Learning About Hearing Aids

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What is a hearing aid?

Three styles of hearing aids, behind-the-ear, in-the-ear, and in-the-canal hearing aids

A hearing aid makes sounds louder. It can help some people with hearing problems to hear better. Hearing aids do not restore normal hearing. But they can make it easier to communicate.

There are different types of hearing aids.

  • Analog adjustable hearing aids make both speech and other sounds louder in the same amount. Your doctor can adjust them to fit your hearing. You can control loudness. These cost less than the other types of hearing aids.
  • Analog programmable hearing aids have a computer chip that your doctor can program to fit your hearing. They can be set up for different places or events. For example, you can have a setting for quiet one-on-one conversations and another for noisy times like a dinner party in a restaurant. You can change hearing programs with a remote control.
  • Digital programmable hearing aids can adjust themselves to work best where you are at any time. You also have more choices in setting them up than with analog hearing aids.
  • Bone-anchored hearing systems transmit sound through the skull. This type of hearing aid is permanently implanted in the skull bone. It may work for people who do not benefit from other types of hearing aids.

There are also different styles of hearing aids.

  • A behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid connects to a plastic ear mould that fits inside the outer ear. BTE hearing aids are used for all levels of hearing loss, especially very severe hearing loss. They may be better for children for safety and growth reasons. Poorly fitting BTE ear moulds or a buildup of earwax may cause a whistling sound (feedback).
  • An in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aid fits in the outer part of the ear. It can be used by people with mild to severe hearing loss. ITE hearing aids can be used with other hearing devices, such as a telecoil that improves hearing during phone calls. ITE hearing aids can be damaged by earwax and fluid draining from the ear. Their small size may be hard for some people to handle. They are not often used in children because the case must be replaced as the child grows.
  • An in-the-canal (ITC) hearing aid fits into the ear canal. ITC hearing aids are used by people with mild to moderate hearing loss. They are made to fit the shape and the size of your ear canal. They can be damaged by earwax and fluid draining from the ear. Their small size may be hard for some people to handle. They are not made for children.
  • With a bone-anchored hearing system, the sound processor sits behind the ear. No part of the system is within the ear itself.

If your doctor thinks that you have hearing loss, you will be referred to an audiologist to do hearing tests. He or she can help you decide what type and style of hearing aid may be best for you.

What else should I know about hearing aids?

Find out if your provincial health plan or private insurance covers hearing aids. They can be expensive. Different types of hearing aids come with different costs.

Also find out about a warranty or return policy in case you are not happy with your hearing aids.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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