There are two major types of hearing loss:
Conductive hearing loss involves the outer and middle ear. It usually results from a wax blockage, a punctured eardrum, birth defects, ear infections, or it may be genetic. Conductive hearing loss generally can be corrected surgically.
Sensorineural—or "nerve"—hearing loss involves damage to the inner ear. It can be caused by aging, prenatal and birth-related problems, viral and bacterial infections, genetics, trauma (such as a severe blow to the head), exposure to loud noises, the use of certain drugs, or fluid buildup or a benign tumor in the inner ear. Sensorineural hearing loss usually can not be repaired surgically, but it can often be corrected with a hearing aid.
One out of 10 Americans has a hearing loss.
An estimated 500 million experience hearing loss
One out of 12 30-year-old Americans is already
One out of eight 50-year-old Americans suffers
from hearing loss.
Three out of 1000 children are born with hearing
1.4 million children in the U.S. have hearing
The majority (65 percent) of people with hearing
loss are below retirement age.
15 percent of “baby-boomers” have hearing loss.
29 percent of people over age 65 have hearing
The majority (60 percent) of people with hearing
loss are males.
More than a third of all hearing loss is
attributed to noise: loud music, loud workplaces, loud
Of the 10 million Americans aged 45 to 64 who
have a hearing loss, six out of seven do not yet benefit from
wearing hearing aids.
Hearing loss is second only to arthritis as the
most common complaint of older adults
Only about 5 percent of hearing losses are
improved by surgery or other medical treatment
The vast majority of hearing loss (95 percent)
can be treated with hearing aids
The majority of people with nerve deafness are
helped with hearing aids
Only 15 percent of physicians routinely screen
for hearing loss. Ask your doctor for a hearing screening since it
is not a routine part of physical exams.
The vast majority of hospitals now offer newborn
hearing screening before discharge from the hospital.
Even a mild hearing loss can seriously impact a
child’s ability to learn in a school environment.
Successful treatment of hearing loss with hearing
aids is associated with greater earning power.
Treatment of hearing loss will improve
Most public places (i.e. movie theatres, place of
worship, government building, schools) are required under the
American with Disabilities Act to provide assistive listening
devices for the hard-of-hearing.
Noise above 80-90 decibels on average over an
8-hour workday is considered hazardous. Professions at risk of
hearing loss include firefighters, police officers, factory
workers, farmers, construction workers, military personnel, heavy
industry workers, musicians, and entertainment industry
One in four workers exposed to high levels of
noise will develop a hearing loss.
A live rock concert produces sounds from 110 to
120 decibels—easily high enough to cause permanent damage to
hearing over a two- to three-hour period. If you have pain in your
ears after leaving a noisy area or you hear ringing or buzzing in
your ears immediately after exposure to noise consider this a
warning sign that the sounds are TOO LOUD.
Do you hear, but not understand, what is being
Do you have trouble hearing the television and/or
Do you feel that other people seem to mumble or
talk too quickly?
Do you have difficulty hearing people talk when
there is background
noise such as at a restaurant or a social
Do you find yourself watching the mouths of
people as they talk?
Do you experience ringing, pain, or fullness in
one or both ears?
Do you frequently ask people to repeat what they
Is anyone in your family hard of hearing or deaf?
Do you find it difficult to understand others
over the telephone?
Do you tend to hear male voices more easily than
What are the differences between basic types of
What kind of hearing aids would be best for me?
How are hearing aids priced? Can you break down
What’s the return or trial period on the hearing
aids I’m purchasing?
Are there service fees that won’t be refunded if
I return the hearing aids?
What is covered in these fees, and how much can I
expect to pay?
What kind of post-fitting and aural
rehabilitation programs do you provide?
Can I expect to come back for minor alterations?
Do you provide a written contract or purchase
Is there a warranty? Who honors the warranty, you
or the manufacturer?
Is there financing available for buying hearing
Can I get insurance in case they’re lost or
What’s the average lifespan of this hearing aid?
What happens if my hearing aids stop working?
Do you repair them or does someone else? What
will it cost?
Will I be provided with loaner hearing aids while
mine are being repaired?
What happens if my hearing changes?
There are several factors you
should consider when buying hearing aids. Here are some important
topics to think about:
Loss Characteristics: The nature and
severity of your hearing loss will play a large role in determining
which hearing aids are ultimately recommended to you. Your hearing
professional can help you understand your unique loss
characteristics, and explain the models that would best suit your
Lifestyle: Consider your life, work,
free-time activities. What are the things you do that are most
affected by hearing loss? What are the things, if any, that you’re
not able to do because of a hearing loss? Define your needs and set
priorities. Your job may also be a factor. If you work outdoors in
the elements or travel frequently and are concerned about a hearing
aid’s durability, you may want to consider a back-up aid.
Technology: Not every technological advance
benefits every hearing loss, and it’s safe to say that even basic
hearing aids can deliver appropriate sound quality. Consult your
hearing professional — he or she will help you assess the level of
sophistication you need based on a range of issues.
Handling: The smallest hearing aids are the
most discreet, but they are, well, small. If your eyesight or
dexterity are less than what they used to be, size may indeed
matter. Alternatively, some new aids adjust automatically or via
remote control. Your hearing professional will instruct you as to
your best choices.
Appearance: Hearing aids come in a variety
of sizes, from tiny, completely-in-the-canal models to those that
sit behind the ear. Many people are overly concerned about
appearance, and it’s wise to remember that others will be far less
aware of your aid than you. Most hearing aids are quite discreet.
Keep in mind that hairstyle can also play a role.
Physiology: Physical factors can also
influence your selection of a hearing aid. The shape and size of the
outer ear and ear canal can make it difficult for some people to
wear particular styles. For example, if your canal is extremely
narrow, in-the-canal aids may not work for you. Your hearing
professional will help determine which hearing aid options are
appropriate for you.
One Ear or Two? Two ears are better than
one. Binaural, or two-ear hearing, is what helps us determine where
sounds are coming from, and to distinguish between competing sounds
more easily. If you have a hearing loss in only one ear, you may be
fine with one hearing aid. Age- and noise-related hearing loss tend
to affect both ears, but your hearing profile for each ear is
probably different. If there is a loss in both ears, then you will
benefit more with a binaural approach. In addition, some of the
benefits of digital technology require two hearing aids. Today,
about two-thirds of new purchasers opt for dual hearing aids, and as
a group, they report a higher level of satisfaction than purchasers
of a single aid. Discuss the pros and cons with your hearing
The most common repairs required by hearing aids are based on dirt and debris blocking the microphones and the receivers. In other words, the majority of repairs required are due to poor maintenance. Your hearing healthcare professional will review with you how to maintain your hearing aids, how to keep them clean and dry, how to change batteries etc. Nonetheless, if the hearing aids are well maintained, generally speaking, they can last 5 to 7 years.
People learn and adapt at different rates. Some people need a day or two to learn about and adjust to their hearing aids; most people need a few weeks, and others may need a few months.
In general, wear your hearing aids for a few hours the first day and add an hour a day the following day, and the next, and the next, until you are wearing hearing aids most of the day. Start in a favorable listening environment (such as one-on-one conversations in quiet) and work towards more difficult listening situations. Let your friends and family know you’re using your new hearing aids.
Please do NOT wear them to a cocktail party or restaurant during the first few weeks, thinking "this will be a good test!" It will absolutely not be a good test. You should not wear hearing aids in noise until you are very accustomed to them.
You may have certain communication needs that cannot be solved by just using hearing aids. These situations may involve telephone, radio, television, or the inability to hear the door chime, telephone bell, and alarm clock. Special devices have been developed to solve these problems. Like hearing aids, assistive listening devices and alerting devices make sounds louder. Typically, a hearing aid makes all sounds in the environment louder. Assistive listening devices and alerting devices can increase the loudness of a desired sound, like a radio or television, a public speaker, or an alarm system, or may make an auditory alarm (such as a smoke signal) into a visual alarm (such as a strobe light).
There are several types of
hearing aids, with companies continuously inventing newer, improved
hearing aids everyday. Each type offers different advantages,
depending on its design, levels of amplification, and size. Here are
the four basic styles of hearing aids available today:
In-the-Ear (ITE) hearing aids fit
completely in the outer ear and are used for mild to severe hearing
loss. The case, which holds the components, is made of hard plastic.
ITE aids can accommodate added technical mechanisms such as a
telecoil, a small magnetic coil contained in the hearing aid that
improves sound transmission during telephone calls. ITE aids can be
damaged by earwax and ear drainage, and their small size can cause
adjustment problems and feedback. They are not usually worn by
children because the casings need to be replaced as the ear
Behind-the-Ear (BTE) hearing aids are worn
behind the ear and are connected to a plastic earmold that fits
inside the outer ear. The components are held in a case behind the
ear. Sound travels through the earmold into the ear. BTE aids are
used by people of all ages for mild to profound hearing loss. Poorly
fitting BTE earmolds may cause feedback, a whistle sound caused by
the fit of the hearing aid or by buildup of earwax or fluid.
Canal Aids fit into the ear canal and are
available in two sizes. The In-the-Canal (ITC) hearing aid is
customized to fit the size and shape of the ear canal and is used
for mild or moderately severe hearing loss. A Completely-in-Canal
(CIC) hearing aid is largely concealed in the ear canal and is used
for mild to moderately severe hearing loss. Because of their small
size, canal aids may be difficult for the user to adjust and remove,
and may not be able to hold additional devices, such as a telecoil.
Canal aids can also be damaged by earwax and ear drainage. They are
not typically recommended for children.
Body Aids are used by people with profound
hearing loss. The aid is attached to a belt or a pocket and
connected to the ear by a wire. Because of its large size, it is
able to incorporate many signal processing options, but it is
usually used only when other types of aids cannot be used.