Back in the day, Grandpa needed a hearing aid -- war, hunting, and loud machinery had taken their toll. Most likely, his hearing aid was a big, beige "plug" in the ear. When he gave you a bear hug, you heard little whistles and buzzes.
"What many of us remember is Grandpa always fiddling with his hearing aid," says Trisha L. Dibkey, MA, CCC-A, chief audiologist at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. "He was always turning it up and down, adjusting it so he could hear right - trying to hear whoever was talking, trying to tune out the background noise."
These tips may help you avoid getting swimmer's ear:
Be careful when cleaning your ears. Most doctors advise against using cotton swabs unless you're using it to clean the outside of the ear. Instead, wipe the outer ear with a clean washcloth. Do not dig into the ear canal, and never use a pointed object. Scratching the skin of the ear canal can let germs get in under the skin and cause infection.
Avoid earplugs, if possible. These can irritate the ear canal.
After swimming, tilt and shake...
Sometimes, frustration won out - and Grandpa just gave up on the thing.
"It was very difficult to get those old hearing aids adjusted just right," says Earl Bowie, MD, an ear, nose, and throat specialist at Ochsner Clinic Foundation North Shore in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. "If there was any background noise, or if you were moving around, you would get feedback. Feedback kept many people from wearing a hearing aid."
No wonder that only one in five people who need a hearing aid actually wear one, according to the National Institutes of Health. But times have changed. Today's hearing aids offer greater style and technology options - making them better-performing, better looking, and easier to wear.
New Hearing Aids: Digital Technology and Tiny Microphones
Fast-forward to the age of digital technology. You'd never know Grandpa -- or dad, or you -- even has a hearing problem. Today's hearing aids are much smaller - "virtually invisible," Bowie says. Also, "most hearing aids today contain a microcomputer that is much more sophisticated in responding to noise in the environment, so you don't get feedback and echoes."
Like an excellent stereo sound system, these new hearing aids filter out background noise, clean up and clarify the sound quality, automatically adjust the volume. Plus, they are computer-programmed to match the nuances of each person's hearing loss. "It's like the equalizer on a radio, we can set 16 bands to match their hearing loss at every pitch," Dibkey says. "These hearing aids are tailor-made to match their hearing loss."