The World Health Organization estimates that up to 5% of the world's population suffers from some form of hearing loss. This contributes to approximately 466 million people. The figures may rise by up to 900 million by the Year 2050.Loss of hearing can be devastating and requires a budgetary allocation of up to 750 billion US dollars to address the issue.
Withouttackling hearing loss, individuals may have a challenge realizing their full potential. It is also a burden to caregivers who have to invest time and resources caring for patients.
Fortunately, with technology, early identification and the use of hearing aids may provide relief to affected individuals. Over the past few decades, hearing aids that are rechargeable have become more advanced and sophisticated.
A Definition of Hearing Aids
A hearing aid is a small electronic device that can help with hearing loss. It combines different components, such as a microphone to pick up sound. Sound amplification and processing occur through the use of a computer chip. The battery provides power and a speaker will send signals to the ears. Others incorporate technology, such as smartphone connectivity and rechargeable batteries.The market has very many options with some cheap hearing aids under $100, so help is readily at hand.
HowDo Hearing Aids Work?
Sound amplification determines whether or not you hear a sound. Some people have sensor neural hearing loss that causes them not to hear sound because of damage to the inner ear's hair cells. A hearing aid will pick up sound via the remaining healthy hair cells and use neural signals bio auditory nerves to send information to the brain.
Standard hearing aids provide relief for those with mild to moderate hearing loss, while those with more severe issues can use the power modules.
Hearing Aids for Seniors
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders shows that up to 2% of individuals within the ages 45 to 50 suffer from some form of hearing loss. Ages 55 to 64 occurs in up to 8.5%. The figures rise to 25% for those within 65 to 74, and 50% for those above age 75.
Hearing loss may occur during the aging process, and those in the medical field refer to it as presbycusis. Unfortunately, this type of hearing loss is not treatable, and the best option is to use a hearing aid.
Interestingly, research shows that only 20% of seniors will purchase hearing aids, and even then, they rarely use them. Yet, the reasons for not taking advantage of hearing aids may, in some situations, be confounding. Some of the reasons include:-
- The notion that the use of a hearing aid is a confirmation that you are old
- Some seniors feel that using hearing aids is too complicated and not worth the bother
- For some, it is about the aesthetics; fortunately, with technology, the hearing aids are getting smaller and less visible
- A bad past experience and unrealistic expectations on what to expect can act as a deterrent
- The cost factor, if you consider that covers such as Medicaid, will not help bear the full cost of an evaluation and the hearing aid purchase. With a little research, seniors can take advantage of the low-cost hearing aids available in the market. With some at $100 and less, this should no longer be a reason to live with hearing loss.
Determining the Best Kind of Hearing Aid for You
You will find many options for hearing aids in the market. Varieties depend on price, placement on the ear and other additional features. Manufacturers are leaning towards smaller, less visible hearing aids without compromising on efficiency. There are:-
- In the Canal (ITC)
In the ear or in the canal hearing aids require custom molding to fit into your ear canal. It works well for those with mild to moderate hearing loss. They are relatively small, thus less visible. They may, however, due to size, not incorporate some of the latest technology, and you must keep up with removing earwax so that it does not clog the speakers.
- In The Ear Hearing Aids
In the ear hearing aids are customizable depending on your preference. The full shell version will cover the outer ear totally. Thehalf-shell only covers the lower part of the year. Most have two microphones and work well for those with mild to severe hearing loss. Some have advanced features and the battery life lasts longer. However, they are susceptible to noise from the environment and are quite visible, making them less attractive for those who are shy about wearing hearing aids.
- Behind The Ear (BTE)
As the name suggests, BTE hearing aids will rest behind your ear. You will also have an earpiece in the canal connecting the tube to the hearing aid. Such hearing aids are quite common and have the advantage of being appropriate for any type of hearing loss or age.
They have directional microphones and offer excellent amplification capabilities. Unfortunately, they are very sensitive, meaning they pick up a lot of noise from the environment.
- Completely in Canal (RIC)
Theear specialist will mold the hearing aid to fit into your ear canal completely. It works well for those with mild to moderate hearing loss. Its main advantage is that it is tiny and does not pick up interference from wind.
You must take care to charge the batteries or change them because the small size means they have a shorter lifetime.
With a canal in the ear hearing aid, you may have to compromise on some of the extra features such as directional microphones or volume control. Some users also find that they have to deal with ear wax, whichmay interfere with the speaker by clogging it.
- Open Fit
Open fit hearing aids combine the best of behind the ear and receiver in the ear hearing aids. The ear canal remains open due to the dome, allowing for better sound processing. It works well for mild to moderate hearing loss, whether high or low frequency.
Finding the best type for you depends on your preference and what you can afford. After a complete evaluation, the specialist will be able to advise on the best type for you.
You will also need to determine which additional features you may want. Such include:-
- Connectivity with other devices using Bluetooth
- Remote control to access the different functionality
- Microphones if you use your hearing aids in noisy areas
- Artificial intelligence that learns your behavior and can make automatic adjustments to your hearing aid
- Tinnitus masking features
- Binaural processing for wireless communication
- Digital noise reduction to take care of any unnecessary noise from the environment
- Impulse noise reduction for greater comfort when using the hearing aids
- Wind noise reduction that will allow you to continue to enjoy your outdoor activities, amongst other features
Steps to Shopping For a Hearing Aid
Take advantage of the tons of resources available both online and offline to educate yourself on hearing loss and hearing aids. You must then do the following:-
- Go for a screening test so that the specialist can understand your situation better. You can expect questions regarding your lifestyle, tests on your ability to distinguish between different frequencies and similar-sounding words. The screening will also evaluate your ability to hear background noise, words or numbers.
- Book an appointment with a doctor
- After the screening, you will get a report showing whether or not you have a problem. You may need to book an appointment with a doctor to determine the cause of the hearing loss.
- The doctor may recommend you visit an audiologist for a more comprehensive diagnostic hearing test. It will depend on the determination that you do not have a disease that could be contributing to hearing loss.
- The audiologist will then recommend the best type of hearing aid, depending on the type of condition you have.
- Determine where you will purchase your hearing aid. You can buy the aids online or in the brick-and-mortar establishments that specialize in such. Use resources such as those you find in this article to find cost-effective options, especially in the case where your insurance does not cover the cost.
It is essential that once the specialist determines you have a problem, get a hearing aid immediately. The longer you wait, the more your brain loses its ability to record or understand speech. Think about it much like you would the muscles in the body. If you do not utilize them, they will atrophy over time, and eventually, you will not be able to use them at all. Getting a hearing aid allows the brain to adjust accordingly so that you continue to enjoy your hearing.
Hearing aids provide convenience and much-needed relief to patients suffering from hearing loss. The older we get, the larger the chances of hearing loss. It is essential to seek help immediately you start to notice such problems. With so many options coming in at different price ranges, there is no reason to continue to suffer from hearing loss issues.