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Hearing Aids

The hearing aid evaluation will help determine which of the many types of hearing aids would be most suitable for a given individual. While the overall goals are the same for both children and adults, the evaluation process itself differs.

A hearing aid is an Electroacoustic device which typically fits in or behind the wearer's ear, and is designed to amplify and adjust sounds in order to help a hard-of-hearing person hear sounds more clearly.

There are thousands of hearing aids models. All of them include a microphone (to pick up sound), amplifier (to boost sound strength), a receiver or speaker (to deliver sound to the ear), and are powered by a battery. Depending on the technology, it is possible to add features to filter background noise, reduce feedback, lower sound in noisy settings, etc.

In general, hearing aid styles are divided into behind the ear (B.T.E) and custom (in the ear or (I.T.E)).

In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aid:

Fits completely in the ear and or outer ear canal. This is a popular style for adult hearing aid users but there are disadvantage for children using them. They cannot be used with FM systems and usually cannot be used with other listening devices. Also, young children's ears are continually growing which results in the need for frequent re-casing and re-shelling of the hearing aids. While this is being done, the child is usually left without amplification for a few days. This size of hearing aid is not powerful enough to provide adequate amplification for severe or profound hearing loss.

Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid:

Sits behind the ear. Amplified sound is sent to the ear through tubing and an ear mold (piece of silicon or other soft material molded to exactly fit in the ear and to deliver the sound from the hearing aid. These hearing aids can provide the amplification necessary for all degrees of hearing loss including profound. They don’t require as much maintenance as the ITE hearing aids and are easily interchangeable if they need to be serviced. Also they are easier to handle and tend to be more reliable. They can be attached to other special listening devices such as FM systems. Because the electronics are behind the ear and not in the actual ear canal, they are considered to be useful for those with chronic ear infections or for those who produce a large amount of ear wax.

Open Fit hearing aid:

Similar to the (B.T.E) but smaller in size and the tubing is slim with a small flexible tip that sits in the ear canal. The small tip in the ear results in an open fit without 'plugging' the ears. An open fit hearing aid usually results in a more comfortable fit, a more natural sound, and can eliminate problems with the patient’s own voice. However, they are not suitable for severe hearing losses.

On-the-body aids

On-the-body Aids feature a larger microphone, amplifier, and power supply inside a case carried inside the pocket, or attached to clothing. The receiver attaches directly to the ear mold; its power comes through a flexible wire from the amplifier. Although larger than other aids, the on-the-body aids are more powerful and easier to adjust than other devices. While not popular for everyone, they are often used by those with a profound hearing loss, or by very young children. Some people who are almost totally deaf find they need the extra power boost available only from a body aid.

Eyeglass

Eyeglass models are the same as behind-the-ear devices, except that the case fits into an eyeglass frame instead of resting behind the ears. Not many people buy this type of aid, but those who do believe it's less obvious, although there is a tube that travels from the temple of the glasses to the ear mold. But it can be hard to fit this type of aid, and repairs can be problematic. Also, if the aid breaks, the person also loses the benefit of the glasses.

CROS (Contralateral Routing of Signal):

This hearing aid system is designed for people with unilateral hearing loss (CROS) or for hearing losses which are much more severe in one ear than the other (BI-CROS). A microphone is placed on the poorer ear and the signal is routed to a hearing aid on the better ear. This provides sound from the weak side.

FM Systems:

These are assistive listening devices used to improve the signal-to-noise ratio for the listener and to reduce the effects of poor acoustics. The microphone is placed near the sound source - usually the speaker's mouth but can be a television, radio, etc. - and a receiver for the listener. The receiver can be a separate module with headphones, or it can be a miniature piece attached to a BTE hearing aid, and some FM receivers are now being integrated directly into hearing aids. The listener is able to hear the speaker above the background noise at considerable distances. There are no wires connecting the listener to the speaker which gives mobility to both. These units are often of benefit for classes, lectures, conferences, meetings, in restaurants and in large groups.

BAHA (Bone Anchored Hearing Aid):

This device combines a sound processor with a small titanium fixture implanted behind the ear. The system allows sound to be conducted through the bone rather than via the middle ear – a process known as direct bone conduction. The surgery is minor, and many patients report a wide range of advantages over other hearing devices. BAHA is used with people with chronic ear infections, congenital hearing loss and single-sided deafness.

© 2011 JISH Jeddah Institute for Speech and Hearing, all rights reserved.