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Today’s hearing aids are technologically advanced miniature computers with various technological advancements. If you think hearing aids amplify sound, read on. If you have ever wondered how hearing aids work, you’ll find out here!
What Is a Hearing Aid?
Hearing aids are composed of three parts, a microphone, processor and speaker:
- Microphone — picks up sound waves and converts them into electrical signals, which are transmitted to the processor.
- Processor — increases the signals and sends them to the speaker.
- Speaker — transmits the signals as sound.
Digital Hearing Aids
Digital hearing aids are the most popular type, but how do digital hearing aids work, and what makes them better than analogue hearing aids?
Digital hearing aids produce a clearer sound than analogue hearing aids, and are equipped with multiple listening programmes for different environments and background noise levels. Many will automatically change programmes to the environment to give you crystal clear hearing whether you’re in a busy restaurant, at a concert, or at home watching TV.
Digital hearing aids may have various features, including:
- Directional microphone technology — generally, this consists of two microphones to help you hear better when there is a lot of background noise.
- Direct audio input — this means you can connect to the radio, TV or other listening devices.
- Bluetooth technology — makes it simple to connect to a smartphone to improve hearing when on calls.
- Noise cancelling technology — allows you to filter out background noise when you want to focus on something in a noisy environment, but it will prevent you from hearing other people when they speak to you.
Types of Hearing Aids
There are three main styles of hearing aids:
1. In the canal (ITC) and the ear (ITE) — these are very popular as they are very small, lightweight and discreet. They are suitable for mild to severe hearing loss.
Pros — Small, lightweight and discreet
Cons — They may be harder to adjust manually.
2. Completely in canal (CIC) — these hearing aids are so small they are almost invisible when placed into the ear canal. Generally, they are suitable for mild to moderate hearing loss.
Pros — difficult to detect
Cons — They can be difficult to place in the correct position and remove
3. Behind the ear (BTE) — this type of hearing aid is worn on the outside of your ear. They come in different colours and resemble bluetooth earphones. They are available on the NHS and can be used for mild to severe hearing loss.
Pros — Easy to put in the correct placement
Cons — Larger than other types of hearing aids and can easily be seen
NB: All styles of hearing aids come with multiple features. During your hearing aid consultation, an audiologist will explain the features to help you determine which ones are most useful.
Which Hearing Aids Are Best?
Now we have answered the question of how do hearing aids work, you probably want to know which hearing aids are best. This is where an audiologist comes in! Following a hearing test, your audiologist will be able to advise you about which types of hearing aids will work best for your degree of hearing loss.
This will depend on various factors, such as how discreet you want your aid to be, any special features you require, and if you want to use your hearing aid to answer calls via your smartphone or listen to the radio.
Of course, it doesn’t matter how good hearing aids are if you can’t afford to buy them! As with other types of technology, the cost of hearing aids can vary. The most important consideration is ensuring your hearing aids are comfortable and easy to operate. Other things to consider include the warranty they come with and the hearing aid manufacturer.
7 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Hearing Aid
- How long has the manufacturer been producing this type of hearing aid?
- What features does the hearing aid have, and how do they work?
- Is the warranty included in the total cost?
- What repairs and maintenance are covered by the warranty?
- Does the warranty include spare hearing aids if repairs are needed?
- How long is the warranty, and can it be extended?
- Is there a trial period, and what are the terms and conditions for a full refund?
Can Hearing Aids Help Tinnitus?
Hearing loss has been associated with tinnitus, and research indicates that hearing aids may help reduce tinnitus symptoms by improving your hearing. Additionally, you can use your hearing aids to help mask tinnitus sounds, which may provide relief.
Using and wearing hearing aids should be easy, but you may experience some minor teething problems when you first start using new hearing aids.
Common problems with hearing aids include:
- Fitting — you may find at first that your hearing aids feel uncomfortable. Don’t worry. Similar to wearing glasses, after a short time, you should find that you no longer even notice you are wearing hearing aids.
- Your voice sounds loud — when you first start wearing hearing aids, you may find your voice sounds louder inside your head. This is common and referred to as the occlusion effect. Adjusting your hearing aid may help, and this should become less noticeable over time.
- Feedback — whistling or squealing sounds can be a real pain! Always ensure your hearing aid is comfortably in place before turning it on, as this will reduce the chance of friction as you put it in, causing feedback.
- Background noise — If you are struggling due to hearing background noise, you should speak to your audiologist. This is often rectified with a slight adjustment of your hearing aid settings.
- Not working — check the batteries. Hearing aid batteries only typically last a maximum of a few weeks.
Caring For Hearing Aids
Taking good care of your hearing aids should help them to work better and have a longer lifespan. Here are our top tips:
- Store them in a cool, dry place.
- If you need to use hairspray or other hair care products, do so before you put in your hearing aids.
- Clean hearing aids regularly and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Turn them off when they are not being used
- Check your batteries and replace dead batteries straight away.
Generally, modern digital hearing aids have a lifespan of three to five years. However, your hearing may deteriorate sooner, so it is advisable to have a hearing test every couple of years or if you find your current hearing aids are not working as well as they used to.
Of course, technology is constantly improving, and you may want to replace your hearing aids sooner. But by taking care of them, you will ensure they work optimally for as long as you choose to keep them.
Latest Types of Hearing Aids
A newer type of hearing aid is the invisible in canal (IIC) hearing aid, which is nearly impossible for others to see. Some types can even be worn continuously for several weeks or months.
If you prefer a behind-the-ear (BTE) style of hearing aid, a new type is an open-fit hearing aid. This type of hearing aid works via a small tube inside the ear canal. These are more comfortable as they allow the ear canal to remain open.
Another type of advanced hearing aids are implantable ones. There are two types:
- Middle ear implants (MEI) are surgically attached to a bone in the middle ear. These are particularly effective if you have sensorineural hearing loss.
- Bone-anchored hearing aids (BAHA) attach to the mastoid bone located behind the ear. The device bypasses the middle ear, which makes them suitable if you have middle ear problems.
Hearing Aids vs Cochlear Implants
Cochlear implants are surgically implanted devices that are normally used to treat profound hearing loss or when hearing aids have not improved hearing to an acceptable level. They have an external component and an internal component implanted in the inner ear. Cochlear implant surgery is performed under general anaesthesia, and normally, only the external component will ever need to be replaced, which will not require surgery.
Modern hearing aids are remarkable pieces of technology that can transform your life if you have hearing loss. There is a type of hearing aid to suit almost every degree of hearing loss, and the best hearing aids are the ones you will want to wear. After all, no matter how advanced they are, they are pointless if you don’t want to use them!
If you have any concerns about hearing loss, at Regain Hearing we offer the most advanced hearing tests and a wide choice of hearing aids. Plus, we provide lifetime aftercare. Please call or fill in our form to arrange a hearing test at our Regain Hearing clinics in London, Kent and Essex.