Hearing and Balance Center

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Hearing Aids

Purpose

The purpose of a hearing aid is to improve an individual’s ability to hear sounds and understand conversations.  Modern hearing aids can be programmed to make the various frequencies (pitches) where hearing loss is occurring audible.  The more sounds are audible the more likely a person will be able to hear and understand what is being said.  However, for some individuals there are some limitations to improving the ability to understand; your audiologist can explain this in more detail.

Digital Hearing Aids

Digital hearing aids have been on the market for many years, but they continue to change and improve constantly.  Digital circuitry has enabled audiologists to improve the hearing aid experience by increasing flexibility, adding comfort features and improving the overall sound quality.Many hearing aids are now Bluetooth compatible to function with cellular telephones, televisions, personal listening devices, etc. There are many different levels of technology that are available: one to suit nearly every person’s listening and hearing loss needs, as well as various price points.

  • Basic Digital: least amount of features & flexibility
  • Value Digital
  • Advanced Digital
  • Premium Digital: highest amount of features & flexibility

Styles of Hearing Aids

Custom in-the-ear:

Available in full-shell down to completely-in-the-canal

  • Ear mold impression is taken of the ear in order to make the aid fit the size and shape of the ear
  • Different battery sizes, based on which model is selected
  • Can have various extra features and controls on some models
  • Bluetooth compatibility for some levels of technology

Behind-the-Ear (BTE)

Standard BTE case

  • Used with a custom earmold or with a convertible thin-tube
  • Slightly longer lifespan as compared to custom in-the-ear aids
  • Features a larger battery size, leading to longer use of the battery
  • Can have various extra features and controls
  • Bluetooth compatibility for some levels of technology
  • Available in many different colors: match your hair or have fun with it!

Cros & BiCros: allows for the use of a microphone on the “dead” ear

Open BTE

Standard BTE case

  • Same features as those noted above
  • Can be converted from an “open fit” to a standard fit with a custom earmold if necessary

Miniature BTE case

  • Slightly smaller case length & width
  • Smaller battery size
  • Some models have extra features and controls, some do not
  • Bluetooth compatibility for some levels of technology

Features

Directional Microphones: the use of two microphones on a hearing aid

  • One microphone assists in the amplification of speech sounds from in front of a hearing aid user and the other microphone assists in the reduction of speech and noise from beside and behind the hearing aid user.   
  • Some microphones adapt to moving sound sources 
  • Research shows this is the number one thing that is needed to assist hearing aid users when they are in a large group of people talking, such as a restaurant or other group gathering. 
  • Telecoil: magnetic induction coil to assist with telephone use  
  • Feedback Reduction: computer based program that helps to prevent hearing aids from “whistling” 
  • Noise Reduction: computer based program that helps to cut down on some types of noise 
  • Speech Enhancement: computer based program that helps to enhance speech sounds in an attempt to provide as much clarity of speech as possible 
  • Data Logging & Volume Control Learning: computer based program that monitors and logs the use of the hearing aid, the types of listening situations a person is in, and sometimes, allows for making learned changes based on an individual’s preference for volume changes 
  • Program Buttons: a push button that allows for transitions between multiple programs or listening scenarios 
  • Remote Controls:  allows for control of many different features on a hearing aid; some even act as real-time sound quality adjusters or even Bluetooth transmitters 
  • Bluetooth Compatibility: wireless compatibility with other devices, such as cellular telephones, televisions, and personal listening devices 

Realistic Expectations

  • Hearing aids are an “aid,” they cannot restore a person’s hearing to normal
  • Hearing aids may require multiple adjustments to obtain a satisfactory sound
  • Many patients need time to adjust to hearing aids
  • Consistent use of hearing aids will lead to faster adjustment to the sound and improved success
  • Background noise cannot be “eliminated”
  • Most of the “background noise” that people feel affects their ability to hear is actually “a lot of people talking.”  Hearing aids are designed to amplify speech; therefore, it is often hard for the hearing aids to know which one or two people a hearing aid user wants to hear when there are “a lot of people talking.”

Monaural vs. Binaural

Just as two eyes are necessary to focus on objects and see the complete picture, two “good” ears are necessary to clearly understand speech, locate the source of a sound, balance incoming noise and deliver a more natural sound quality. If you wish to decide for yourself whether two ears are better than one, begin by trying two hearing instruments.  After all, being able to hear and understand family and friends helps you all enjoy being together more…and more often!

Fitting/Trial Period

Hearing aids are fitted on a trial period of approximately four weeks.  During that time, you will be asked to return to the office for one or more visits to allow us to make adjustments to the sound or fit of the aids as needed. At the end of the trial period, you can choose to keep the hearing aids on a permanent basis, return the aids and try something different, or return the aids and discontinue trying anything else.

There is a professional fee that is required to go through the trial period. However, if you choose not to keep the hearing aids, you will not have to pay any part of the cost of the aids, but the professional fitting fee is non-refundable.