Advancements in Hearing Aids
If you have developed hearing loss with age, you are not alone. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, approximately 30 million people in the U.S. share your struggle. Many of the people suffering from hearing loss are seniors. The National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) states that among U.S. citizens between 65 and 74 years of age, approximately 33 percent have hearing loss. That figure increases to 50 percent for U.S. senior citizens over 74 years of age. As one of those seniors, you may be struggling to keep up with family conversations. When hearing loss causes missed communication, it can also lead to frustration for you and your loved ones. Hearing aids are among the top treatments for hearing loss. In recent years, the hearing aid industry has experienced many positive changes that have impacted how well the devices function. Today, there are many types of hearing aids to choose from, including some with special features.
A Brief Description of Sensorineural Hearing Loss
If you have sensorineural hearing loss, your inner ear has suffered damage. That damage can occur as a result of prolonged exposure to loud noise or as a side effect to other issues, such as taking a certain medication. Sensorineural hearing loss is the type hearing aids can often correct. Outer or middle ear hearing loss is often correctable without hearing aids through processes like surgery or wax removal. Your sensorineural hearing loss is as unique as a fingerprint. Therefore, some experimentation and testing is required to treat your hearing loss effectively. Understanding the many forms of hearing aid technology will help you with experimentation.
Canal Hearing Aids
Canal hearing aids are among the smallest types of hearing aids. To use them, you must install them in your ear canal. One form of canal aid is called in-the-canal (ITC). The other is called completely-in-canal (CIC). When you place either type in your ears, they are nearly invisible. This characteristic makes them among the most advanced in terms of comfort and appearance. However, they are among the least technically advanced in terms of functionality. Due to their small sizes, such hearing aids have low battery lives and are also difficult to manipulate.
Behind-the-Ear (BTE) Hearing Aids
Behind-the-Ear (BTE) hearing aids have plastic cases that will curve over the top of your ears. Older styles of BTE aids have pieces that fit behind your ears. They will collect and amplify sound, then transmit it into large molds placed inside your ears. BTE hearing aids have existed for decades. However, new technological advancements have led to the production of a second type of BTE. The newer type consists of smaller behind-the-ear pieces and smaller tubes that will not block your ear canals completely. Therefore, they may be more comfortable for you.
In-the-Ear (ITE) Hearing Aids
In-the-ear hearing aids are slightly less visually conspicuous than BTEs because they fit just inside your outer ears. In-the-ear hearing aids often feature telecoils. Telecoils are devices you can use to more easily communicate over the telephone. Modern ITE devices are also often equipped with special technology allowing them to interface with loop sound systems. You will find the same systems installed in many auditoriums, religious meeting places and other large venues.
Middle Ear Implants (MEIs) and Bone-Anchored Hearing Aids (BAHAs)
Middle ear implants and bone-anchored hearing aids are both types of hearing aids you can only get if you are prepared to have surgery. Middle ear implants will vibrate the bones inside your ears. Bone-anchored hearing aids will bypass your ears completely by transmitting signals through your skull in the form of sound vibrations. Both methods are technologically advanced but can be risky because they involve surgical procedures.
Additional Types of Hearing Aid Technology
Most modern hearing aids use digital technology and tiny computer chips. Such technologies can provide you with additional benefits, like sound filtration. For example, you may be able to tune out crowds to focus on a single conversation easily. In fact, your hearing aids can be tuned to your individual type and amount of hearing loss. Added sound filtration and feedback control can also help your hearing aids work much more efficiently than the hearing aids of the past.
Many hearing aids today are also equipped with special capabilities to adjust to your needs based on the situation you are facing. They are able to analyze the noises around you and switch modes automatically. Others can be manually adjusted to focus their directional microphones to suit your needs. Some also come with bonus technology, such as the ability to connect directly to common devices. For example, you may be able to link your hearing aids to your smartphone or computer. Doing so will allow you to hear music, phone calls and other sounds produced by those devices with more clarity.
If you try other forms of hearing aids with no success, cochlear implants may help you. They are among the most advanced forms of hearing aid technology. Cochlear implants consist of external and internal pieces that can work together to transmit some sounds to you. However, cochlear implants are not always successful. Even if they do work for you, you will not hear sounds in the traditional sense. Instead, your brain will interpret electrical currents so it will take time for you to get used to the currents and to fully decipher them efficiently.