HEARING LOSS AND HEARING AIDS

What is hearing loss?

Normal hearing depends upon the proper function of literally millions of structures and processes every second.  Occasionally one or more structures within the auditory system fail and result in hearing loss and speech understanding problems.

Hearing loss occurs to most people as they age.  There are two types of hearing loss: conductive and sensorinural.

Conductive hearing loss
Conductive hearing loss is caused by a problem with the ear canal, the eardrum and/or the three bones connected to the eardrum.  Common reasons for this type of hearing loss are a plug of excess wax in the ear canal or fluid behind the eardrum.  Medical treatment or surgery may be available for these and more complex forms of conductive hearing loss.

Sensorinural hearing loss
Sensorinural hearing loss results from damage to the inner ear (cochlea) or auditory nerve, often as a result of the aging process and/or noise exposure.  Sounds may be unclear, too soft, or sensitivity to loud sounds may occur.  Medical or surgical intervention cannot correct most sensorineural hearing losses.  However, hearing aids may help you reclaim some sounds that you are missing as a result of nerve deafness.

As with most other health problems, early detection allows for more effective intervention.  In some cases, hearing loss is medically treatable and may be improved by an otolaryngologist or audiologist.  Typically, hearing loss is permanent, but modern hearing aid technology is able to increase the ability and range of hearing in most people.

The first step in treatment is to get your hearing evaluated professionally by an audiologist.  An audiogram will be obtained which gives us a unique hearing profile of each individual patient and shows the extent and degree of hearing loss.  The audiogram is used during an audiological consultation to assess your specific hearing needs and determine the proper treatment.

Impact of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is a disability which may cause difficulty in everyday listening situations.  Sometimes hearing slowly degrades over time and the person does not recognize how serious the problem has become.  The overall impact can include:

  • withdrawing from groups or activities
  • continually asking people to repeat words or phrases
  • hearing, but not understanding speech
  • having difficulty understanding conversation within a group of people
  • having ringing in the ears or other noises
  • finding yourself complaining that people are mumbling or slurring their words
  • preferring the TV or radio louder than others do
  • having trouble hearing at movies, house of worship, concert halls, or at other public gatherings, especially where sound sources are at a distance from the listener

How ENT audiology can help

Ken Stallons and Misty Mueller, board-certified audiologists, have extensive experience in hearing amplification and the fitting of assisted hearing devices.  They will provide a complete hearing consultation and make a recommendation to best fit your hearing needs.

A hearing consultation is recommended to assess your specific hearing needs.  This consultation will help to determine whether improved hearing will be best achieved through hearing aids, assisted listening devices or modifying your listening situations.

We maintain state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment, sound treated rooms, computerized fitting software, and verification tools such as surround sound and Real Ear measurements using visible speech for more accurate fittings.

We offer a 60-day full money back adjustment period, which will allow you time to be in all of your challenging listening environments.  We provide in-office hearing aid cleaning and minor repairs at no cost.

We guarantee the best possible results to help you achieve a better quality of life.

Hearing aids

We offer a wide selection of hearing aids, including digital processing and digitally programmable, from a variety of manufacturers.  We will work with you to find the best solution for your hearing healthcare needs within your budget.

Hearing aids work very well when fitted and adjusted appropriately.  There are basically three levels of hearing aid technology: analog, digitally programmable, and digital.  The degree of hearing loss, power and options requirements, manual dexterity abilities, cost factors, and cosmetic concerns are some of the factors that will determine the style for each patient.

Digital hearing aids
Digital hearing aids utilize the most advanced digital signal processing currently available.  This allows for more sophisticated sound control which provides the clearest reception, especially in noisy environments.  Digital hearing aids adjust automatically to the listener’s environment.  Other features include automatic feedback control, directional microphones, special noise reduction circuitry and several customized programs.  These are the most technically advanced hearing aids at this time.

Conventional analog hearing aids
Conventional analog hearing aids amplify speech and noise control.  These hearing aids have a volume control that can adjust the sound, but they still make loud sounds and background noise louder.  This type of aid is the least expensive, but it cannot be programmed if your hearing changes over time.

Styles of hearing aids

There are several styles of hearing aids:

  • Behind-the-ear (BTE): hearing aids are placed over the ear and connected with tubing to custom-fitted earpieces.
  • In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids fill the entire bowl of the ear and part of the ear canal.
  • Smaller versions of ITEs are called half-shell and in-the-canal (ITC).
  • The least visible aids are completely-in-the-canal (CIC).

Hearing aid options, which are appropriate for your particular hearing loss and listening needs, the size and shape of your ear and ear canal, and the dexterity of your hands will all be considered in deciding what type of hearing aid is the best for you.

What will happen at my hearing aid fitting?

  • The hearing aids will be fitted to your ears.
  • While wearing your hearing aids, you will be tested for word understanding in quiet and in noise and for improvement in hearing tones.
  • You will receive instruction about the care of your hearing aids, the batteries used to power them, a suggested wearing schedule, general expectations, and helpful communication strategies.
  • You will practice properly inserting and removing the hearing aids and batteries.

How should I begin wearing the aids?

  • Start using your hearing aids in quiet surroundings, gradually building up to noisier environments.
  • Note where and when that you find the hearing aids beneficial.
  • Be patient and allow yourself to get used to the aids and the “new” sounds they allow you to hear.
  • Keep a diary to help you remember your experiences.
  • Report any concerns at a follow-up appointment.