More than 37.5 million US adults over the age of 18 report experiencing some degree of hearing loss. And of those millions, men between 20-69 more than twice as likely to experience hearing difficulties than women of the same age. There are two main types of hearing loss, conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss, and hearing aids can help those experiencing the latter.
What is sensorineural hearing loss?
Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss affecting 90% of people who experience hearing difficulties. Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the cochlea, a spiral structure in the inner ear, and, more specifically, the 15,000 tiny hair cells that sit upon it. When a person hears a sound, this vibration is channeled down the ear canal and onto the eardrum, where it is transferred to three small bones in the middle ear and then onto the cochlea where the 15,000 hair cells convert the vibrations into electrical signals which can then be passed through the audiological nerve to the bran. In a person with sensorineural hearing loss, the hair cells that adorn their cochlea are damaged, most commonly by age or exposure to loud noises. Damaged hair cells prevent the effective translation of inner vibrations and the communication of electrical signals to the brain.
How can hearing aids help?
Hearing aids can help those with damaged hair cells by amplifying the volume of sounds, increasing the chance of the hair cells, picking them up and transferring the signal to the brain. The two main types of hearing aid are digital and analog. Analog hearing aids work by simply amplifying the sound, but this can also include amplifying background noise. Digital hearing aids, on the other hand, contain a computer chip that can analyze a person’s listening situation to ensure that they get the best quality sound. For people experiencing hearing loss, there are several different types of hearing aids available:
- In the ear (ITE): ITE hearing aids are the largest and most visible variety but work well for people with both mild and very severe hearing loss. Because of their size, they can accommodate a larger battery and therefore last longer than other hearing aid varieties.
- In the canal (ITC): ITC hearing aids are smaller and sit inside the person’s ear canal but are only suited to those with mild or moderate hearing difficulties. This can make it more difficult to change the battery, but it does mean that they are less conspicuous.
- Completely in canal (CIC): Completely in the canal hearing aids are even smaller than in the canal aids and are barely visible from the outside of the ear.
- Behind the ear (BTE): BTE hearing aids are best for growing children as they are adjustable to accommodate progressive or profound hearing loss. The electronics for the hearing aid sit behind the ear in the case and connect to the earmold using clear plastic tubing.
- Open fit BTE: For people with very mild hearing difficulties, a behind the ear open fit hearing aid provides a minimally visible solution with a tiny device sitting behind the ear and attaching to a minuscule speaker through a small tube.
What are the benefits of having a hearing aid?
Whether 18 or 80 a hearing aid can allow a person to hear again, improving many aspects of their lives, including:
- Their relationships: Hearing loss can be isolating, causing an individual to avoid social situations and withdraw from their friends and families. With a hearing aid, you can strengthen your relationships through communication once more.
- Their careers: Hearing loss can make it hard to work in loud environments and can impact a person’s productivity. A hearing aid can improve your ability to hear your co-workers, clients, and colleagues making it easier for you to do your job.
- Their quality of life: Hearing loss can affect many aspects of a person’s life, from their confidence and self-worth to their hobbies and career. A hearing aid, therefore, has the ability to improve the quality of many areas of a person’s life, preventing their hearing loss from holding them back.
Where can you get a hearing aid?
If you want to explore the possibility of getting a hearing aid, then the best thing to do is to find and speak to an audiologist who can assess your hearing needs and find the right hearing aid for you. Find out more by calling the Speech & Hearing Center at 423-622-6900.