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Do hearing aids really work?

Thursday, October 6th

Do Hearing Aids Really Work?

As many as 15% of adults in the United States report some degree of hearing loss, and it is estimated that more than 28 million American adults could enjoy great benefits from the use of a hearing aid. The first electronic hearing aid was invented in 1898. It was a large, clunky hearing aid that required both hands to use. Thankfully, technology has dramatically improved in this important area. In fact, today's hearing aids are mostly digital, lightweight, and barely visible to others.

However, before you invest in hearing aids through a convenient online purchase, you understandably want to know if they can actually help you to hear better. It is important to note that today's hearing aids are highly effective for many types of hearing loss. Because of their effectiveness and convenience, they are often preferred by many people over cochlear implants. You should be aware, however, that they do not work for those with some specific types of hearing loss. What should you know about hearing aids before you place an online order?

Common Causes of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can be the result of a genetic birth defect or a progressive genetic disorder. With progressive genetic disorders, the ability to hear clearly may fade over time. It is most common for this type of hearing loss to be more pronounced during the second half of life. Hearing loss may be caused by injury and illness. Some of these issues may result in short-term loss that subsides with healing or recovery, but some may result in permanent hearing loss. The side effects of some medications, such as chemotherapy drugs and more, can impact hearing. There are also diseases that cause hearing loss, such as cancer, benign tumors, autoimmune diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes and more. Age-related hearing loss is also common. In fact, roughly half of adults who are 75 years old or older live with some degree of hearing loss.

Hearing loss may be attributed to damage to the ear canal, the middle ear, the inner ear, the eardrum or even the auditory nerve. In most cases, hearing aids are most effective when the sensory loss is impacted by an inner ear condition or by the auditory nerve. However, with so many different causes of hearing loss, it is important to speak with your doctor about your unique situation. Your doctor can help you to decide if buying hearing aids online is the right treatment approach for you to take.

How Hearing Aids Work

There are many styles of hearing aids that you can choose from, but they all function in a similar way. All of these assistive devices have a tiny microphone that listens for external sounds. They also have some way to amplify those sounds. Most hearing aids sold today are digital, so this amplifier consists of a tiny computer chip that conveys the detected sounds into digital codes. The codes are then reconfigured into sound waves that you may be able to hear more easily. These new sound waves are delivered to you through tiny speakers, which may also be referred to as receivers.

Many advanced hearing aids today are Wi-Fi-enabled. Through an online test, you can determine which frequencies, tones, and volumes you may have trouble hearing. The hearing aids can be programmed based on the results of the test by the user at home through a wireless internet connection. Through this technology, your hearing aids could adjust the sound specifically to suit your unique needs. More than that, you may be able to adjust the hearing aids at home through a similar effort so that you continue getting the most out of them.

Different Types of Hearing Aids

While you understandably want to invest in quality hearing aids that will improve your hearing, you may also be focused on things like their size, features, and placement in the ear. At one time, larger hearing aids were essential for superior improvement to hearing. However, technology has improved so dramatically over the years that even small, lightweight devices can do wonders for those who suffer from significant hearing loss. As you explore the possibilities, you should keep in mind that there are six primary designs or types of fit for you to choose from.

The options start with the CIC, or completely-in-the-canal, style. This is the smallest option currently on the market. It fits snugly inside your ear canal, so wind noise is less likely to be detected. However, it may be prone to getting clogged by ear wax, and the tiny battery used may need to be replaced more frequently. The CIC hearing aids are most suitable for those who have mild or moderate hearing loss.

In-the-canal, or ITC, hearing aids are very similar to the CIC hearing aids. However, they are slightly larger and do not completely fit in the canal. Because of this, the battery may be larger and more powerful. However, the device will be visible to others.

In-the-ear, or ITE, hearing aids will fill either all or half of the outer area. They often have two microphones and a volume control button that is relatively easy to adjust. The battery life may be reasonable, and rechargeable batteries are common with these hearing aids. These are suitable for those with minor to severe hearing loss.

Behind-the-ear, or BTE, hearing aids have a hook-like shape that fits comfortably over the top of the ear. The bulk of the unit sits behind the area, and it is connected to an ear mold via a tube that runs inside the ear canal. This may be one of the largest styles available. It commonly picks up wind noise, but it is also capable of greater amplification.

The receiver-in-canal and the receiver-in-the-ear styles are so similar that they are commonly lumped together. They are similar to BTE hearing aids. However, they have a small wire rather than a tube that links the outer and inner portions of the device together. Because of this, they are less visible yet highly effective for those with varying degrees of hearing loss.

You could also choose an open-fit hearing aid. This is a variation of the BTE, RIC and RITE styles. Uniquely, the open-fit design opens the ear canal to promote natural hearing while also amplifying sounds digitally. Its design makes it well-suited for those who suffer from moderate high-frequency auditory loss.

Choosing the Right Hearing Aids

Your experience with your new hearing aids may be affected by the style as well as their various features. For example, some hearing aids are specifically designed to reduce sound interference from wind or other background noises. You may also look for hearing aids that have directional microphones. The microphones will adjust to focus on sound coming from a nearby source. By doing so, they may help you to hear better when environmental noises are high. Keep in mind that some hearing aids have more than one directional microphone to further enhance your ability to hear clearly.

As you review the options, you should also pay attention to battery capabilities. Rechargeable batteries are common with modern hearing aids, but you should not assume that all hearing aids have them. Some have small batteries that must be replaced regularly. The smallest hearing aids may have tiny batteries that must be replaced relatively frequently.

Various technologies may also be built into the hearing aids that impact their functionality for you. For example, some hearing aids are compatible with telecoils. These can assist you when you are using a hearing-aid-compatible phone or when you are in some enabled public venues, such as theaters. Bluetooth technology is another feature to look for. This can make it easier for you to watch TV, listen to music, use a computer and more. Without Bluetooth tech, you should look for a direct audio input. You may also look for remote controls that enable you to connect to devices, adjust sound and more through your phone. Some hearing aids may also sync up with a second set of hearing aids, and others may be programmed to accommodate different types of environments.

The Easy Way to Shop for Hearing Aids

Many years ago, those who suffered from hearing loss had to work closely with a specialized doctor to order hearing aids and to adjust them to suit their needs. Today, however, you can conveniently shop for and order hearing aids online. Now that you know more about the different types of hearing aids and how they work, you can see that there may be a set of hearing aids that are perfectly suited for your type and severity of hearing loss. Take time today to start exploring the many options available online.

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Hearing Aid FAQ

Think about your day-to-day life. Are you or your loved ones noticing that you're having a hard time following the details of conversations, especially in noisy environments? Has the volume on the TV been steadily creeping up? These are just a few signs that it might be time to consider if hearing aids can restore some quality to your everyday moments. There are free hearing tests you can take online that may help you make that determination, if you're not ready to visit an audiologist or there isn't one readily available near you.
Generally speaking, there are three steps to how your hearing aids help you hear better. First, the built-in microphone captures sound in your environment and changes it into a digital signal. Next, the amplifier makes that signal stronger. Finally, the in-ear speaker sends the amplified sound into your ear.
The average lifespan for a hearing aid is 5-6 years. Most come with a warranty of one or two years, so extended protection plans are worth considering. You can also get your hearing aids tuned up or repaired as needed.
That depends on the equipment you choose and whether or not they are rechargeable. You can buy a single hearing aid for under $50, while some of the most expensive devices sell for over $4,000 for the pair! If you use hearing aids with replaceable batteries, expect to change your batteries every 1-3 weeks (depending on how many hours per day you use your hearing aids). Batteries are fairly inexpensive, though: you shouldn't have to spend more than $50/year on them.
You've got lots of options! The main consideration is whether you want one that hangs over the ear (with the main body behind your ear) or one that is completely in-ear. In-ear hearing aids are much easier to conceal, but they're not always comfortable to work with if you have arthritis in your hands or have trouble with small objects in general. Both styles of hearing aids often come with great features like customizable sound settings (e.g. for different environments like crowded rooms vs. watching TV at home), smartphone app controls, and phone/video support from expert technicians.
That depends: every user is unique. Not only will you have to adjust to the physical sensation of having the devices in your ears, but your brain also has to adapt to the new range of sounds (especially if you've been struggling with hearing loss for a long time). It's a good idea to choose a hearing aid brand and retailer that will give you a 30- to 60-day trial period, to give yourself time to get used to your new equipment.
Absolutely! There's no need to spend time waiting for appointments at retailers near you when you can buy the same hearing aids online. If you're concerned about getting the right ones, setting them up properly, or accessing support if there's an issue, don't worry: the best online retailers of hearing aids usually make it hassle-free to get all of the help you need.
Most companies that sell hearing aids know that it might take some trial and error to get the best ones for you: the style, fit, and functionality all impact your experience. Fortunately, they usually give you a period from 30-60 days to get used to them, adjust their settings, and see if they are a good match. If not, you can get a refund. Just be sure to check the return policy of any hearing aid retailer you're considering prior to making your purchase.
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