Hearing aid is a digital-electronic device that amplifies sounds to meet the reduced hearing power. Hence it has a bundle of amplifiers (channels) and they can be adjusted (bands) using a software by trained audiologists. Hearing aids come with a variety of special features and the price varies with the number of features. The best hearing aid may not be expensive at all, or cheaper, as predicted by some. Though there are different ways in which the best hearing aid is selected, the method described here is accepted and followed in best audiology clinics across the world.
You can select the best hearing aid for you in 3 stages – Thorough hearing test, Detailed counselling basis your listening requirements and Experience the sound and features. Also, try and keep a room for knowing what special accessories are available with the hearing aids. Sometimes, you may need an accessory that connects hearing aids with your TV or mobile phone or even the class teacher.
Role of a trained Audiologist
Audiologist has an eye to see the detail in your audiogram. The audiogram values help us selecting the sound power, channels, vents in hearing aids, special features that can bend high pitch sounds. Some audiograms are so challenging that it needs discussion among 2-3 experienced audiologists.
Audiologist is also trained to identify the listening needs and match them with correct features in hearing aids. Even the Identification of communication situations that cause you the most difficulty is a critical first step in solving your problems. Audiologist’s knowledge, expertise and access to multiple brands will make this easier and better for you.
After successfully completing these 2 stages, it is the time test the proof of the pudding by wearing the hearing aids. The hearing aids are programmed and the required features are activated. Most of the times the demonstration and experience can be completed within the clinic premises. In some cases, because of special listening needs, the experience is given in the real-life situation.
Special features in Hearing Aids
It is now proven that the hearing aid users are more satisfied with new programmable technology. Advanced programmable technology allows the audiologist to adjust the hearing aid to your specific hearing loss with more precision. The following description helps in knowing some new features in programmable hearing aids.
The majority of today’s hearing aids have multiple channels. Each channel represents a portion of the frequency range important for understanding speech. One advantage of multiple channels is that features such as gain and compression can be programmed differently to reflect changes in the patient’s hearing across frequencies.
Using two microphones it is possible to configure a hearing aid so that sounds from the side, and especially the back of the hearing aid user are amplified less than sounds originating from the front. The user can easily hear conversations coming from front and ignore the rest. Directional technology is available on all hearing aid styles except CICs (because of size constraints). Importantly, directional technology does not improve localization of sounds.
With digital hearing aids, it is possible for the hearing aid to analyze an incoming signal and differentiate speech from a noise signal. This can be accomplished simultaneously in several channels, hence, works better in hearing aids with more channels.
Acoustic feedback (whistling from the hearing aid) can be annoying, embarrassing, and in some cases, prevent the hearing aid wearer from using the correct amount of gain. Many of today’s hearing aids have an automatic feature that quickly detects acoustic feedback and cancels it.
Wireless Hearing Aids (with Bluetooth)
They have a special Bluetooth in them which can amplify the ‘streamed’ sound also. Sounds picked up directly from TV, mobile phone, music system etc (with the help of an accessory) and amplified by hearing aids with little distortion or interference from noise.
Hearing Aid could be your Style Statement
Hearing aids are available in atleast 4 different styles. The most popular ones are worn behind the ear – BTE (behind the ear) and RIE (receiver in ear). They are available in a variety of colour options and can help you surely make a style statement.
The less popular ones are worn inside the ear – ITC (in the canal) and CIC (completely in canal). They are tucked inside the ear and have few options to express your style. They also have several limitations interms of feature availability.
All said it is good to be realistic in having expectations even from these miniature and most sophisticated computerised devices. Hearing aids will not permit you to hear the flapping of hummingbird wings near a jet engine. Remember that it takes time to get used to hearing aids, especially if you're a new wearer. Keep in mind that background noise is almost always part of your environment, and adjustment to it is required. In time, you will tune out many of these everyday sounds. It's important not to become disappointed or frustrated while your brain begins to adjust to a whole new world of sound.
Author: Dr M. Reddy Sivaprasad PhD
Designation & Affiliation: Head- Training & Clinical Development, Amplifon India