Hearing aid basics

50

Hearing loss can have a big impact on your life, from your work to your relationships and emotional well-being. Hearing aids can make a big difference, especially if you pick the right ones and get help adjusting to them. A hearing aid is a battery-powered electronic device designed to improve your hearing. Small enough to wear in or behind your ear, they make some sounds louder. They may help you hear better when it’s quiet and when it’s noisy.

Not everyone with hearing loss can benefit from hearing aids. But only 1 in 5 people who could have improvement wear them. Most of the time, they’re for people who have damage to their inner ear or the nerve that links the ear with the brain. Hearing loss that’s due to problems with the ear canal, eardrum, or middle ear is called conductive hearing loss. Most of the time, surgery or other medical help can make it better. But those options aren’t right for everyone. If you have an open ear canal and a relatively normal external ear, a hearing aid may help. Some people are born without an external ear or ear canal, which means they can’t use a typical hearing aid. Instead, they may be able to use a device that sends sound to the inner ear through the bone of their skull.If you don’t already know an ear, nose, and throat doctor (ENT), ask your regular doctor to send you to one. This specialist can evaluate and treat your hearing loss. The ENT will do an exam to find out what’s causing your trouble. You also will see an audiologist who will do tests to find out the type of hearing loss you have and how bad it is.

These specialists can give you a hearing aid if you need one. Avoid mail-order hearing aids. They often don’t fit well and don’t improve your hearing enough. If you have hearing loss in both ears, it’s probably best to wear two hearing aids.Work with an audiologist to figure out which kind of hearing aid will work best for you, as well as any special features you need. Analog hearing aids convert sound waves into electrical signals and then make them louder. They’re usually less expensive and have simple volume controls. Digital hearing aids convert sound waves into numerical codes similar to computer codes, then amplify them. The code includes information about the direction of a sound and its pitch or volume. That makes it easier to adjust the sound to what you need, whether you’re in a restaurant, a quiet room, or a stadium. Most will adjust automatically. Although this type costs more than an analog hearing aid, the results are much better.