Signs of hearing loss
Our ability to hear defines who we are and how we communicate. When everything works as it should, our sense of hearing has the power to inform, entertain and connect us with family and friends. As we grow older, many people begin to experience hearing loss. This is a natural part of the ageing process and develops gradually over time. Already at age 20 we’ve lost the ability to perceive some of the sounds infants can hear. By the time we reach 40, subtle but significant losses have begun to occur. As we continue to live longer, coupled with growing exposure to loud noise from modern lifestyles, hearing impairment is increasingly common at an earlier age. Even a slight hearing loss can have a negative impact on our ability to work, socialise and enjoy life. Once we reach our 80s, more than half of us suffer from significant hearing loss.
Common signs of a hearing loss:
– Frequently having to ask people to repeat themselves
– Having trouble hearing in noisy or busy places
– Misunderstanding conversations
– Finding that people are mumbling
– Increasing the volume on the television
– Avoiding social situations
If any of these sound familiar, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your local Hearing Professional who will carry out a thorough evaluation of your hearing. They will confirm if you have a hearing loss and what its cause might be. Together, you and your Hearing Professional will determine the correct course of action. Hearing loss treatment is a simple process that can quickly get you back on track and enjoying life to the fullest. If you need a hearing device, we can help you make the right choice. The sooner you take this first step, the sooner you can begin your journey back to better hearing.
Hearing Instrument Technology
The most important part of any hearing aid is the technology inside. Put simply, the more sophisticated the technology, the more precise and realistic the listening experience. All hearing aids amplify sounds via microphones, but the quality of those sounds can differ dramatically. Until now, the majority of hearing aids used either analogue or digital technology to process the sound but the very latest advances in hearing aid technology have led to the introduction of the state-of-the-art hearing aids with nanotechnology.
Analogue: This is the older type which tended to over-emphasise background noise. You should always seek to replace this type with digital. One exception is that some patients with profound hearing loss actually adapted so much to analogue that they found digital unpleasant to hear with. We recognise this issue and can help those people too.
Digital: With the advent of digital sound quality, patients were able to experience significantly better sound quality. Digital hearing aids are embedded with computer chips which allow sound to be amplified at the specific frequencies where hearing loss has occurred. This enables at the specific frequencies to customise the hearing aid to your unique listening needs resulting in a more realistic natural hearing experience.
Nanotechnology: Beyond digital, this cutting-edge science occurs at the molecular level to further enhance the listening experience and deliver more features than previously possible Hearing aids built with nanotechnology can virtually eliminate several of the most troublesome characteristics of older instruments like feedback and sound artefacts. Other advantages include a seamless transition from one listening environment to the next, improved speech intelligibility, automatic activation to eliminate the need for manual adjustment and near-perfect feedback elimination.
Binaurally Synchronized: A recent development is in the paired functions of many hearing aids. They process decisions about directionality, compressing background noise and control of feedback (whistling) together, improving speech intelligibility even more.
One Ear or Two?: Like our vision, our hearing mechanism relies on input from both ears to locate sound sources. One ear simply cannot do the work of two. To achieve the most natural hearing experience, it is vital that both ears work equally well. Two-ear hearing is called binaural. Recent studies show that those wearing two instruments understand more clearly and enjoy better sound quality. Approximately two-thirds of new hearing instrument wearers opt for dual hearing instruments. These wearers report a higher level of satisfaction than those who purchase a single instrument. Our ears allow us to focus on specific sounds and conversations. Hearing with both ears helps the brain to distinguish speech from noise more easily than if only one ear receives the sound.
A Balancing Act: Two ears make our hearing more balanced and enable us to determine which direction a sound if coming from, like the location of an oncoming car or the position of someone speaking to you. Hearing with both ears is also far more comfortable. With both ears working together, less amplification is needed to hear everyday sounds and lower volume means less distraction background noise. Hearing clearly again will have a positive impact on your relationships, your career and your leisure activities. Your local Hearing Professional can provide you with expert advice and assistance on your hearing.
Adjusting to a better life with hearing instruments:
Choosing a hearing device is just the beginning of the journey to better hearing. How quickly you adjust to your hearing instrument, you will notice an increase in the noise levels around you. This background noise has probably always been there, but with your hearing loss, you might not have noticed these sounds. It may take a while to get used to hearing sounds being louder than before. As with anything new, it will take time and patience as you adapt to this new way of hearing. Hearing is only part of how we exchange thoughts, ideas and feelings. Reading lips, facial expressions and gestures can enhance the learning process and supplement what amplification alone may miss. The continued understanding and support of family and friends are crucial as you pursue improved hearing. The following steps can make communication easier when you are adjusting to a new hearing device.
• Looking at the person who is speaking and sitting face-to-face in a quiet room.
• Minimising distractions; for example, doing dished at the sink and trying to have a conversation is difficulty even for those with normal hearing.
• Moving closer to the speaker and within sight
• Trying different locations in a room that has poor acoustics
When you use your instruments for the first time, you’ll notice that the hearing process feels different. That’s because your brain actually has to relearn how to hear sounds – especially the complex range of frequencies in human speech. The following are observations made by the first-time hearing aid wearers:
• It takes time to adjust to wearing hearing instruments
• Your voice may sound different at first.
• Hearing in situations with background noise should improve, but probably not as much as hearing in quiet places.
This period of adjustment is completely normal. But before long you’ll start hearing sounds you’ve been missing as well as many you didn’t even realise were gone. You might begin to notice sounds you haven’t heard for some time, such as the hum of household appliances, or the subtle sounds of nature. Research suggests that speech comprehension increases over a period of several months after first using a hearing instrument. The longer you wear the device, the clearer and more natural these sounds will become. There’s so much in life that’s worth hearing. Spending time adjusting to your hearing aid is a valuable process which will ultimately allow you to make sure you can appreciate every single sound and enjoy hearing again.
Hearing Aid Styles
Hearing instruments come in a variety of sizes, from tiny, invisible-in-the-canal models to those which sit behind the ear. The right hearing instrument style and size depends on several factors, including: degree of hearing loss, listening requirements, ear shape and size, the ability to handle and control instruments and lifestyle needs. Many people are concerned about the effect a hearing aid will have on their appearance but its worth remembering that others will be far less aware of the instrument than you. Today’s hearing instruments can be very discreet. Your Hearing Professional will discuss with you the different factors relating to each style before recommending a specific device. Understanding some of the differences between the hearing aid styles will help you and your Hearing Professional choose the instrument that’s right for you.
Behind-The-Ear (BTE): BTE instruments rest behind the ear and house the device’s technology. A clear plastic tube then directs amplified sound into an ear mould inside the ear canal. Behind-the-ear instruments are often the most durable hearing devices – some are even waterproof. Compared to smaller in-the-ear instruments, they hold more circuitry and offer greater amplification. Some NHS BTE products feature thin tubes with small domes on the tip (sometimes referred to as thin-tube) – they are more suited to milder, high frequency hearing losses. If you have worn NHS BTEs for a long time, the NHS will often update them for thin-tube types, which tend to be more comfortable, however they can block easily with earwax.
Receiver-In-The-Canal (RIC) RECOMMENDED: The most popular hearing aid style available today, the receiver-in-the-canal device is small, discreet and incredibly quick-to-fit and perfect for many first-time wearers. A RIC places the miniature speaker directly in the ear canal, enhancing both comfort and sound quality. Waterproof styles are now available too.
Invisible-In-The-Canal (IIC) RECOMMENDED: The invisible-in-the-canal (IIC) is 100% invisible and sits comfortably near the second bend of your ear canal. The IIC is custom fit and appropriate for a range of hearing losses.
Completely-In-The-Canal (CIC): These devices fit completely in the canal. Only the head of a tiny plastic line with which you insert or remove the instrument shows above the canal. Although CIC instruments offer aesthetic appeal, the structure of some individuals’ ears (e.g. those with a very narrow canal) may make this style unsuitable for them.
In-The-Canal (ITC): In-the-ear instruments house their technology components in a custom-formed ear mould featuring an ear mould that fits down into the ear canal and a smaller portion that faces out into the outer ear. ITCs are appropriate for wearers with a mild to severe hearing loss and feature easy-to-use controls which are ideal for those with limited manual dexterity.
Constant wear (Lyric 3): Lyric 3 is a soft bodied analogue hearing aid inserted deep in the ear canal by the Hearing Professional, where it is worn for months at a time. It will be replaced for you on a regular basis. The wearer can sleep and bathe with Lyric left in
Non prescription / Internet products: Whilst the UK is a highly regulated market, certain loopholes allow ‘hearing aids’ to be sold through the post. These will usually be non
custom in the ear types (which tend to be impractical and / or ugly), or thin tube types
with volume controls so you can suit yourself.
Spectacle hearing aids: Most spectacle aids still require a tube to be placed in the ear canal. A very few vibrate the sound directly to the inner ear by means of a vibrating pad pressed against the skull (these are rarely prescribed as they suit very few). Spectacle aids are over promoted at times, giving an impression that they are commonly fitted and that they give successful outcomes. The truth is, they are rarely prescribed.