As we grow older, many of us experience hearing loss. It often begins when we’re in our forties with a lowered ability to hear the high end of music or softly-spoken people, then increases as we age. Hearing aids can help give back some of what nature has taken away.
You could be subject to one of several different types of hearing loss. The first you might know of it is when you have a problem hearing something on the TV, for instance, or conversations across the table. You might also experience the ringing in your ears called tinnitus. In extreme cases you could also find a problem with balance or dizziness.
If you have conductive hearing loss, it means sound waves have a problem getting through to your inner ear. The cause could be a punctured eardrum, an infection or even a build-up of wax. Luckily, it can usually be cured with treatment. Sensorineural hearing loss is a different matter. It means the hair cells or nerves in your ear have become damaged for some reason, and there’s no cure. You might even suffer from a combination of the two.
The best thing to do is go and see your GP, who can run some basic tests and refer you to a specialist, who’ll then decide if you need a hearing aid, and recommend what kind is best for your needs.
Types of Hearing Aid
What type of hearing aid you wear depends on a number of things – what your hearing loss is, what activities you do, and your own cosmetic preferences. If you’re not going through the NHS, cost can also be a factor. The specialist might even recommend two hearing aids in some situations. There are several types of hearing aids:
- In the ear is pretty much what the name says. Although they’re not very obvious, which is preferable for some people, they’re prone to damage from ear drainage and wax.
- You’ve certainly seen behind the ear aids. Perhaps the biggest problem is if the mould has been badly fitted, in which case you can experience a lot of feedback.
- Finally there are body aids, which go on your belt or in your pocket, and are really only for those with a very heavy hearing loss.
- Canal aids go in the ear canal, making them virtually undetectable. However, their size makes them difficult to adjust.
- There is now also the I.I.C. (Invisible In Canal) Hearing Aid which is far smaller and sits right next to the eardrum. It cannot be seen and is remote controlled.
Hearing aids can be either analogue or digital, with the latter more flexible. Some even come with remote controls, so you can easily change the programming as you need it (there are analogue programmable aids, too).
Loop systems work with hearing aids. They’re really just a loop of wire that hooks over your ear. You switch your aid to the “T” setting, and it picks up the signal from the loop. So why do you need it? A lot of post offices, cinemas, and so on, have them, to make life easier and fuller for you. You can even get one for your stereo or TV that works through infrared transmission.
Using a Hearing Aid
You’re not going to adjust to a hearing aid immediately, and you won’t hear things quite the way you used to. Instead, it’s a gradual process, and you’ll do best starting a few hours at a time. Background noises will seem louder.
There are a few things you need to remember with hearing aids. Of course you have to replace a dead battery immediately, and keep the replacements somewhere children can’t reach them. Turn your aid off when you’re not using it. Never use hairspray near it, clean it often, and keep it away from moisture and heat.