An audiologist is a licensed professional who has been trained in the diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss and balance disorders in adults and children. Audiologists undergo extensive training and education to earn their doctor of audiology (Au.D.) degree. An audiologist uses a comprehensive, patient-centered approach to evaluating, diagnosing and treating a patient’s hearing loss.
WHAT IS A HEARING AID?
A hearing aid is an electronic device that is worn in or behind your ear. It consists of three main components: a microphone, amplifier and receiver. The hearing aid receives sound through a microphone, which converts the sound waves into electrical signals. The amplifier increases the power of the signal and sends it to the ear via a speaker (receiver). The amplified signal is then heard by the user.
WILL HEARING AIDS MAKE MY HEARING NORMAL?
Hearing aids will not cure your hearing loss. They are used to provide a benefit to your hearing and listening abilities. Hearing aids can significantly improve your quality of life.
WILL PEOPLE NOTICE THAT I AM WEARING A HEARING AID?
More than most likely, your family and friends can already notice that you have difficulty hearing. Continually repeating words that ask for clarification, such as “what” and “huh,” is a more noticeable sign of a hearing loss than utilizing a hearing aid. Over recent years, hearing aids have become much smaller and more discrete. Hearing aids are available in a variety of styles. There are in-the-ear and behind-the-ear models as seen in the images below. Your audiologist will work with you to determine which style of hearing aid is best suited for you.
Due to recent advancements in Bluetooth technology, hearing aids are even more undetectable than ever before. Bluetooth technology allows one’s hearing aids to be paired to their cellphone, which then acts as a remote control. One’s cellphone can be used to make quick adjustments in volume and settings. It is a very unnoticeable way to make simple hearing aid adjustments without having to reach towards your ear.
DO I NEED TWO HEARING AIDS?
If both of your ears have a hearing loss, and it is determined that both ears could benefit from a hearing aid, then wearing two hearing aids would provide the most improvement in your hearing ability. Our brain uses the information collected from each ear to assist in hearing in noisy situations, identifying the source and location of sounds and improving clarity of speech.
WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF HEARING LOSS?
One out of three people over the age of 65 have a form of hearing loss. Hearing loss can be classified into three types: sensorineural, conductive or mixed. A sensorineural hearing loss is a problem with the inner ear and/or acoustic nerve. There are a variety of factors that can cause this type of hearing loss. Some of the most common factors include age related changes (presbyscusis), noise exposure and ototoxic medications. A conductive hearing loss is due to a disruption in the transmission of sound from the outer and middle ear to the inner ear. Some factors that can cause a conductive hearing loss include cerumen (ear wax) build-up, fluid in the middle ear space, perforations in the eardrum, middle ear infections and disruptions of the bones in the middle ear. A mixed hearing loss is a combination of a conductive damage in the outer and middle ear and sensorineural damage to the inner ear or auditory nerve.
WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF HEARING LOSS?
Many people with difficulty hearing often wait to have their hearing tested. A hearing loss that is left untreated can have negative impacts on one’s social and emotional well-being. An untreated hearing loss has been linked to depression, stress and anxiety, loneliness and isolation.
There are also safety concerns that arise from an untreated hearing loss. Not being able to properly hear alert signals, such as smoke detectors, doorbells and telephones and instructions from physicians and caregivers can all have troublesome outcomes.
WHAT ARE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS REGARDING HEARING AIDS?
When utilizing hearing aids, you can expect your hearing ability in quiet environments and situations with a moderate level of background noise to improve. Your hearing in background noise will not be as good as in a quiet environment. Soft speech should be audible and moderate speech should be comfortable. Loud speech should not be uncomfortable. When your hearing aids are seated properly in your ears, there should not be feedback.
WHAT IS TINNITUS?
Tinnitus is defined by the American Tinnitus Association (ATA) as “the perception of sound in the ears or head where no external source is present.” It is commonly described as “ringing in the ears,” but some people describe it as buzzing, humming or whistling. The ATA reports that 1 in 5 people are affected by tinnitus. The exact cause is still unknown, but there are many sources that may trigger or worsen tinnitus, including head or neck trauma, jaw misalignment and noise exposure.
WHAT IS THE FAMILY’S ROLE?
The family’s role is to provide support and understanding to an individual with a hearing impairment. When speaking to a family member who has a hearing loss, there are a few communication strategies that can improve conversation. Always attract one’s attention before speaking. If a person does not realize you are speaking to them, there will be little benefit. Face-to-face communication is key. A person with a hearing impairment utilizes facial cues, lip movements and body gestures to aid in their listening abilities. Move closer. Speaking from a distance or another room is not ideal for anyone. Be at an appropriate distance when speaking to one another. Louder is not better. Yelling will distort words and decrease one’s ability to understanding. Rather, try speaking slower and using shorter phrases.
DOES INSURANCE COVER HEARING AIDS?
Every insurance plan is different. We recommend you contact your insurance company to determine what hearing aid benefit applies to your policy. Two of the more common insurance policies that currently have a hearing aid benefit are Capital BlueCross and Geisinger Gold.
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