In most cases, hearing loss is just part of growing old, but it can occur due to a variety of factors like exposure to loud noises and certain conditions that affect the middle or inner ear. Regardless of the cause, a hearing aid can come in handy.
Although it obviously does not treat the cause, it can alleviate the symptoms by enhancing outside sounds. Even though hearing loss is in many cases irreversible, a patient can get much of his hearing back by wearing a hearing aid.
Before we turn the topic of our article on all sides, so we don’t miss any information you might need, let’s describe this device as best as we can.
A hearing aid is a medical device meant to restore hearing in an artificial manner: they pick on sound, amplify it and drive it towards the ear canal. Many people seem to think hearing aids treat hearing loss, but that is not the case.
They are called “aids” for a reason. Think of a speaker: when the volume is low, you cannot hear all the frequencies of the song you’re listening to, but if you turn it up, you can. That’s what a hearing aid basically does. It turns sounds up, it amplifies them.
There are many types of hearing aids since new technology is implemented in them on a regular basis. We will talk about these types later on.
Unfortunately, an audiologist is the only person in the world that can answer this question with certainty. You simply cannot purchase a hearing aid just because you have a hunch that you’re losing your hearing.
And even if it does, it might be caused by exposure to sound. For instance, you’ve gone to a concert but your ears are still ringing as if you were still at the venue. That’s normal and will pass in time.
Plus, a hearing aid is a considered a medical device in most countries, so you cannot get it if it has not been prescribed to you by a professional audiologist, anyway. What you can do, however, is assess if you should get an appointment to the doctor’s office.
If hearing loss has already made its horrible debut, there will be some obvious signs that you have an issue. Here is a list of some of the things that should get you worried and willing to go to the doctors:
If you have any of the above symptoms, please book an appointment to an audiologist, to assess how severe the damage is or if it’s permanent, in the first place.
If you work in a noisy environment (in constructions, for example) you could have a mild form of tinnitus and it could go away in time.
Remember that trumpet people used to insert into their ear canal decades ago? Well, that was the blueprint of the tiny hearing aid we have today. The ear trumpet was the first hearing aid, and it was invented in the 17th century.
Rudimentary ear trumpets were made from the horns of animals, glass and brass or copper. They were not very complex, but they did their job. The main concern of those who manufactured these trumpets was their size.
They were so huge that they could not be hidden and people with bad hearing could not conceal their handicap.
Hearing aids also came in the shape of miniature phones: the large end was kept in front of the speaker’s mouth and the narrower one was inserted in the patient’s ear.
Ear trumpets were extremely popular and basically unchanged throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, but in the late 19th century, Miller Reese Hutchinson created the first electric hearing aid.
The invention of the phone proved to be instrumental in the development of better hearing aids. There was one problem, though: batteries were huge, therefore hearing aids were still somewhat corpulent and obvious.
The problem was solved in the 1950s when the first transistor was invented. The transistors allowed manufacturers to make hearing aids a lot smaller than the previous models. They became more and more compact and easy to hide out from the eyes of the curious.
This ushered in the age of the hearing aids we know today. Once the digital era kicked in properly during the 20th century, hearing aids became increasingly more complex and efficient.
It would be madness to say that ear trumpets were as proficient as the digital aids we can get nowadays. They’ve got micro-computers in them, they’re tiny and comfortable and even come in the form of microchips.
Moreover, they are a lot more affordable nowadays. In the past, hearing aids were primarily for the bourgeoisie and generally wealthy people. The people from the lower walks of life either did not have any or did their own rudimentary aids from horns.
There are three types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural and mixed. The first can be caused by a variety of things from tumors to infections and otosclerosis. If surgery is out of the question, a hearing aid can be the proper way to go.
In the case of sensorineural hearing loss, this is usually caused by the process of aging, various infections, malformations, traumas, as well as by Meniere’s disease.
Whether or not a hearing aid will be helpful to somebody with sensorineural hearing loss really depends on what caused the problem in the first place.
If a patient is suffering from mixed hearing loss (a combination of both sensorineural and conductive), a hearing aid may not be of help, but then again, it all boils down to the nature of the issue.
It’s crucial you address an audiologist when you have any signs of hearing loss. We do not mean to scare you, but untreated hearing loss, even in an early stage, can lead to more serious trouble like dementia.
Depression and mood swings can also occur in those who conceal their inability to hear properly. Make the right decision and get professional care. Would you have felt ashamed if you were born with a congenital condition?
Then why would you feel ashamed of having a condition millions of people suffer from?
Somewhere in the beginning of this journey through the world of hearing aids, we spoke about the fact that there is more than just one type of hearing aid. At the moment, there are 6 types of such devices.
First, we’ll give you the abbreviations to them and we’ll move on to describing them in detail immediately: IIC, CIC, ITC, ITE, RIC, and BTE. You’re probably confused and you have every right to be so, but it’s easier to understand these than you think.
Do you want a discreet hearing aid that nobody can see unless they look in your ear canal? An IIC is the best choice you can make. One disadvantage of the IIC (not necessarily, though) is that it has to be removed at the end of the day.
Plus, an IIC hearing aid is not designed to help with severe hearing loss, so if your condition is not in an incipient stage, you might want to get another type because this won’t do you much good.
These don’t differ very much from the IIC type ones. The only difference is that these are usually custom-made for patients. They are almost invisible; therefore, they are much preferred in favor of the classic, bulgy ones.
IIC hearing aids are electronic, but nobody can actually see the components because the aid will be deep down your ear canal. The only part that could be seen is the tiny handle you’ll use to remove it easily.
We have to mention that this type is usually used for mild hearing loss, as well.
As its name says it, an ITC hearing aid is inserted deep into one’s ear canal, in the affected ear. This type differs from the previous two because it is extremely helpful for severe hearing loss problems.
They can be made to fit the ear canal perfectly, so there’s no risk of losing it. Due to the fact that it has electronic components, you should clean it on a regular basis. Electronic hearing aids can be damaged by ear wax and ear moisture.
The ITE hearing aid is a quite large aid that covers the entire inside of your ear, not just the canal. It is a bit bulgy and that’s the main reason why many people try to opt for some other type that isn’t as “out there” as the ITE.
However, if you get one of these in a color that matches the one of your skin perfectly, you won’t need to worry about people noticing it. People are not looking at other people’s ears as often as you might think, anyway.
The RIC resembles the classic hearing aid you put behind the ear and then stick the receiver in the ear canal. It is not as big as the BTE type of hearing aid, though, so it’s not as eye-catching.
The best thing about RIC hearing aids is that they are so comfortable. They look a little big at a first glance, but when you wear them, you’ll find out that they feel really good inside the ear. They are used for moderate hearing problems.
Just a few years ago, BTE aids were enormous and there was no chance people could not point them out. Today, luckily, thanks to technological development, they are discreet and rather stylish.
Believe it or not, BTEs are also the most developed out of them all. Pretty much all of them come with volume controls, Bluetooth and various programs these days. Plus, they are effective in dealing with severe hearing loss, so that’s yet another perk.
Okay, so we’ve seen all types of hearing aids but how does one work? Let’s move on to the next section to answer your question.
We agree that it’s so easy to underestimate hearing aids: aren’t they just pieces of plastic with a sound-augmentation mechanism? Actually, no: a hearing aid is more complex than it gives the impression it is.
Yes, it looks so awfully simple that you’re tempted to believe you could make one in the garage, but once you know how it works, you’ll see that there’s an entire body of science in it.
Here’s how a hearing aid works:
Many people think we hear with our ears. That’s not true: the ear merely gathers the sounds and sends them to the brain, where all the true magic is happening. Therefore, a hearing aid functions as a genuine ear when its components are damaged.
Although they are not really medical devices if you think about it, not per se at least, hearing aids are regulated by the FDA in the US and other agencies around the world. In the United States, the sale of hearing aids is obviously not prohibited.
However, the FDA stipulates that dispensers should allow people to test the actual products before they are sold. This is an extremely wise move since according to the FDA, somewhere around 30 million Americans suffer from hearing loss.
If everybody would get hearing aids just to find out they do not alleviate their problems in the least bit, then healthcare would be in quite the pickle. If the first stipulation was just a suggestion, the next is a requirement.
The FDA requires manufacturers to put the following information on the labels of hearing aids:
Apart from these, the FDA also requires manufacturers to offer as much information about the hearing aid as possible. Guides for controls, adjustments, description of accessories and any other type of instructions should be provided by the manufacturer.
The full list of requirements and regulations for hearing aids in the United States of America can be found here. Not it’s time for us to go to the next – and second longest – section of our guide:
If you’re about to purchase your very first hearing aid, you probably have no idea how you should clean it. Due to dust, earwax, and moisture, hearing aids require constant care. They’re fragile devices that can start to malfunction if maintenance isn’t done properly.
Your personal hygiene is extremely important in keeping your hearing aid in good shape. If you don’t clean your ears regularly, wax build-ups will make the device go awry.
Make sure you clean your ears by irrigating them with a syringe. Q-tips not only can hurt your eardrum, but they do not clean your ears: you’re merely pushing the wax deeper into the canal. In the following, we will give you step-by-step instructions for maintenance and cleaning.
Purchase a soft brush and a pick for earwax. There are stores that sell audiology equipment.
Do not enter the shower with the hearing aid on. Water can easily damage the electronic components. Do not put it back until you’re dry.
Clean your device every night. Refrain from using wet wipes or solutions that contain alcohol.
Consider removing the battery when you go to sleep. This way, you’ll save a lot of energy and they’ll last longer. Also, use the brush to clean up the slot of the battery.
Remove dust and debris from the device with a soft brush (don’t push too hard). When you purchase a hearing aid, you usually get a small bag with all the tools you need for cleaning it. If you’ve lost the brush it came with, purchase another one that’s not very different from that.
Use your wax pick to get wax and debris out of the tiny orifices of the device. Don’t shake it because there’s a risk you’ll loosen some of the components. Repairs can cost quite a lot, so be responsible.
Remove the earmold and put it in warm water with soap at least once a week. The plastic can smell bad after a while and will start to discolor. Keeping it in soap and warm water for a few hours once a week will decrease the risk of that happening.
Wipe the entire hearing aid with a tissue or a piece of cloth. Make sure the material you’re wiping it with isn’t damp.
First of all, do not wipe its microphone with anything. If you really need to clean it because there are deposits of dust in its ports, take it to a professional cleaner. He’ll clean it by blowing air in it.
Second of all, do not leave it on overnight. The chances are that you’ll sweat and that sweat can damage the electronic components of the aid. Remove it, clean it and leave it aside until next morning. Don’t put it back on.
Third of all, do not leave the aid where it can be pushed over. If you have children running around, store it somewhere safe, even at night. You’ll save yourself from the hassle of paying a few good dollars on reparations you could have avoided.
A hearing aid can make your life easier if you suffer from a mild or severe form of hearing loss. Keep in mind that hearing loss is just a sign we’re all human. Our body gets a lot of wear and tear and it’s perfectly normal for certain things to stop working properly.
That, however, should not be a reason to let it malfunction. We hope you’ve learned everything you needed to know about hearing aids here, in this guide. Even if you did, there’s still a question you’re probably asking yourself: what is the best hearing aid and how do I get it?
While the answer to this is generally provided by an audiologist that has consulted you thoroughly and has assessed how serious your hearing loss is, we took the liberty of compiling an engaging buying guide for you.
What will you find in it? Additional information concerning hearing aids and what makes a device good (and/or bad), what factors you should take into consideration when shopping for one and a couple of recommendations.
In other words, you will be able to discover the highest-rated hearing aids on the market at the moment. Stay with us to get all this brand-new information!