There is no one hearing aid that is right for everyone. The best hearing aid for you depends on your type of hearing loss, lifestyle, budget and other considerations. To find the best hearing aid for you, be sure you consult a qualified hearing health professional who offers a broad range of hearing aid types and styles at different budget levels.
It is not recommended that you try programming your own hearing aids. Programming requires the advanced training and familiarity of different technologies that are part of the training of hearing health professionals. They take into account objective measures based on your hearing tests. That is why programming your own instrument is not recommended.
Every hearing aid manufacturer offers a range of products with basic, advanced and premium features. Your best option is to find a hearing center that carries a range of manufacturers to give you the broadest selection possible.
Ear canals can vary in size, so there is no one type of style that is most comfortable. Generally, softer materials tend to be more comfortable. The best way to determine your comfort level is to experience with the various options in your price range.
The most affordable hearing aids will be the basic models offered by every hearing aid vendor. You may find their features to be sufficient for your type of hearing loss, or you may choose to invest in more advanced features that improve the sound quality.
A variety of factors can cause hearing loss. The most common causes include exposure to loud noises, the aging process, heredity, infection and more. There are two types of hearing loss. When something stops sounds from getting through the external or middle ear, it is called a conductive loss. Or, there may be a problem in the way the inner ear or hearing nerve works, a condition called a sensorineural loss (or “nerve type” loss). A mixed hearing loss includes both a conductive and a sensorineural hearing loss.
Since exposure to loud noises has been proven to damage your hearing, wear hearing protection such as earplugs if you will be in a noisy environment. Any sound louder than 80-85 decibels can damage your hearing, and extended exposure to sounds above 90-95 decibels can result in a permanent hearing loss or ringing in the ears. For comparison’s sake, city traffic registers about 85 dB, and a hair dryer or lawn mower measures about 90 dB.
At maximum volume, MP3 players put out music at up to 120 decibels, about as loud as a jet taking off. But at just 100-105 decibels, permanent hearing damage can occur in eight to 15 minutes. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines require hearing protection in workplaces where decibel levels reach higher than 85. Earplugs can also help prevent the formation of exostoses, a bony growth in the ear canal commonly known as surfer’s ear.
Some of the more common signs of hearing loss are an inability to hear conversations on the phone or TV, trouble following two or more people talking at the same time or in settings with a lot of background noise, and confusion about where sound is coming from. People with hearing loss may miss parts of sentences and need others to repeat themselves, or they may avoid social gatherings because they cannot reply appropriately. Family members are often the first to notice a loved one’s hearing loss. One or more of these symptoms may point to the need for an evaluation by hearing professional.
A variety of tests are used to diagnose hearing problems. These include:
- Audiograms – Used to measure how well a person hears. This test is performed in a sound-proof room using an audiometer and earphones.
- Tympanometry – Assesses the status of the eardrum and middle ear.
- Otoacoustic emission testing (OAE) – Provides a measure of cochlear (inner ear) hair cell function.
- Auditory Brainstem Response or Brainstem Auditory-Evoked Response (BAER) – A useful clinical tool to help detect, localize and monitor auditory and neurotologic problems as well as estimate hearing in pediatric or difficult to test patients.
Treatment of hearing loss depends upon the type and severity of hearing loss. Possible treatments for hearing loss include:
- Hearing aids. An ever-growing selection of hearing devices is available, including programmable and digital models. Shohet Ear Associates offers the broadest selection of hearing instrument types, styles and manufacturers – giving you reliable and outstanding hearing loss treatment. We help patients select the best device for their particular needs and lifestyle. We also work with each individual patient to ensure he or she receives the maximum benefit from the selected instrument.
- Implantable hearing devices. As an alternative to traditional hearing aids, implantable middle ear devices are an option for those with moderate to severe sensorineural (“nerve-type”) hearing loss. Using a processor to transmit sound that vibrates the middle ear bones directly, the implant simulates natural hearing with improved sound fidelity – without plugging the ear canal. At the same time, feedback is significantly reduced. Shohet Ear Associates was the first—and remains the only–Orange County-based group to implant middle ear hearing devices.
- The Esteem® Esteem is the world’s first fully implantable hearing restoration system. Esteem® is designed to help improve the hearing of many adults with moderate to severe sensorineural hearing loss. Esteem® is fully implanted in the middle ear. It is not a hearing aid. Esteem® uses your own eardrum as a natural microphone, picking up sounds from the ear drum, thereby using the body’s natural anatomy to reduce the background noise, distortion, and acoustic feedback that people experience with conventional hearing aids.
- Cochlear implants. For those with a severe to profound hearing loss in both ears, cochlear implants may be the solution. This procedure allows many patients to hear actual sounds and improve their communication. The implants are a combination of an internal computer chip and an electrode coupled with an external speech processor. They are programmed in our office by a clinical audiologist.
It depends on the type and severity of the patient’s hearing loss, the duration of untreated hearing loss, and the treatment used. In some cases, several treatments may be an option and determining the best one will be a joint decision between you, your physician and your audiologist.
It depends on the treatment used and in some cases, the patient’s compliance with the prescribed treatment.
Generally speaking, hearing aids are the most basic and affordable solution to a hearing loss.
The best type of treatment for hearing loss is one that is proven to be the most clinically effective for the patient’s type of hearing loss and that fits the patient’s budget and lifestyle. Because hearing loss can have many causes, it is most beneficial for the patient to have access to the services of an ear physician and audiologists within the same practice. Consumer Reports recommends purchasing hearing aids from a medical office headed by an ENT physician who employs an audiologist to fit and dispense hearing aids. Click here to read the full report.