There are at least 10 million people in the UK living with hearing loss who could benefit from hearing aids. But despite the devastating impact that untreated hearing loss can have on a person’s life, many people who could benefit from using hearing aids don’t wear them.
This seems remarkable given the dramatic improvements there have been in hearing aid technology in the last century, not to mention during the past few decades. Until the end of the 19th century, anyone that was able to access hearing devices would have had to use cumbersome and bulky ear trumpets and long speaking tubes.
Fortunately, the advancements of hearing-aid technology have transformed hearing aids both in terms of style and performance. Some of today’s more advanced hearing aids offer a variety of personalisation options and the ability to connect wirelessly to your devices, such as your smartphone.
Hearing aids are small electronic devices that can be worn behind your ear or in your ear canal. Their basic purpose is to amplify sounds to enable a person with hearing loss to hear these sounds better. However, with increasing advances in technology, hearing aids can now offer much more. Wireless technology has seen Bluetooth connectivity become standard across most hearing aids on the market. Other features including noise reduction, telecoil technology, multiple channels and memories and speech mapping.
Hearing aids comprise of three main components: a microphone, amplifier and speaker. Sound travels through the microphone which is then converted into an electrical signal that is passed to the amplifier. The amplifier’s job is to increase the signal power and send this to your ear using the speaker.
Disposable zinc-air button batteries are the most common type of hearing aid batteries. These batteries have small holes across the surface which allows air to penetrate through and react with the zinc inside. This produces zinc oxide which produces the energy used to power the battery and operate the hearing aid. They come in four different sizes which can be identified by a number and a colour. How long these batteries will last greatly depend on the size and type of hearing aid, the features you use and how often you wear your hearing aid.
Rechargeable hearing aids are becoming increasingly common for their convenience. Instead of having to replace the tiny batteries, you can simply put the hearing aid on a charging dock. Some hearing aids will only need to charge for three hours to give you a full day’s worth of use.
Hearing aids largely help those people with hearing loss that affects the inner ear (cochlea) or auditory nerve, known as sensorineural hearing loss. This is the most common type of hearing loss, making up around 90% of cases of hearing loss. This means that most people with a diagnosed hearing loss could benefit from using hearing aids.
Hearing aids can also be helpful to people with a hearing loss that affects their eardrum, ear canal or middle ear, known as conductive hearing loss. However, for some people with conductive hearing loss, the best solution could be surgically implanted bone-anchored hearing aids or certain medication.
A comprehensive hearing assessment will be able to establish whether you have hearing loss, its type and severity and if you would benefit from wearing hearing aids. You can expect a hearing assessment to consist of:
The type of hearing aid and features that you will most benefit from will be decided based on this assessment and the treatment plan you create with your hearing care professional. Things like the shape and size of your ear canal, how easy the hearing aid is for you to use and adjust, whether you have any skin sensitivities, your comfort and if you have any specific cosmetic preferences will all need to be taken into account.
Receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) hearing aids have a virtually invisible tube that is used to connect the casing to a receiver (speaker) that sits in your ear canal. RIC hearing aids are small, lightweight and discreet and provide a superior sound and natural listening experience compared to traditional in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aid models.
With the speaker sitting in your ear canal, the sound has a much shorter distance to travel. This creates a much clearer sound while the bigger distance between the microphone and receiver means you will experience less feedback.
When fitted with an open dome, a RIC hearing can also reduce the possibility of occlusion or blockage, providing enough venting to eliminate low frequencies. These hearing aids are suitable for people with a mild to severe hearing loss and also provide:
Smartphone connectivity improves clarity when you talk on the phone and the ability to download apps, to adjust your hearing aids based on environment (e.g. to block out background noise). This is possible due to wireless Bluetooth-enabled devices.
A smartphone app can help you locate misplaced hearing aids in the same way as missing keys. The app uses a map to detect and show you the last location of your hearing aids or a search signal to help you recover them when you believe they’re nearby.
The Own Voice Processing (OVP) detects the user's voice and processes it separately from external sounds. This resolves occlusion, an increase in the loudness of your own voice when the ear canal is blocked by a hearing aid.
Thank to Artificial Intelligence (AI) in hearing aids, users can track their daily steps, social engagement and active listening to generate an overall wellness score. They can detect falls and send an automatic alert to a list of emergency contacts.
An FDA-authorized hearing aid sold by licensed hearing aid dispensers enables consumers to fit, program, and control devices without the assistance of a hearing care provider
If you are worried that your hearing has changed or your loved ones have been complaining that you have the TV on too loud, it’s time to get it checked out. Untreated hearing loss can lead to a variety of serious problems that can impact your relationships, career and even your mental health. Schedule a consultation with a hearing care professional as soon as possible and you can look forward to rediscovering all your favourite sounds while also protecting your health and wellbeing.
It's time to finally treat your hearing loss. Sign up for a free consultation with a licensed hearing care professional today to determine if you have hearing loss. It’s the start of your journey towards better hearing.