The best guide to hearing loss and hearing aids
Whether you have a hearing loss or not, it is important that you know the basics about hearing loss, how hearing aids work and how to choose a hearing aid. This information can help you connect with family and friends or learn more about yourself.
When it comes to hearing loss and hearing aids, there is a lot of misinformation. Hearing loss does not only happen to the elderly, and hearing aids do not have to be big and unsightly. Hearing loss does not always manifest itself as deafness, and not everyone with hearing loss can benefit from hearing aids. The more you learn about hearing loss and how it works, the better you can understand your own situation or the experiences of those around you.
There is much to learn about hearing loss and new discoveries are being made every year. If you’re not sure where to start, this guide will give you the basics about hearing loss, hearing aids and hearing care professionals – from there, you can go ahead and start your own research!
What is hearing loss?
As the name implies, hearing loss is when a person’s sense of hearing is adversely affected. This could be due to aging, noise exposure, disease, or a genetic problem.
There are some different types of hearing loss and they can have different impacts on those who suffer from it. Most types of hearing loss are permanent, while others may be caused temporarily by allergies, earwax blocks, and even tumors.
If you are interested in the different types and causes of hearing loss, Signia has a more detailed article that can provide you with the information you need here.
Types of Hearing Loss
There are three main types of hearing loss: sensorineural, conductive and auditory neuropathy. This affects people in different ways, so a person with sensorineural hearing loss may have very different experiences than a person with conductive hearing loss. There are also mixed cases, where someone suffers from more than one type of hearing loss.
Conductive hearing loss is characterised by a blockage or a problem in the middle ear. Earwax, fluid buildup, and blockages can prevent sound waves from reaching the inner ear, causing hearing loss. Bone growths and tumors can also cause conductive hearing loss. However, many of these cases can be resolved and the person can return to normal hearing.
Sensorineural hearing loss involves the nerves within the inner ear. The cochlea is lined with hair cells, which help determine the volume and frequency of what you are hearing. If these cells are damaged, permanent hearing loss occurs. This is the most common form of permanent hearing loss and can happen to anyone.
Auditory neuropathy refers to the nerve that sends sound to the brain. After sound waves are captured by the ears, they are sent to the brain for processing. However, if the nerves that send these signals are damaged, hearing is compromised. Certain diseases can lead to auditory neuropathy, and it can occur in children.
Mixed hearing loss usually refers to cases involving both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. While the conductive aspect of your hearing loss can often be cured, sensorineural hearing loss requires other treatments.
Causes of Hearing Loss
Depending on the type of hearing loss and the person experiencing it, the cause may change. For example, a young person who has been deaf since birth probably suffered from an illness as a child or was born that way. Meanwhile, someone who has lost hearing slowly over time is likely to have sensorineural hearing loss due to aging or exposure to noise.
That said, these are some of the most common causes of hearing loss.
Aging. As we age, our senses begin to be lost. Many people start wearing glasses as they age, and others start wearing hearing aids. It’s natural.
Noise exposure. If you work in construction, are in the military, or attend many concerts, you are at greater risk for hearing loss than someone who doesn’t do those jobs. Putting too much stress on your ears can seriously affect their functioning over time.
Genetics. It is almost impossible to predict exactly how genetics will affect children. Some children are born without the ability to see or hear, and it is important to accept that aspect of them.
Diseases Certain diseases can cause hearing loss, especially if they are already experienced as children or infants. Adults can also lose their hearing due to infections.
How to avoid a hearing loss
Preventing hearing loss is not always a simple task. Some types of hearing loss cannot be prevented, only treated and alleviated. The sound of tinnitus can be blocked and hearing aids can help people hear in new ways.
The most common form of hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss, can be prevented to some extent. It is important to wear earmuffs and earplugs during concerts, car races, and other noisy situations. If you or a loved one works in a noisy environment, make sure you are wearing the proper protection as well. While hearing loss can affect anyone, those who protect themselves are better off.
How can hearing aids help you hear?
Hearing aids are the primary treatment for hearing loss, especially sensorineural hearing loss. They can be used to treat mild to profound hearing loss, and there are many different types of hearing aids to fit different people.
However, hearing aids do more than just allow people to hear better. The latest features make them important devices for people with tinnitus, and studies show that hearing aids may reduce the risk of dementia in older people.
The concept of hearing aids is simple: They capture and amplify sound waves so that the cochlea functions properly. From there, users can more easily process sound. Speech understanding is improved, and they do not have to work as hard to hear the world around them.
Many people with hearing loss complain of fatigue and mental exhaustion. This is because they are constantly straining to listen, even unconsciously. This puts stress on the brain, making them feel tired and exhausted.
With hearing aids, much of that struggle is not necessary. Hearing aids improve people’s quality of life.
Types of Hearing Aids
While hearing aids cannot alleviate some cases of hearing loss, most people with hearing loss can benefit from hearing aids. However, misconceptions about hearing aids lead many people to forego the fitting. They may feel that the hearing aids are too clumsy or do not match their own image. While hearing aids used to be much larger, today’s technology has allowed them to be smaller in size and more attractive in design.
There are multiple types of hearing aids. Each has its own benefits, and certain types of hearing aids may help some people more than others. It is up to you and your hearing care professional to choose the one that is best for you. Let’s review the main types of hearing aids.
Behind-the-ear, or BTE BTE models are some of the most common because of their versatility and wide range of features. They sit behind the ear and a thin, clear tube enters the ear. They are easy to remove, clean and repair, and come in a variety of styles.
Receiver in the canal, or RIC. They sit comfortably behind the ear while, unlike the BTE, the RIC “receiver” is located at the end of a thin wire, providing a superior hearing experience with less power consumption. Some models, such as Signia’s new Styletto Connect, are designed to resemble expensive technology or ear jewellery. They work for mild to moderate cases of hearing loss.
In-the-ear and In-the-Canal, or ITE and ITC. These are more suitable for severe hearing loss and fit perfectly in the ear or ear canal. Although they are visible from the side, they can be customized or camouflaged according to the user.
Completely In-Canal, or CIC. These are ultra-small hearing aids that fit almost completely inside the ear. They are almost invisible and work well for those who do not want their hearing aids to be seen.
Certain types of hearing aids may not work for you, depending on the severity of your hearing loss. A trained audiologist will be able to provide you with information about which hearing aids you can wear and what might be best for you. If you are interested in seeing examples of current models and their accessories, Signia has a range of different types of hearing aids.
If you do not yet have a hearing care professional, want to recommend a visit or wish to change your provider, it is important that you find someone you can trust. Hearing care professionals will help you with every step of selecting, buying and fitting hearing aids, along with adjustment, repairs and subsequent cleaning. The process of finding a hearing care professional is easier with assistance, and the Signia Store Locator uses GPS to help you find trained professionals near you.