A hearing aid is a battery-powered electronic device that amplifies sound and transmits it into your ears. It is basically a small device that you wear behind your ear which is designed to improve your hearing. A hearing aid can help you hear more in both quiet and noisy situations and allow you to participate fully in daily activities. 

Your ear is the main hearing organ and when your hearing is impaired or lost, it can hamper your routine tasks. Your inner ear, also called the labyrinth of the ear, contains the sensory organs (covered with hair cells) that convert sound waves, picked by your outer and middle ear, into electrical signals to send them to the brain. 

A hearing aid is used when you have hearing loss (s a common type of hearing impairment that occurs when the hair cells in your inner ear are damaged). A hearing aid magnifies these sound vibrations entering your ear. Surviving hair cells detect the larger vibrations and convert them into neural signals that are passed along to the brain.

Read on to know more about a hearing aid - its components, types, whether you need them, and how to select the right hearing aid.

Parts of a Hearing Aid

A traditional hearing aid will have three main components: a microphone, an amplifier, and a receiver. 

The hearing aid receives sound through a microphone, which is responsible for converting the sound waves to electrical signals and sending them to an amplifier. The amplifier (also known as a processor) increases the power of the signals and then sends them to the ear through a receiver or the speaker.

Types or Styles of Hearing Aid

A wide variety of hearing aids are available and they are recommended for use depending upon the type and degree of your hearing loss, your age, the shape and structure of your ear. The most common types are:

1. Behind The Ear (BTE). These are the most comfortable, versatile, and commonly prescribed hearing aids. Microphone lends itself to variations depending upon the patient's requirements. A typical BTE hearing aid consists of a hard plastic case to be worn behind your ear and is connected to a plastic earmold that fits inside your outer ear. The electronic parts are held in the case behind your ear.

2. In The Ear (ITE). These hearing aids fit completely inside your outer ear and can be used for mild to moderate hearing loss. They are discrete and fit into your ear canal. The ITE hearing aids may not be adequate if you have severe hearing loss. ITE aids are not worn by young children because the casings need to be replaced often as the ear grows.

3. Receiver In Canal (RIC). This open-fit hearing aid uses a slim tube that extends from the hearing aid into the receiver, which is placed in your ear canal. These hearing aids are slim and sleek and are perfect for first-time hearing aid wearers.

A type of RIC hearing aid, the in-the-canal (ITC) hearing aid is made to fit the size and shape of your ear canal. A completely-in-canal (CIC) hearing aid is almost hidden in your ear canal. RIC hearing aids can be used to treat mild to moderately severe hearing loss.

When Do You Need a Hearing Aid

If your hearing impairment is causing disturbances in your social life, not allowing you to follow conversations or watch the television clearly, then you might need a hearing aid. If your hearing loss is of a type that cannot be corrected by medicine or surgery, then you are most likely a candidate for a hearing aid. 

Be watchful of early signs of hearing loss such as missing out on conversational speech, asking people to repeat themselves, not hearing call bells or phone rings when others around you can hear them, listening to the TV or radio on very loud volumes, talking or speaking loudly. If you notice these signs and symptoms, it is advisable to get yourself tested at your ENT’s clinic.  

A simple audiogram can help determine the type and degree of your hearing loss. An audiogram is a graph that shows the softest sounds you can hear at different pitches or frequencies. 

If the audiogram confirms a hearing loss, an appropriate hearing aid will be selected for you by an audiologist. An audiologist is a licensed hearing health care professional who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss. 

You might want to understand a lot of things about your hearing aid from your audiologist. With your audiologist, practice putting in and taking out the aid, cleaning it, identifying right and left aids, and understanding the replacement of the batteries. Ask how to adjust the aid’s volume and to program it for sounds that are too loud or too soft. 

To summarize, hearing aids take time and patience to use successfully. Wearing your aids regularly will help you adjust to them. Consult your ENT specialist and audiologist to understand the working of hearing aids better.

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.