Communication Help: Hearing Aid Guide
Of all five senses, the ability to hear is considered by many to be one of the most important. Individuals who are hearing impaired often experience difficulty communicating with friends, family members, and other important acquaintances. Fortunately, hearing aids?which amplify the noises of everyday life?allow users to enhance their hearing. While the earliest, funnel-shaped hearing aids, or ?ear horns,? provided limited results, improvements in technology have resulted in the development of devices which features microphones, amplifiers, and speakers. Individuals consider the use of a hearing aid must determine which style, accessories, and price range best suits their needs to ensure product success.
The earliest hearing aids, known as Body Worn Aids, were first developed in the early 1940s. These hearing aids traditionally featured a microphone and amplifier housed within a small case, an ear mold, which contained a petite speaker and a long, flexible cord which transmitted sound between the two pieces of equipment. Body Worn Aid cases could be attached to a belt, belt loop, or other similar clothing strap. While these aids were once quite popular, they have long-since fallen from favor.
As suggested by the name, Behind-the-Ear, or BTE hearing aids, sits behind the ear and contains a microphone and amplifier housed in a small container. BTE hearing aids also feature speakers, which traditionally are placed within the ear canal, and a thin, plastic tube that sends sound from the microphone to the speaker. While this style of hearing aid is considered to be relatively noticeable, it is still favored by many individuals. Since the majority of the BTE hearing aid rests behind the ear, limiting stress to the ear canal, these pieces of equipment are generally considered to be quite safe. Individuals who experience excessive amounts of sweating, however, are often discouraged from the purchase of this style of aid, as perspiration build-up can cause the device to become dislodged or damaged.
In-the-Ear, or ITE hearing aids, are composed of a small, hard piece of plastic, which contains all of the traditional features of hearing aids?including a microphone, amplifier, and speaker. While ITE hearing aids are substantially less noticeable than BTE aids, they may not be as effective for individuals with severe hearing loss. Those with mild to moderate hearing loss, however, can generally experience significant benefits from the use of ITE aids. Parents and caregivers should be aware that ITE hearing aids are typically not recommended for use by children, as the specially-designed earpiece may be outgrown in a short period of time.
Finally, In-the-Canal, or ITC hearing aids, fit entirely within the ear canal of the individual seeking hearing assistance. While ITC hearing aids are quite small, and therefore provide limited visibility, they are often quite difficult to remove when cases of repair are necessary. ITC batteries, which have a notoriously short life, are tricky to remove?and if not removed and replaced quickly, can lead to impairments in functionality. Complete-in-Canal hearing aids, which are similar to ITC aids, are almost invisible. Unfortunately, these aids are also extremely difficult to remove and restore, and are prone to damage by the build-up of ear wax and fluids.
For more information on the various styles, please follow these links:
- Hearing Instruments
- Which Type is Best for You?
The purchase of a hearing aid is a big investment. In many cases, these devices can cost between $1,400 and $3,200. While ITC and ITE hearing aids are especially expensive, BTE aids can often be found for a reasonable price. Customers should be aware that the different brands of hearing aids, such as Phonak, Widex, Siemens, Oticon, and others, may vary quite dramatically in price and style. Buyers who are willing to spend some time researching these brands are guaranteed to find something that fits within their price range.
Batteries and Accessories
Unfortunately, the cost of using a hearing aid doesn?t end when the device itself is purchased. Hearing aids require batteries, many of which need replacement after only a few short days. To avoid the repeated purchase and replacement of batteries, some individuals have turned to the use of rechargeable hearing aids, such as the Lee Majors Rechargeable Bionic Hearing Aid.
In these changing technological times, some individuals have turned to the use of Bluetooth in an attempt to enhance the effects of a hearing aid. Hearing aids which feature Bluetooth allow users to communicate wirelessly with cell phones, providing substantial benefits. Hearing aids which feature Bluetooth capabilities must contain a telecoil or Direct Audio Input. When used correctly, Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids can produce sound that is exceptionally natural in tone and timbre.
For more on the cost and care of hearing aids, please visit the following sites:
- Caring for Your Hearing Aid
- So You Need a Hearing Aid?