Hearing loss can have a big impact on your life -- from your work to your relationships and emotional well-being. For many people, hearing aids can greatly help, especially if you select the right ones and get help in adjusting to them. Here's what you need to know about hearing aids.
How Hearing Aids Help
A hearing aid is an electronic device designed to improve your hearing. Small enough to wear in or behind your ear, hearing aids make some sounds louder, improving hearing and speech comprehension. They may help you to hear better in quiet and noisy settings.
Not everyone with hearing loss can benefit from hearing aids. But only one in five who could benefit actually wear them. Hearing aids are most commonly used for people with hearing loss caused by damage to the inner ear or auditory nerve (called sensorineural hearing loss) from:
- Injury caused by noise or certain medications
People with conductive loss will require a medical evaluation by a physician, usually an otolaryngologist. Otolaryngologists specialize in treating disorders of the ears, nose, and throat and are also called ENT physicians. Most conductive hearing loss can be improved or corrected with surgery or possible medical management.
People may choose not to manage their conductive hearing loss with medical or surgical treatment. If the person has an open ear canal and a relatively normal external ear, a hearing aid is another option for managing their conductive hearing loss.
Some people are born without an external ear or ear canal, which prevents use of a conventional hearing aid. These patients may be able to use a bone conduction hearing aid instead of a conventional device.
If you do not already know an ear, nose and throat doctor, ask your primary care provider to send you to one so your hearing loss can be evaluated and treated.
In the office, the ear specialist will perform a medical evaluation in order to determine the cause of your hearing loss. As part of your evaluation, you will see an audiologist who is trained to perform tests to determine the type and degree of your hearing loss.
These specialists can evaluate your hearing loss and dispense hearing aids if needed. Avoid mail-order hearing aids, which are not custom fitted and are often generic, don't fit well, and don't improve the hearing enough.
If you have hearing loss in both ears, it is probably best to wear two hearing aids.
Batteries power the hearing aid's electronics. Here's how the other parts of a hearing aid work:
- A microphone picks up sound from the environment.
- An amplifier makes the sound louder.
- A receiver sends these amplified signals into the ear, where they're converted to neural signals and sent to the brain.