Hearing loss affects millions of Americans. Hearing loss is usually gradual and painless. It not only affects the individual, but those lives around them also. Studies have shown that untreated hearing loss can lead to depression. There is help available!
Ear, Nose and Throat Associates, P.C. is pleased to offer a hearing aid program to its patients. The audiologists at our practice offer exceptional products and services to accommodate our patients’ hearing healthcare needs. We offer the latest technological advances in hearing aids.
Hearing aid recommendations are made after a comprehensive audiological evaluation, taking into account each individual’s hearing loss profile/audiogram and hearing needs. If you are considering hearing aids and are ready to explore your options, your audiologist will counsel you on the technologies and styles that are appropriate for your loss and needs.
When the decision is made to purchase hearing aids, silicone earmold impressions are taken of your ears. These impressions are then sent to the manufacturer for custom hearing aids or earmolds to be made. You will have a 30 day trial period, which begins on the day you are fit with your hearing aids. If the hearing aids are returned within the 30 day trial period, you are refunded the amount that you paid for the hearing aids less $100.00 fitting fee per hearing aid, which covers our supplies and our time. Custom earmolds that are made for behind-the-ear hearing aids are non-refundable.
Types and Degrees of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is individual; there are no people with hearing loss that is the same. Hearing involves a complex interaction of your outer, middle, and inner ear systems and the hearing nerve that runs up to theauditory processing center of the brain.
Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss is the type of loss which accompanies presbycusis, or hearing loss due to aging. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs at the level of the inner ear and/or the hearing nerve. It is almost always permanent and will gradually get worse over time.
Conductive hearing loss involves a “blockage” of sound as it attempts to pass through the ear canal, eardrum and the bones of the middle ear. The blockage can be due to wax build up, scarring or a perforation of the eardrum, fluid or a mass in the middle ear space behind the eardrum, or a mechanical problem with the bones that transfer sound from the eardrum to the inner ear. Conductive hearing loss may be able to betreated medically.
Mixed hearing loss involves components from both sensorineural and conductive losses. Hearing loss is not reported in percentages, as our scale of testing extends below 0 and above 100. Hearing loss is classified by the following ranges: Mild, Moderate, Moderate-Severe, Severe, and Profound.
Hearing Aid Styles
Hearing aid styles are available in different shapes and sizes to accommodate patients’ hearing losses and cosmetic concerns. The smaller the hearing aid, the greater the cost will be, partly due to miniaturization of components. Smaller hearing aids offer less available gain or “headroom” for future adjustments as your hearing loss may worsen. Larger styles of hearing aids can also be made to be cosmetically acceptable. Hearing aids that are larger allow for more features such as directional microphones, volume controls and switches or buttons, as there are fewer space constraints. Also important is that larger hearing aids allow for more overall gain, which is important in managing your hearing as further loss occurs.
Here is a brief overview of available hearing aid styles:
Behind-the-Ear – BTE: This style involves a hearing aid that attaches to a custom made earmold. The earmold fits in your ear to direct sound into your ear canal and to secure the hearing aid portion, which sits on top of your ear. Behind-the-Ear hearing aids offer the most gain, or “headroom”, to increase the settings as your hearing loss may decrease. BTE hearing aids are less susceptible to wax breakdown, as there are no working components in the ear canal. BTE hearing aids also offer many features such as directional microphones, switches, volume controls and/or pushbuttons. This style is also very cosmetically acceptable.
In-the-Ear – ITE: ITE hearing aids are custom made to fit in the entire bowl portion of your outer ear. Of all the custom made styles, these hearing aids are the largest and offer more gain to fit a wide variety of hearing losses. This style allows for directional microphones and other switches and buttons as offered by each manufacturer.
In-the-Canal – ITC: ITC hearing aids are custom made to fit in the lower portion of the bowl of the outer ear. This smaller custom product may have the space to accommodate a directional microphone system or switches or buttons, depending on the size of each individual’s ear and the manufacturer. As this style of hearing aid is smaller, the range of losses that can be fit appropriately is more limited.
Completely-in-Canal – CIC: CIC hearing aids are designed to fit completely in the ear canal. The faceplate of the hearing aid sits in the canal opening. This miniature hearing aid is removed by a retrieval string that is attached to the faceplate. This hearing aid is not for everyone. Individuals must have a large enough ear in terms of length, and more importantly width, to accommodate this style. Because this hearing aid is very small and therefore has less available gain, it is not appropriate for more severe hearing losses. If you have problems with wax accumulation or ear drainage, the CIC hearing aid can have frequent repairs.
Hearing Aid Technologies
Hearing aid technology has come a long way. Significant advancements have been made in the past 15 years. Computer programmable hearing aids have allowed great flexibility in adjusting the settings and parameters to best accommodate each individual’s hearing loss and hearing needs.
Digital hearing aids have afforded the most flexibility in providing hearing aid users with various options. Digital processing (like a CD) of the sound has allowed for a crisper and cleaner sound quality, compared to analog (like a cassette tape) processing which has more inherent noise. The advancement of digital aids has also allowed for more features to process sound, such as noise reduction, feedback cancellation and, most importantly, directional microphones. Digital hearing aids do automatically adjust to various types and levels of sound, therefore keeping the amplified sound in a comfortable range. Directional microphones work by improving the signal to noise ratio to improve the ability to understand speech in noise; different hearing aids have various options available for maximizing this feature.
Programmable hearing aids with analog sound processing do allow for flexibility in adjusting the parameters via the computer. However, the sound quality will not be as sharp or crisp as it can be with digital processing. Some manufacturers of this technology do offer directional microphones and other features for flexibility.
Traditional hearing aids offer analog sound processing with minimal flexibility. Adjustments to the hearing aid settings can be made with a screwdriver by turning the trimpots, if available on your particular hearing aid. Volume controls are available for the user to adjust the volume up or down as needed in particular environments.
As digital sound quality is proving to be the best choice for most patients, it is becoming available with different features at all price levels. The most advanced digital products available will accommodate those individuals with more demanding hearing needs. The progressively less advanced digital products will allow for the crisper and cleaner sound quality, but will not have the maximum flexibility or multitude of features compared to the higher levels of digital technology.
Any type of technology is available in any of the different styles of hearing aids. Features may vary, however, depending on the style of instrument chosen.
Hearing aids are not perfect. You will not understand everything with hearing aids. No matter how advanced the technology, sound is still being processed through a damaged hearing system. Hearing aids will improve your ability to hear and understand in many situations. However, the hearing aids will allow you to hear all sounds again, not just speech sounds, and this requires patience while adjusting to your new world of sound.
In terms of a wearing schedule as a new hearing aid user, it is best to follow your own signals. It is fine to start wearing your hearing aids all day as soon as you are fit with them. However, some people are more comfortable with gradually increasing their wearing time. It is important that you increase your wearing time by a few hours each day until you are able to wear your hearing aids all day within 10-14 days. The more you use your hearing aids, the more successful you will be with them. Not only must you adjust to the physical aspect of the hearing aids, there is also ear and brain retraining that must occur. BE PATIENT.
If you are a candidate for hearing aids in both ears, it is important that you wear hearing aids in both ears. Binaural hearing allows for better discrimination and localization abilities. Two ears are better than one!
General Hearing Aid Use and Care
It is important to keep your hearing aids clean and dry. Wax, debris and moisture are the most common causes of hearing aid breakdown. You should never use anything wet to clean your hearing aids as the moisture can get into the components. Remember, you have a very powerful, tiny computer in your ear!
Cleaning your hearing aids should be done nightly by wiping them with a dry cloth or a tissue. You can also use special cleaning tools such as a brush, wire loop or vent cleaner to free any debris caught in the hearing aids.
Assistive Listening Devices
Sometimes additional help is needed for hearing in particular situations. As we said before, hearing aids are not perfect. They will greatly improve your ability to communicate in many situations. However, when the hearing aids do not seem to provide enough improvement for a particular environment, an assistive listening device may be necessary.
Assistive listening devices can be components used with hearing aids or they can be separate systems. There are assistive listening devices to help on the telephone, for alerting, and even for enjoyment of large productions or events, such as concerts and plays. Some devices must be purchased by the individual and some are available for public use at movies and theaters.
WE ARE HERE TO HELP!
ENT Associates, P.C. is here to help you with your hearing healthcare needs. We look forward to improving your hearing however we can. We offer the latest advances in hearing aid technology, as well as many other products for hearing protection and enhancement. Our staff will provide you personalized care.
Thank you for choosing ENT Associates, P.C.!