Hearing loss is a major health issue. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) indicates that, based on standard hearing examinations, one in eight people in the United States aged 12 or older has hearing loss in both ears. That translates to 30 million individuals.
Hearing loss hits the geriatric crowd a lot harder. Almost 25% of those aged 65-74, and 50% of those 75 and older, have disabling hearing loss.
According to the NIDCD, about 28.8 million US adults could benefit from hearing aids, but only 30% of those over 70 with hearing loss have ever used them.
That’s a significant number, especially considering how hearing aids benefit your overall health and quality of life. Hearing loss affects conversations and personal interactions, leading to feelings of isolation and depression.
Hearing loss has also been associated with cognitive impairment and decline. But on the flip side, some research suggests treating that loss can positively affect cognitive performance, especially memory.
At Oasis Ear, Nose, and Throat, otolaryngologists Dr. James Osborne and Dr. Bryan Smedley provide quality hearing care and audiology services for their patients in Surprise, Arizona, that address all levels of hearing loss. If you’ve been diagnosed with hearing loss, you probably wonder which auditory device is right for you. Here’s what our experts have to say.
The hearing process
Hearing takes place in a many-step process.
Sound waves enter the outer ear, causing small vibrations. The eardrum and three small bones in the middle ear amplify these vibrations as they head on to the inner ear, where they pass through fluid in a snail-shaped structure (the cochlea).
Nerve cells within the cochlea are lined with thousands of tiny hairs that translate the incoming vibrations into electrical signals. These signals are transmitted to your brain, which converts them into sound.
Types of auditory devices
The most common type of auditory device is the sound-amplifying hearing aid. Most hearing aids contain:
- A microphone to pick up sound
- Amplifier circuitry to make the sound louder
- A miniature loudspeaker (receiver) to deliver amplified sound into the ear canal
- Batteries to power the electronic parts
Hearing aids differ by design, analog or digital technology to achieve amplification, and features like wireless connectivity and software applications. The type of hearing aid you need depends on the type and severity of hearing loss, listening needs, and lifestyle. Here are some common hearing aid types.
1. Behind-the-ear (BTE)
BTE aids have most components housed in a small plastic case that rests behind your ear. Clear tubing connects the case to an earmold or earpiece. This type is good for young children because it can accommodate different earmold types, which are replaceable as the child grows. The case can also contain extra wiring or more advanced software. The BTEs are sturdy and easy to clean but require some dexterity to situate them properly.
2. "Mini" BTE, aka receiver-in-canal (RIC)
These BTE aids also fit behind the ear but are typically smaller than regular BTEs. A narrow tube connects the aid to your ear canal. Mini BTEs may have a smaller inserted earpiece but may also use a traditional earmold. In either case, they can reduce the occlusion effect in the ear canal — a sensation that causes your voice to sound louder inside your head. In addition, they can increase comfort, reduce feedback, and address cosmetic concerns.
3. In-the-ear (ITE)
ITE aids contain all hearing aid parts in a shell that fills your outer ear. They’re larger than in-the-canal (ITC) and completely-in-the-canal (CIC) aids and may prove easier to handle than smaller aids.
ITC and CIC aids are tiny cases that fit either partly or completely inside the ear canal. They’re the smallest hearing aids available, are cosmetically pleasing, and offer some listening advantages. However, their small size may make them difficult to handle and adjust, and they can’t hold any additional wiring like the BTE aids can.
Cochlear implants are surgically placed and work by stimulating the auditory nerve instead of merely amplifying sound. They’re often used with children and are best for those with severe or profound hearing loss.
Are you struggling with hearing loss? Oasis Ear, Nose, and Throat can help with auditory testing, diagnosis, and devices to help you adjust. Call our office at 623-234-4640 to schedule a consultation with one of our doctors.