All About Hearing Aids
All About Hearing Aids
As an independent supplier of hearing aids we are able to prescribe the best option to suit your specific hearing loss and personal requirements. Over the past few years, significant advances with hearing aid technology have provided hearing aid wearers with much greater satisfaction. Selecting the best hearing aid involves a “matching process” to ensure you are fitted with the most appropriate hearing system.The matching process starts with the results of the hearing assessment. Once an updated audiogram has been recorded we need to establish your specific hearing needs relating to your lifestyle. We also need to decide upon the style of aid that you suits you and your needs best. This process can feel a little overwhelming initially, but we will guide you through the decisions taking into account all your needs including your financial considerations.
Today, most hearing aids use digital technology to process sound. Digital hearing aids manipulate the original sound to improve speech understanding, through sophisticated control of the sound signal inside the hearing aid.
Digital processing allows us to manipulate the incoming sound signal, tailoring the response to your specific hearing requirements. Advances in technology have allowed the hearing instruments to be smaller with increased processing capabilities, getting ever closer to natural hearing.
Some of the features of digital hearing technology are:-
- Increasing number of frequency bands and channels to allow aids to be fitted more closely to your own hearing loss.
- Speech processing algorithms to enhance speech whilst suppressing background noise.
- Adaptive directional microphones – which allow the aids to ‘focus and track’ a speech signal.
- Dynamic feedback management systems which have almost eliminated the embarrassing whistling hearing aid.
- Increased connectivity allowing hearing aids to be wirelessly linked to television, mobile phones, MP3 players etc.
Ten reasons to wear a hearing aidBy Gael Hannan, CHHA: Ontario President "There are thousands of good reasons to wear a hearing aid, and not a single good one not to. Why then do so many of us delay visiting our doctor when we suspect a hearing problem? Why do too many of us stick our aids in a drawer, only pulling them out for an important social occasion, which usually flops thanks to that "thing that doesn't work right"? Let's take a quick look at the Top Ten list of reasons why someone with a hearing problem should:-
- get an aid
- wear it, and
- keep wearing it!
Why should you wear a hearing aid...
You'll hear better!The simplest and the best reason. While it's true that most hearing loss cannot (yet) be completely corrected by surgery or assistive listening devices, a hearing aid will restore many of nature's auditory gifts, perhaps even the majority depending on the degree of loss, helping you to enjoy life to the fullest.
You'll look better!Say good-bye to unpleasant frowns and scowls as you try to follow dialogue, and those vacant, blank looks that should (but often don't) signal to your friends that you are completely lost in the conversation. Improved hearing with an aid will eliminate much of the frustration, irritation and feelings of isolation that keep you from being your most smiling, attractive, and connected self.
You'll sound better!Your own voice will become clearer with an aid, lending to improved diction and tonality. You'll gain more control over your volume level, too. With less shouting or whispering in inappropriate situations. (And trust me, if you have a significant hearing loss and do not use some sort of assistive listening device, your speech is affected!)
You'll feel better!Wearing a hearing aid is a powerful statement of the value you place on yourself, your relationships and your place in the world. It shows your strength of character in facing a problem and taking steps to improve it. You will feel a tremendous sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
Your posture will improve!Your neck won't thrust out at right angles to your body as you try to get your ear closer to the sound source. Your spine won't hunch as you retreat from difficult social interaction. You will stand straight with confidence.
You'll be a trendsetter!Your hearing aid may make you the first on your block, in your bridge club, or on the first tee to wear one of the many new technologically-improved, sound-enhancing hearing aids that are available today.
Your family life will improve!Relatives and friends will tune in and start listening to you again when it's clear that you're now hearing them. It's not a relative's hearing loss that irritates family members, but the unwillingness to admit their loss and do something about it.
Love may bloom again!Whether it's with your life-long partner or someone new, nothing helps romance like good communication. And for a person with a hearing loss, that's almost impossible without a well-fitted hearing aid. Whispered sweet nothings may indeed be a thing of the past, but hearing your mate say "I love you" makes up for an awful lot.
Your social life will improve!Movies, theatre, card nights, cocktail parties, family gatherings - you'll enjoy them all again You'll be able to converse in situations that had become torture with your increased inability to hear well. Getting a hearing aid will be the best social foot forward you may ever take.
You'll be smarter!The onset of hearing loss has nothing to do with diminished brain power. Au contraire. By wearing a hearing aid and/or using an assistive listening device, you'll know more than the next guy about the impact that hearing loss has on our lives and relationships. You'll discover how critical it is to learn new ways of communication and, more importantly, the right attitude and the help of qualified service providers, you will develop the skills to do just that. Now that's smart!
All hearing aids have four basic components:-
- A mircophone picks up sound from the environment and converts it into an electrical signal, which it sends to the amplifier.
- An amplifier increases the volume of the sound and sends it to the receiver.
- A receiver changes the electrical signal back into sound and sends it into the ear. Then those impulses are sent to the brain.
- A battery provides power to the hearing aid.
Analogue aidsBefore the development of digital aids, all hearing aids were analogue. Analogue aids use a microphone to pick up sound and convert it into electrical signals. The signals are then amplified by transistors and fed to the microphone so that the person using the hearing aid can hear them. The better analogue hearing aids used to compress the sound, automatically altering the gain to suit the incoming sound. This amplifies quiet sounds until they are loud enough to be heard, but gives less boost to sounds that are already loud, so that the person using the hearing aid is protected against uncomfortably loud sound levels. The idea behind this is that it should help the wearer when in very noisy places to hear the one voice or sound that he or she is interested in. Unfortunately, even with the better analogue hearing aids, this did not work very well and analogue hearing aids have been almost completely superseded by digital technology.
Digital aidsDigital aids work on a completely different principle and strive to overcome the problem of hearing against background noise. They take the signal from the microphone and convert it into binary coding - "bits" of data - numbers that can be manipulated by a tiny computer in the hearing aid. This makes it possible to monitor incoming sound signals and process very accurately. The best digital aids can be very finely adjusted to suit individuals lifestyles and hearing loss, they can be set up to automatically adjust themselves to suit different sound environments. The major hearing aid manufactuers in Europe and the States have invested hugely in research and development of digital hearing aid technology. Much effort has been focused on the improving hearing in difficult listening enviornments, to help hear conversation in traditionally noisy places such as pubs or clubs etc. Digital hearing aids are programmed by computer software at the point of fitting, using your personal audiological data and lifestyle choice. The hearing aids are normally set to an "easy listening" aclaimitisation level intially and then over the next few appointments, adjustments are made and the aclimatization levels increased until you are at your optimum setting. This is a very gradual process to help your brain cope with the new sound inputs.
Hearing aids aren't effective for everyoneHair cells in the inner ear must pick up the vibrations that the hearing aid sends and convert those vibrations into nerve signals. So, you need to have at least some hair cells in the inner ear for it to work. It is important to remember that despite all the research, development and technology that is applied to hearing aids, full, natural hearing cannot be restored.
1) Customised to fit comfortably in your earAs all ears are unique most hearing aids need to have an element of customisation. To customise a hearing aid to fit your ear we take a silicon impression of the ear. This is carried out by filling the ear canal and outer ear with silicon material that once in the ear will harden within a matter of minutes and then be removed and sent to be manufactured into a mould or an in-the-ear hearing aid. This manufacturers use the mould to create an acrylic shell, which should fit comfortably in your ear. If you are having an in-the-ear hearing aid the shell will be fitted with the appropriate electrical components, including the digital microchip (the brain of the hearing aid), microphone, speaker unit etc. All these components are wired together and holes are drilled in the shell for the microphone and receiver to allow sounds in and out. When the hearing aid is finished, it is polished smooth and then analyzed to make sure that it fits the patient's hearing prescription.
2) Customised to suit your hearing requirementDigital hearing aids arrive at our offices as more or less a "blank canvas". On receipt of the new hearing aids we connect them to the computer and input all the audiological data. This information, together with personal details of the patient, such as age and lifestyle are pulled together and the hearing aid is customised to suit the patient's needs. The hearing aid is then fitted and real time alterations are made according to the patients comments. As the aids are completely programmable they can be altered to suit increasing need should hearing loss develop.
We have two ears for a reason. The human brain often better understands and interprets what it hears when sounds arrive at it from both ears. If you have poor hearing in both ears, consider a 60-day trial period with binaural (both ears) amplification. If you determine that the extra benefit of two aids does not justify the cost, return one of the aids at the end of the period and keep the other one.
Most people with a hearing loss will have similar loss levels in both ears, as your ears are a pair and they are the same age, they will have been exposed to the same lifestyle and hereditary. Best advice for a binaural hearing loss (hearing loss on both sides) is to wear a pair of hearing aids instead of simply aiding one side only. There are many measurable benefits of wearing aids on both ears the main ones are listed below:-
Localisation – The reason we have two ears on either side of our head is to help us determine the direction sound is coming from. Way back in the days when we were required to hunt for our own food and use our wits to survive, this localisation would have been an essential tool to survival. In the present day it is, nonetheless, as important. For instance, if cannot instantly locate the direction of sound we may find it difficult to hear where traffic is coming from.
Improved Speech Understanding – By receiving incoming sound signals from both sides we are helping our brains to build up a better sound-scape. Our brain processes the input from both ears and merges the signals together to give us a fuller understanding. If the input is coming largely from one side, the brain is having to fill in many more gaps of information.
Hearing in Noise – Hearing in noise is difficult at the best of times but with the input coming in from predominately one side, this process is even more challenging. By having input from both sides the brain is able to separate the sounds more effectively.
Ability to Hear More – Simply by wearing two hearing aids you are able to hear more and so as a result, each hearing aid is able to be set at a slightly lower level to provide increased comfort and wear-ability.
Restful Hearing – Wearing two hearing aids can promote greater well being and be less fatiguing than wearing just one.
Balanced Sound – Binaural hearing can provide a more “balanced” and natural sound quality than monaural listening.
Active Ears – When only one hearing aid is used, the aided ear tends to maintain its ability to understand speech and interpret sound while the unaided ear slowly loses these ability over time.
Tinnitus Relief – Many people that are using two aids claim that their tinnitus is less intrusive when wearing two aids instead of just one.
Listening in the Car – When two hearing aids are used, an individual can hear whether he or she is the passenger or the driver.
Part of our company ethos is transparency with our prices.We have always been proud of offering great value, with a pricing formula that is fair, competitive and yet realistic. It is important if you decide to shop around that you compare like products, as many of the larger national companies offer very cheap options that are either lesser technology or service. For simplicity we have arranged the products into different price bands, with the premium bandings offering the best technology and increased warranty levels and the budget end offering great value. Please Contact Us for more information.
IIC - Invisible in the Canal'Completely Invisible' The most discrete hearing instrument on the market. This tiny device sits deep in the ear canal, very close to the ear drum. The placement of the aid in the position has some fantastic acoustical advantages as well as offering the best cosmetic solution. These custom-made units suit mild to moderate hearing losses and suitability depends upon the size and shape of the natural ear canal.
CIC - Completely in Canal'Practically Invisible' These are usually custom-made, self-contained units that are fitted completely in the ear canal. They are suitable if you have a mild to moderate hearing loss and your ear canal is a certain size and shape. They are very tiny and use small batteries, so you must have good dexterity and eyesight to operate.
ITC - In the Canal'Inconspicuous' These are usually custom-made, self-contained units that are fitted in the ear canal. They are suitable if you have a mild to moderate hearing loss and your ear canal is a certain size and shape. They are slightly larger than the CIC, with a bigger battery, making it easier to use and allowing additional features such as telecoil or directional microphones.
ITE - In the Ear'Easy to Handle' These are usually custom-made, self-contained units that fill the contour within the ear. They are suitable for mild to severe hearing loss. They are easy to use and can accommodate many features.
OTE - On the Ear'Maximum Comfort and Discretion' Tiny device worn on top of the ear, with a discrete tube that sits comfortably and invisibly in the ear canal, providing amplification at the frequencies required, whilst leaving ear open to make most of your own natural hearing.
RITE - Receiver in the Ear'Cosmetically Versatility' This style of hearing aid is miniature in design, thanks to the clever placement of the receiver element in the ear canal instead of being housed in the body of the hearing aid. The aid is worn on the ear with a thin wire into the ear, where the receiver comfortably sits.
BTE - Behind the Ear'Powerfully Reliable' These units sit snugly behind the ear, amplifying sounds to an ear-mould worn in the ear. They are suitable for mild to severe hearing loss and are more powerful as they have more room for a stronger amplifier and potent battery. They are available in a comprehensive range of sizes, colours and power levels and can accommodate many features.
A/D (Analoge to Digital) Converterthe part of the digital chip that takes sound and converts it into a signal the chip can recognize.
Adaptabilitythe ability of the hearing aid to change its' settings based on the listening environment.
Adaptive Directional Microphonea directional microphone system capable of activating itself.
Adaptive Directional Microphone with Softswitchinga directional microphone system capable of activating itself and uses special circuitry to make the change more transparent to the wearer.
Advanced Noise Reductiona more technologically advanced noise reduction system.
Algorithmthe procedure or formula a digital processor uses to calculate what needs to be done with sound as it goes through your hearing aid.
Amplifier (Amplification)an electronic component that increases the loudness of sound.
Analoge Hearing Aida basic hearing aid that amplifies sound based on your audiogram.
Artificial Intelligenceterm used by Oticon to describe their hearing aids ability to make changes without the wearer doing anything.
Asymmetrical Hearing Lossthe degree of hearing loss in one ear is greater than the other.
Audibilitythe level at which a sound can be heard.
Audiograma chart used to plot an individuals scores from a hearing test.
AudiometerElectronic equipment used to perform a hearing test.
Automatic Telecoilprogrammable telecoil that activates automatically when a telephone is placed near.
Automatic Volume Controlthe hearing aid automatically adjusts the volume for the wearer.
Background Noisegenerally refers to the presence of other sound in an environment that is not the speech one is trying to hear.
Banda range of frequencies that can be adjusted in a hearing independent of other frequencies
Bandwidththe total area of frequency that a hearing amplifies generally from about 125Hz to 5500KHz
Batterythe power source for a hearing aid
Behind the Ear Hearing Aid (BTE)style of hearing aid in which the components are placed behind the ear and the sound is delivered to the ear through a tube connect to an ear mold.
Bilateral Hearing Lossa hearing loss in both ears
Bluetootha type of wireless connection for electronic devises
Bone Conduction Hearing Aida hearing aid that transfers sound through the skull instead of the ear canal.
Channela section of frequencies controlled by the hearing aids compression circuitry. Hearing aids can have as few as 1 channel and as many as the manufacturer wants to use.
Circuit Board– the piece inside the hearing aid that contains the digital chip
Completely In Canal Hearing Aid (CIC)– the smallest style of hearing aid in which all or nearly all of the aid is placed inside the ear canal.
Cochlea– small snail shaped organ in which sound is processed and then sent to the brain.
Cochlear Implant– type of hearing devise which part of is surgically connected to the cochlea and embedded in the skull. The other part is plugged into the port in the skull and contains the hearing aid portion.
Compression– a type of circuitry that is used to keep soft sounds audible and loud sounds comfortable.
Conductive Hearing Loss– hearing loss due to damage to the conductive portion -of the auditory system such as the eardrum or the bones in the middle ear
D/A (Digital to Analog) Converterchanges the digital signal coming out of the amplifier into an analog sound that we can understand..
Data Loggingfeature in some digital products that keeps a record of what kind of environments the user has been exposed to, battery life, hours of usage, etc., and may even make recommendations for adjustments.
Deafa person that is not able to perceive sound and / or understand speech, even when amplified.
Decibel (dB)a measurement of the loudness of a sound
Digitala type of amplifier system that changes analog sound into a series of numbers for processing.
Digital BionicsPhonak product name for a digital system that claims to mimic natural hearing,
Digital Signal Processora microprocessor that converts analog sound to digital signal.
Digital Processorsee Digital Signal Processor
Digital Speech Enhancementthe enhancement of speech signals by a digital processor to make speech more readily distinguished from noise.
Digital Surround ZoomPhonak name for an adaptive directional microphone system.
Direct Audio Inputgenerally only available on BTE hearing aids, enables the wearer to directly connect an electronic sound source to their hearing aid.
Directional Imaging (PDI)Starkey name for their directional microphone system.
Directional Microphonemultiple microphone system that amplifies sound from the front mor than sound from the rear for better hearing in noise.
Dual Band Directional Microphonea directional microphone system that separates high and low frequencies, providing more emphasis on high frequency for better speech understanding.
Directional Speech Detector (DSD) Directional MicrophonesDirectional Microphone system used in Starkey Destiny
Directional Polar Patternthe area in relation to the head in which a directional microphone provides full amplification.
Disposable Hearing Aida hearing aid designed to be worn and then thrown away when the battery dies.
Dithernoise added to sound to reduce distortion
Dynamic Rangethe range between wear a person begins to hear sound and sound becomes uncomfortable.
E2E Wireless CommunicationSiemens product that enables one hearing aid to make the same adjustments to the other hearing aid. Turn up the volume on one and it will automatically adjust the volume on the other aid.
Earthe organ of hearing comprised of the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear, but is more commonly used to refer to the portion of the ear that is visible, the pinna.
Ear Canalchannel on the side of the head that the pinna directs sound down to the eardrum.
Ear Drumthe tympanic membrane – thin membrane that separates the outer ear from the middle ear; sound vibrates the membrane which transfers the energy to the bones of the middle ear.
Ear Wax(Cerumen) - glandular excretion in the ear canal which is designed to help keep foreign objects from entering the ear canal.
Earmoulda silicon piece, usually custom made, that is inserted in the ear in order to connect a hearing aid or for hearing protection.
Echo Blockcomponent that Phonak have developed to reduce reverberated sound, or echo.
ePocket Remote ControlSiemens remote control.
Feedbackthe whistling sound that occurs when sound from a speaker loops back to the microphone.
Active Feedback InterceptStarkey's Destiny feedback cancellation product.
Feedback Cancellationthe removal of feedback by producing a signal exactly opposite of the feedback signal.
Feedback Suppressioncontrol of feedback by reducing the frequency where the feedback has occurred.
Fluctuating Hearing Losshearing loss that does not stay constant but is improved on some days and worse on others.
Frequencythe measurement of the number of times an event occurs in a specific time. The more often the higher the frequency.
Frequency Bandin hearing aids refers to the divisions of frequencies that can be adjusted for volume independently from other frequency bands.
Full Shell Hearing Aid (FS)style of hearing aid that fills the bowl of the ear.
Gainthe volume added to a sound after amplification.
Group Delaythe time delay between the input and output of a sound.
Half Shell Hearing Aid (HS)style of hearing aid that fills approximately half of the bowl of the ear.
Hearingthe transfer of sound through the auditory system ( outer, middle, and inner ear ) to the brain.
Hearing Aidan electronic devise used to improve damaged hearing.
Digital Hearing Aida hearing aid with a digital processor that converts analoge sound to digital, and then back to analoge.
Analogue Hearing Aida standard hearing aid that amplifies sound in an analoge format.
Hearing testseries of tests performed with an audiometer that measures a persons hearing loss based on subjective response.
Hearing Lossany reduction of a persons ability to hear sound below a sound level of 25 decibels between the ranges of 250 Hertz and 8000 Hertz. (see Decibel, Frequency, and Hertz)
- Asymmetrical Hearing Loss – the degree of hearing loss in one ear is greater than the other.
- Bilateral Hearing Loss – hearing loss in both ears.
- Conductive Hearing Loss – hearing loss due to damage to the conductive portion -of the auditory system such as the eardrum or the bones in the middle ear.
- Fluctuating Hearing Loss – hearing loss that does not stay constant but is improved on some days and worse on others.
- Mixed Hearing Loss - a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss.
- Mild Hearing Loss (20 -40 decibels) where the softest sound perceptible at any frequency tested falls between 20 – 40 decibels.
- Moderate Hearing Loss (40-60 decibels) where the softest sound perceptible at any frequency tested falls between 40 – 60 decibels.
- Profound Hearing Loss (over 80 decibels) where the softest sound perceptible at any frequency tested falls at 80 decibels or worse.
- Progressive Hearing Loss – a hearing loss that becomes progressively worse over time.
- Sensorineural Hearing Loss – hearing loss due to damage to the inner ear (cochlea) or the nerve pathway from the cochlea to the brain.
- Severe Hearing Loss (60-80 decibels) where the softest sound perceptible at any frequency tested falls between 60 – 80 decibels.
- Stable Hearing Loss – a hearing loss that has not changed for several years.
- Sudden Hearing Loss – a hearing loss that occurs with a rapid onset requiring immediate medical treatment.
- Symmetrical Hearing Loss – hearing loss that is the same or very similar in both ears.
- Unilateral Hearing Loss – hearing loss in only one ear.