the hearing aid has proper training to test and fit you properly. Usually, this involves an audiologist.

In most instances, hearing aids are used to help those that have difficulty hearing to hear better. However, there are other uses for hearing aids. One of the most common other uses of hearing aids involves treatment for tinnitus or noise in the ears. Hearing aids provide natural sounds to overcome unnatural ringing or buzzing in the ears. 

Learning To Use A Hearing Aid
It is important to have realistic expectations when one begins to use a hearing aid. Hearing aids do amplify the sound and do a very good job of this. However, the sound is not the same as natural sound. Even the very best stereo system is not as good as live sound. If one is listening to a recording of a band, the recording is very good on a compact disc player. However, that sound still is not as good as listening to the band in person. In the same way, hearing aids have their limitations.

There are many things that can be done to help in learning to use a hearing aid. It is advisable to start using a hearing aid in the best listening situations. This is generally in a quiet environment with familiar surroundings, such as in the home. Make sure the television or radio is turned off when you start wearing your hearing aid.

It is advisable to start using the hearing aid at a low volume and gradually turn it up over a few days.

Don't wear the hearing aid for a long period of time at first. Use it intermittently for the first several days to gradually get the feel of the hearing aid.

It is advisable not to be concerned about hearing every word, but concentrate on the gist of the conversation. Gradually increase your use of the hearing aid and extend this to more difficult listening situations.

Background noise is always a problem when using hearing aids. The hearing aids will amplify background noise just as well as the noise you want to hear. Of course, it is helpful to try and eliminate as many background noises as possible. It is also helpful to try and focus your attention on the direction of the sound for which you are listening. In addition, many persons will be hearing sounds that they have not heard in a long time or possibly ever. These minor sounds include the rustling of leaves, a refrigerator running, and other extraneous sounds that are bothersome at first. Please do not be discouraged with these new sounds you are hearing as you will get used to them and learn to enjoy hearing the small sounds that you haven't heard in a long time.

Should I Use Two Hearing Aids?
Generally speaking, it is advisable to use two hearing aids if the hearing loss is similar in both ears. Using two hearing aids helps tell which direction sound is coming from and improves your overall hearing and communication ability. It is very rare that you see a person wearing a monocle instead of glasses. In fact, you would probably think it very odd to use a corrective lens for one eye, when both don't see well. Nevertheless, many people think this is suitable when using hearing aids. One hearing aid is better than no hearing aid at all, but certainly less satisfactory than two hearing aids.

Other Assistive Listening Devices

Telephone Use
There are many devices available to help those with hearing loss. One of the most useful is a telephone amplifier. This is usually available through the telephone company. In addition, many hearing aids have a "T" or telephone switch that allows the telephone to directly amplify the hearing aid. Using a hearing aid without the "T" switch on the telephone can result in feedback or a squealing noise.

There are also communication relay systems available. This involves an operator through the telephone company that relays messages from a teletype telephone that a deaf person is using and speaks directly to a hearing person. Information about this is available through the telephone company.

Telephone communication devices for the deaf allow people that are totally deaf to communicate via typed messages back and forth across the telephone. This requires a device available for both the sender and the receiver. This device is commonly known as TDD. 

Television and Radio Helps
One of the easiest methods to help a hearing impaired person with television and radio is to wear a headset with a separate volume control that is plugged directly into the television or radio. Another device that is very helpful is an infrared system. This uses infrared light to transmit the signals from the television or radio to a person anywhere in the room. The transmitter is plugged into the wall and placed on the television set. The transmitter converts the sound from the television into the infrared light and it is received via a wireless headset. There are also similar devices available in many theaters, churches, and other public places that use an FM system. A wire loop is placed around the building and will induce the transmission of sound in a hearing aid.

Alarm Clocks
A variety of different options are available to allow individuals with hearing loss to wake up on their own. These range from alarm clocks that have extremely loud alarms to those that have pillow or mattress vibrators. There are also alarm clocks available that allow the person to plug any electrical device, such as a lamp, into them.

Hearing Dog Program
These are dogs that are specially trained to help with an adult individual that is living alone. The dog can hear doorbells or fire alarms, etc., and alert the hearing impaired individual.

Cochlear Implants
Cochlear implants are devices that are surgically implanted into the inner ear. They directly stimulate the remaining nerve elements within the inner ear. These devices are very useful for persons that receive little or no help with conventional hearing aids. Click here for more information about cochlear implants.

The content of this site is intended for information purposes only; it is not meant to take the place of seeing a healthcare professional. If you have any concerns regarding your own or someone else's health, we strongly encourage you to consult a physician.

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