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The Benefits of a Hearing Aid

Hearing aids can help many people hear better in quiet or noisy environments, so, if you or someone near you needs one, you should opt for one, and the easiest way to do it is by browsing on an audiologist’s directory and clicking on the Hearing Aids Near Me section, and you’ll be able to locate one that is near your address.

A hearing aid has three basic parts: a microphone, an amplifier, and a speaker. The hearing aid receives sounds through a microphone that converts the sound waves into electrical signals. These signals are transmitted to an amplifier that increases their strength and range and transmits them to the ear through a speaker.

How can hearing aids help?

If your hearing loss is sensorineural, hearing aids will help improve your hearing and speech understanding. Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the small hearing cells in the inner ear, called hair cells. The damage can be caused by illness, old age, or injury from noise or certain medications.

Hearing aids amplify sound vibrations entering the ear. The hair cells that remain intact detect these amplified vibrations and convert them into neural signals, which are then sent to the brain. The more severe the damage to the hair cells, the greater the hearing loss and the greater the amplification needed for hearing aids to remedy the damage. However, there are some practical limits to the level of amplification that hearing aids can provide. Furthermore, if the inner ear is badly damaged, even the highest amplified vibrations cannot be converted into neural signals. In this case, hearing aids will not help you.

Are there different types of hearing aids?

There are three basic types of hearing aids, differentiated by their size, where they are placed (in the ear or behind the ear), and the degree of sound amplification.

  • Behind-the-ear hearing aids (Behind-the-ear, BTE) consist of a hard plastic case or box that is placed behind the ear and is connected to an ear mold made of moldable plastic that fits inside the outer ear. The electronic components are located in the hard plastic case behind the ear. Sound travels from the hearing aid through the earmold and into the ear. People of all ages use BTEs for hearing loss ranging from mild to profound. A newer type of BTE hearing aid is the open-fit hearing aid, which with its small size allows it to fit completely behind the ear. It is only necessary to insert a narrow tube into the ear canal, which allows the canal to remain open. Open-fitting hearing aids are a good alternative for those who suffer from ear wax buildup, as hearing aids are less likely to be damaged by these types of substances. In addition, there are people who prefer this model because their voice does not sound so different to them.
  • In-ear headphones (In-the-ear, ITE) are placed entirely in the outer ear and are used in cases of hearing loss ranging from mild to severe. The case that contains the electronic components is made of a hard plastic. Some ITE hearing aids may also come with additional accessories already installed, such as the telecoil system. This is a small magnetic coil that allows the user to receive sounds through the hearing aid’s circuitry, rather than through its microphone. This makes it easier to listen to phone conversations. The telecoil also helps users to hear better in public places where they have installed special sound systems, called induction loop systems. Induction loop systems can be found in many churches, schools, airports and auditoriums. ITE hearing aids are generally not recommended for children because they require frequent case changes as their ears are still developing.
  • Ear canal hearing aids are inserted into the ear and come in two styles. In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids are made to fit and shape the wearer’s ear canal. Completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids are virtually hidden within the canal. Both types are used in cases of mild to moderately severe loss. Because of their small size, these types of hearing aids can be difficult to fit and remove. They also have less space for batteries and other accessories, such as the telecoil. They are generally not recommended for young children or people with severe-to-profound hearing loss because their size limits their power and volume.

What questions should I ask before buying a hearing aid?

Before you buy hearing aids, ask your audiologist:

  • What features and functions suit me best?
  • What is the total cost of the hearing aid? Do the benefits of having modern technology justify the price increase?
  • Is there a trial period? (Most manufacturers offer a 30-60 days trial period, during which you can return your hearing aids for a refund.) What are the non-refundable costs if I return the hearing aids after the trial period?
  • How long is the warranty? Can this be extended? Does the warranty cover repair and future maintenance?
  • Can the audiologist provide minor maintenance and repair services? Will you lend me hearing aids in case mine need to be repaired?
  • What instructions will the audiologist give me?

Can I apply for financial help to get hearing aids?

The cost of hearing aids is not usually covered by health insurance companies, although some may. For example, under the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment Service (EPSDT) program, Medicaid covers the cost of diagnosing and treating hearing loss for children who meet with the requirements. It also covers these expenses for young adults under the age of 21. Children may also be covered through state early prevention programs or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Medicare does not cover the cost of hearing aids for adults. However, it does cover the cost of diagnostic tests when recommended by a physician for the purpose of developing a treatment plan. On the other hand, Medicare considers the BAHA to be a prosthesis and not a hearing aid. Therefore, it will only cover the cost of the BAHA if other requirements for prosthetic coverage are met.

Some non-profit organizations help with the purchase. Others donate used or refurbished hearing aids. If you have questions about organizations that offer financial assistance for the purchase of hearing aids, contact the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) Information Center.

Enigma Rachel Elle