Advances in medicine and technology have led to many new treatments for hearing loss. With so many to choose from, how can you know which one is best for you? The choice depends partly on the kind of loss you have.
Conductive. This type happens when the outer or middle ear can’t bring sound to the inner ear.
Sensorineural. This starts when the inner ear, auditory nerve, or brain no longer detects sound waves normally.
Mixed hearing loss. It's a combination of the conductive and sensorineural kinds.
No matter what type you have, treatments can help you.
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They make sounds louder and make them easier for the inner ear to pick up. They’re typically either analog or digital.
Analog hearing aids. These convert sound into electrical signals, then make them louder. They work like a microphone plugged into an amplifier. You can program them for different environments, like a small room or a crowded restaurant.
Digital hearing aids. These convert sound into a code of numbers, then change them back into sound. You can program them to amplify only the frequencies where you have hearing loss. In general, digital devices give you more flexibility than the analog kind. But they also cost more.
Both types come in many different models, including:
Behind-the-ear. It's best for mild to severe hearing loss, and it includes a plastic case, which you wear behind your ear. The sound is sent through an ear mold that you put in your outer ear. They’re somewhat large. They’re also powerful.
Open-fit. You wear these behind your ear, too. They relay sound through a narrow tube that you put into your ear canal. Unlike behind-the-ear aids, open-fit aids allow the canal to stay open. Some people prefer them because:
They don't give you a "plugged-up" feeling.
They're less prone to damage from earwax.
They're smaller, which makes them harder to see.
In-the-ear. These model helps mild to severe hearing loss. The parts are so small that they fit completely inside your outer ear. Like some behind-the-ear aids, some in-the-ear aids have a small magnetic coil, called a telecoil. That makes it easier to talk on the phone. They can also pick up signals from systems called induction sound loops in some public places like churches, schools, airports, and auditoriums.