TREATING HEARING LOSS
VIDEO: Hearing Loss Treatment is Life-Changing
Hearing aids and cochlear implants are the most common forms of technology that enable people with hearing loss to communicate with their friends and family and lead happy lives.
OPTIONS FOR TREATMENT
A hearing aid is a small battery-powered device designed to improve one's hearing.
There are several designs and types of hearing aids that exist to best accommodate one's individual hearing loss. They can differ in size, placement, and sound amplification.
COMPLETELY IN THE CANAL (CIC)
"CIC hearing aids are optimal for people with mild hearing loss," explains Evelyn Venn-Davies, Au.D., Ph.D. of the University of Minnesota. They are the smallest and least visible type of aids available and are molded to fit inside the ear canal. CIC hearing aids are the least likely to pick up excess noise like wind, but they do not contain extra features that other types of aids have, such as volume control or a directional microphone due to their small size.
IN THE CANAL (ITC)
This type of hearing aid is molded and fits partly in the ear canal, specifically the outer ear bowl. Mandy Mroz, Au.D., and Susanne Jones, BC-HIS, of Healthy Hearing, say that because this style is slightly larger than CIC hearing aids, it allows for them to have a longer battery life and to help individuals with wider ranges of hearing loss. This style also include features, such as directional microphones and manual controls for volume, that will not fit on the small design of CIC hearing aids.
IN THE EAR (ITE)
In-the-ear hearing aids can be custom made in two styles, full shell and half shell, and are most helpful for people with moderate to severe hearing loss. The American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) says that because this type of hearing aid is larger than canal aids, it makes them easier to handle. The larger size also allows for a larger battery and a longer battery life as well as the ability to include volume control features.
BEHIND THE EAR (BTE)
The ASHA states that this style of hearing aid is often the best option for children because the earmolds can change as they grow. Additionally, Dr. Venn-Davies says that BTE aids are best for people with more severe hearing loss. The hearing aid rests behind your ear and connects to the custom fit earmold with a piece of clear tubing. Because this is the largest option, Mayo Clinic doctors cite that it may be the easiest to handle and is capable of more amplification than other styles, explaining why it is particularly helpful for children and for those with severe hearing loss.
BEHIND THE EAR (OPEN FIT)
As reported by The Mayo Clinic, this type of hearing aid is a variation of the BTE hearing aid, but is less visible due to a thinner tube and smaller size. It allows for low-frequency sounds to enter the ear and for high frequency sounds to be amplified. An advantage of this style, cited by Better Hearing of Austin, is that it does not block the ear canal. It allows for the sounds that enter the ear to be more natural and for the device to be more comfortable in the ear. Open-fit hearing aids are especially beneficial for those with mild to moderate high-frequency hearing loss because they do not amplify low-frequency sounds that an individual is able to hear; only high-frequency sounds are amplified.
RECEIVER IN THE EAR (RITE)
The Mayo Clinic describes receiver-in-the-ear hearing aids as very similar to BTE hearing aids. The body of the hearing aid remains behind the ear, however, a tiny wire connects to the speaker as opposed to a tube and the speaker is in the ear instead of behind it. This feature makes RITE hearing aids less visible than BTE hearing aids. They are best for people with mild to severe hearing losses.
Cochlear implants are best for people with severe to profound hearing loss who do not show any benefit from a hearing aid.
Cochlear implants are also helpful for people with single-sided deafness. This device has a magnetic internal coil and an ear-worn, outside processor. The Mayo Clinic explains the way the device works: the sound processor fits behind the ear and captures the sound signals and sends them to the receiver. The receiver then sends to signals to electrodes in the inner ear and the signals stimulate the auditory nerve, which directs them to the brain where the signals are interpreted as sounds. Cochlear implants have great benefits for infants and children who are learning to speak and process language, which is critical in development. To be eligible for a cochlear implant, one must have hearing loss that interrupts spoken communication, limited benefit from hearing aids, and no medical factors that may increase the risks associated with the implants.
The Miracle of the Cochlear Implant
It has been 17 years since the implant. My device has been reprogrammed again and again until clarity reached its peak. I still don’t understand speech perfectly, but I do hear sounds I had not heard before.
How to Buy Hearing Aids
As with any big purchase, selecting a hearing aid can be difficult and confusing if you don’t have the right information or know the correct questions to ask. Bring a copy of this checklist with you.
Research Aims to Improve Fit and Increase Usage of Hearing Aids in the U.S.
“There’s a growing body of research showing that hearing loss can lead to accelerated cognitive decline and isolation as people age,” HHF-funded researcher Dr. Samira Anderson says.
My Ears Don’t Work, But My Implants Do
In a world where only half a million use a cochlear implant, ignorance of the technology is to be expected. And I’m proud to speak on its behalf, to explain why I need them and what they do.