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Hearing Aids

Collaboration between physicians and audiologists at the Tampa Bay Hearing and Balance Center ensure that you are informed of the best scenario for your hearing solution. If your solution is hearing aids you will find your experience at our center thorough, accurate, and professional. We offer the latest options in hearing aid technology. With the use of Verifit technology by AudioScan, you can be confident that your hearing aids have been customized to your specific needs. Sometimes your hearing needs may require more than hearing aids and we can help you make an informed decision regarding Cochlear Implants or Bone Anchored Hearing Systems if these are better suited to your needs.

Modern hearing aids give welcome assistance. Audiologists, the professionals who dispense the majority of hearing aids in the United States, use advanced computerized procedures to individualize the fitting of hearing aids.

While only 10 percent of adult hearing problems are medically or surgically treatable, most other persons with hearing loss benefit from hearing aids and/or assistive listening devices.

Modern hearing aids are fitted with impressive options. They include sound processing strategies that make an available hearing aid that is either digital or analog; programmable or nonprogrammable; fitted with circuits to increase or decrease certain sounds; modifications to make telephone use easier; built in direct audio input boots; and other significant options.

Advances in technology continue to enhance the quality of sound produced by hearing aids today. However, not every hearing loss is the same and not all hearing aids provide the same type of amplification. The prospective hearing aid user will be informed about the realistic benefit that a hearing aid may provide. It is important to remember that these electronic amplifying devices will not produce sound that matches exactly a person's memory of normal hearing. Hearing aids will help, but not necessarily in all situations. Despite numerous technological advances, hearing aids cannot eliminate background noise. A well fitted hearing aid will significantly improve an individual's ability to communicate.

Components of a Hearing Aid

  • Microphone: The external component of a hearing aid which picks up sounds occurring around the listener
  • Amplifier: The internal component of a hearing aid that makes the sounds louder
  • Receiver: The internal component of a hearing aid that acts as a mini loudspeaker and delivers the amplified sounds into the ear
  • Batteries: All hearing aids are powered by a battery source

Styles of Hearing Aids Available

  • Behind the Ear (BTE) - all parts of the hearing aid are contained in small plastic case that is positioned over the back of the ear. The case is connected by a clear plastic tube to an ear mold that fits in the patient's ear. Sound travels from the hearing aid through the tube and ear mold into the person's ear
  • In theEar (ITE) - all parts of the hearing aid are contained in a case that fits within the entire outer portion of the outer ear canal
  • In the Canal (ITC or Canal) - all parts of the hearing aid are contained in a small case that fits in the ear canal and lower portion of the outer ear
  • Completely in the Canal (CIC) - all parts of the hearing aid are housed in a case which fits completely in the ear canal
  • Contralateral Routing of Signals (CROS) - An amplification system used for patients who have normal hearing in one ear but the other ear is "dead", or unaidable. A microphone in a hearing aid case receives sound at the dead ear side and transmits it to a device that is worn on the good ear.
  • BIOCROS - An amplification system for patients with losses in both ears but with one ear unaidable. A microphone housed in a hearing aid is placed on the unaidable ear and transmits a signal from that side of the head to the audible ear, which amplifies the signal.
  • Bone Conduction Aids - An amplification device that stimulates the skull to provide sound when the inner ear canals do not exist or when, for medical reasons, ear molds cannot be used.

The Use of a Hearing Aid

Different persons react differently to the use of a hearing aid. One's age, the severity of the hearing impairment, and the acceptance of the need for the aid may strongly influence one's reaction to supplementing his own hearing with amplified sound. The type and degree of hearing impairment may limit the benefits to be gained from a hearing aid. Generally speaking, the hard of hearing person has a dual problem. He experiences a reduction in the intensity of sound in which everyday environmental noises including speech are not perceived in their normal loudness. In addition, there is often an accompanying reduction in what is called discrimination. An impairment of one's ability to distinguish among the sounds of speech leads to a reduction in understanding.

If a person has an impairment of the conductive type, he can expect maximum benefits from a hearing aid because discrimination ability is not greatly affected. Most persons with this type of impairment become adjusted to using a hearing aid with very little difficulty.

If the hearing impairment is of the sensorineural or nerve type, the difficulty of adjusting satisfactorily to a hearing aid may be greatly increased. Very often, persons who have this type of loss can hear speech sounds if they are loud enough but cannot always understand what is being said. It is true that speech must be loud enough to permit the listener to understand to his full capability. But making speech increasingly louder will not necessarily lead to a corresponding improvement in discrimination because the nerve has become less sensitive to the acoustic differences of speech sounds. A hearing impaired person will often say, “I hear but I can't always understand what I hear." Because the prime function of an aid is to amplify sounds, many users of these instruments continue to experience difficulty in understanding. A hearing aid, however, is far from a failure because it does not correct the discrimination impairment. Through amplification many sounds of speech can be heard and understood with greater ease. The hearing aid offers the user hearing that is short of normal acuity but more satisfactory than the uncompensated impairment.

The major problem for a new hearing aid user is to adjust the hearing aid in noise. There have been many innovations in hearing aid fitting that have helped new users to learn to live with noise. Changes in circuitry of the hearing aid, specially designed ear molds, and highly adjustable aids have greatly eased the initial learning process for many patients.

Steps in Learning to use a Hearing Aid

Whatever the type of hearing impairment, it is important to follow a planned program of learning to use the hearing aid. The ease or difficulty of hearing will vary depending on the loudness of background noises, the distance of the listener from the source of sounds, the clarity of speech or of music, and the lighting (which may enhance or may interfere with lip reading). Practice exercises will help to prepare the wearer to use his hearing aid in widely different situations.

Use the Aid at First in Your Own Home

Your hearing aid amplifies noise as well as it amplifies music or speech and you may be disturbed temporarily by background noise. Concentrate on listening for all of the normal household sounds and try to identify each sound that you hear. Once you can identify background noises, such as the hum of the refrigerator, the roar of an electric fan, the clinking of dishes, or the slamming of doors, these noises will tend to be less annoying and distracting to you.

Wear the Aid Only as Long as You Are Comfortable With It

Do not attempt to set an endurance record or to wear the aid at first during all of your waking hours. If you are tired and fatigued after using the aid for an hour or two, take it off. Let the way you feel be your guide. You can, over a period of several weeks, gradually lengthen the amount of time that you wear the aid.

Accustom Yourself to the use of the aid by listening to just one other person, husband or wife, neighbor or friend talk about familiar topics; use common expressions, names, or a series of numbers for practical purposes. After a few days of practice with one person in a quiet environment try a different listening exercise. Turn on the radio or television and with this auditory distraction try to understand your companion's speech.

Do Not Strain to Catch Every Word

The importance of listening carefully and of concentrating on what is being said cannot be overemphasized, but do not worry if you miss an occasional word. Normal hearing persons miss individual words or parts of sentences and unconsciously "fill in" with the thought expressed. (Keep your eyes on the face of the speaker. Speech reading is a very great help as a supplement to the hearing aid.)

Do Not Be Discouraged by the Interference of Background Noises

If your initial experience with the aid is unsatisfactory, remember that you are learning new habits, or rather, relearning old habits in a new setting. Normal hearing persons are aware of background noises too, but have learned to push them out of conscious awareness. As you learn to discriminate between noise and speech and to identify various background sounds, you also will be able to ignore extraneous noises just as persons with normal hearing do.

Practice Locating the Source of Sound By Listening Only

Localization of sound (the determination of the direction from which the sound comes) often presents a special problem to wearers of hearing aids. One exercise that helps to develop directional perception is to relax in a chair, keep your eyes closed, and have someone speak to you from different places in the room. Each time your helper changes his position, attempt to locate him through the sound of his voice alone.

Increase Your Tolerance for Loud Sounds

At first, hearing aid users tend to set the Volume control at a level too low for efficient listening. Louder sounds need not cause discomfort. By a very simple procedure you may, over a period of time, increase your tolerance for sound. While you are listening to one speaker or to your radio or television in your own home, gradually turn up the volume control of your hearing aid until the sound is very loud. When the loudness is uncomfortable, very slowly turn the volume down to a more comfortable level. After a period of practice you will find that your comfort level has increased considerably.

Practice to Learn to Discriminate Different Speech Sounds

Prepare a list of words which differ in one sound only. For example:

  • food - mood
  • ball - all
  • see - she
  • feel - peel
  • could - good
  • gown - down

Have your helper pronounce these words slowly and distinctly. Watch the lip movements closely while you carefully listen for the differences in similar pairs of words. Then try to discriminate the words by listening alone.

Listen to Something Read Aloud

A good exercise in listening is to have your companion read aloud from a magazine or a newspaper while you follow along with your own copy of the reading material. At irregular intervals your reader should stop and have you repeat the last word read.

Gradually Extend the Number of Persons with Whom You Talk, Still Within Your Own Home

You will find that it is more difficult to carry on a conversation with three or four persons than it is to talk to one. Concentrate mainly on the individual who is talking the most.

Gradually Increase the Number of Situations in Which You Use Your Hearing Aid

After you have adjusted fairly well in your own home to background noise and to conversation with several people at once you will be ready to extend the use of your aid to the super market, church, theater, and other public places. Turn the volume low to reduce the impact of unfamiliar background noise; do not sit under balconies; move about in different areas of the auditorium or theater until you find a section or a seat where you can hear well. Dining out may present special problems to the hearing aid user, so eat your first meals in public in a quiet restaurant with carpeted floors and draped windows. Avoid noisy cafeterias. As your tolerance for noise increases, you will find it easier to experiment with increasingly noisy environments.

Take Part in an Organized Course in Lip reading

Lip reading will help you in general communication with others; consider it an important supplement to the use of the hearing aid. Although lip reading has many limitations, some words cannot be seen on the lips and some words cannot be distinguished from each other lip reading combined with a hearing aid is often more satisfactory than is either alone. Check your community schools and colleges for a list of lip reading classes available in your area.

The Telephone and The Hearing Aid

If your hearing loss is not especially severe, you will probably be able, with a little practice, to use your hearing aid with the telephone. Place the receiver end of the telephone phone next to the microphone of the hearing aid. In some hearing aids an induction coil is an integral part of the aid, and the cordless portion of the telephone is placed in contact with the case of the aid. Getting used to the placement of the telephone and getting used to listening in this manner require practice. It is suggested that you arrange to have a friend telephone you at a certain time each day for several days to help you become accustomed to the telephone procedure with the hearing aid.

Adjustment to a Hearing Aid

There is no magic in adjusting satisfactorily to the use of a hearing aid. It requires practice and an application of the common sense steps discussed above. Do not expect perfection. Accept limited successes as signs of your progress. Different persons will learn at different rates. Some individuals, perhaps because of the severity of their loss or because of the nature of their hearing impairment, may require many weeks to learn to use the aid; even then they may never have a completely satisfactory adjustment. Others will find that the adjustment entails only minor problems and will be wearing the aid without any great difficulty within a few hours.

The prime objective in wearing a hearing aid is to bring about more nearly normal communications in everyday life. To achieve this goal, speech reading is almost always required. For maximum benefits lip reading rehabilitation should accompany the practice training in using the hearing aid.

Assistive Devices

Your audiologist will be able to give you information about additional amplification devices. These assistive listening devices include, but are not limited to, amplified telephones, FM sounds systems, visual alerting devices for phones, doors and smoke detectors, and special alarm clocks for the hearing impaired.

Summary

A complete otologic examination is necessary to determine what type of hearing impairment is present, its probable cause and recommended treatment.

Hearing is the natural and normal way to understand speech. If your hearing can be improved by medical or by surgical means, or through the use of a hearing aid, this should be done.

Whatever the type of treatment carried out, rehabilitation is essential if you are to gain maximum benefits from treatment. Be determined to master speech reading. Make a hobby of it. It will help in every conversation.

Make every effort to relax. Do not strain either to hear, or to see speech. Strain causes tension and makes lip reading much more difficult. A combination of hearing and seeing, under relaxed conditions, enables persons with impaired hearing to understand most speakers quite well.

Do not expect to understand every word in a conversation, but follow along with the speaker. As you become familiar with the rhythm of the speech, key words will emerge and you will be able to understand the complete thought. Try to stage manage the situation to your advantage. Lighting is important. Avoid facing a bright light and avoid having a shadow on the speaker's face. Six feet is an ideal separation from the speaker; at this distance his lip movements, facial expressions and gestures can be readily observed.

Maintain an active interest in people and events. Keep abreast of national affairs, and events in your community and intimate social circle. You will be able to follow discussions more easily.

Remember that conversation is a two way affair. Do not monopolize a conversation in an attempt to direct and control it. On the other hand, do not let it pass by without participating. Take an active and interested part whenever possible.

Be particular about your speech. A hearing impairment of long duration may bring about changes in volume as well as in articulation and voice quality. These changes must be prevented where possible and corrected when indicated. A pleasant, well modulated voice is a great asset.

A friendly, sympathetic interest in other people and in their problems can do much to smooth one's own path. The education of the public is your responsibility and mine alike. You cannot help others to understand your problem if you conceal it from them. Do not hide the fact that you wear a hearing aid, or that you depend on speech reading to understand conversation. By letting others know about your problem you can make communication easier for you. It is only through mutual acceptance and through understanding of the problems of persons with impaired hearing that the "outsider" can be expected to adjust to the needs of the speech reader. Without this understanding the "outsider" may unintentionally add to the problems of the speech reader.

Always keep in mind that the success of your auditory rehabilitation is largely dependent on you, your attitude and your acceptance of your problem.