According to the National Institute of Deafness, over a quarter of people aged 65 to 74 experience age-related hearing loss. Hearing loss can come with a range of consequences, depending on one’s unique type of hearing loss. The most common symptom is a reduced ability to hear and understand other people, especially in a noisy environment. This impacts how one interacts with people, making it challenging to learn and perform duties in workplaces.
If untreated, hearing loss can cause other adverse social and health problems. It can reduce the quality of life and cause health impacts such as muscle tension, headaches, and increased blood pressure levels. Studies have linked hearing loss to fatigue, depression, and social withdrawal, so if you think you have hearing loss, it’s advisable to visit a hearing health professional for a hearing test and treatment.
Signs of Hearing Loss
Signs of hearing loss may include:
- Difficulty to understand words, especially in an environment with background noise
- Muffling of sounds and speech
- Difficulty hearing consonants
- Frequently asking people to speak loudly, more slowly, and clearly
- Needing to turn up the volume
- Finding yourself withdrawn, frustrated, and impatient than before
- Not understanding conversations during live theater productions or at the movies
To confirm whether your signs and symptoms are genuinely about the loss of hearing, you should get checked by a certified audiologist. You can request your doctor to give you a recommendation if you don’t have contact with a hearing professional. Hearing tests determine how loud the sound should be and how clear it is to you.
People with normal hearing will hear sounds below 25 decibels. If the sound you can hear is 30 decibels or louder, it could mean you’re missing a lot of what’s said to you. Even the slightest change in hearing should be a reason to visit a doctor for examination.
Why You May Hear People But Not Understand Them
The most common hearing loss involves a situation where you have nearly normal hearing in mid to low-pitched sounds, but you struggle for high-pitched sounds. Vowels including “a,e,o” have a lot of energy in lower frequencies. Higher pitch consonants such as “f,s,sh” are softer, so you might miss them altogether if you have hearing loss. Unfortunately, high pitched consonants are more critical for speech and drive clarity and understanding.
Therefore, in a normal conversation, the speech may be loud but lack clarity because your ability to pick all sounds is compromised. This problem gets worse if there’s background noise or a bigger distance between the talker and you.
How Can I Benefit from Hearing Aids?
While you will wear glasses to correct your vision, hearing aids don’t work the same way. You cannot use a hearing aid to fix your hearing problems. The gadget only makes it easier to pick sounds. It amplifies sounds in a range of pitches, where hearing loss exists. While the technology for hearing aids has improved, these devices are only an “aid” and don’t work as well as the brain does. Therefore, it’s vital to embrace communication strategies if you’re using hearing aids, especially in challenging listening environments.
How Many Hearing Aids Do I Need?
If hearing loss affects both ears, you can benefit from using hearing aids in both ears. There are advantages of two hearing aids that could help you understand why you need to wear them in each ear. For example, wearing two aids improves your brain’s processing of sound because of a process called binaural hearing. The brain picks out important signals if they’re louder compared to background noise. When you wear one hearing aid, the voice may appear softer compared to background noise. This makes it hard for your brain to isolate the sound and process it.
Also, your brain may not accurately identify the location of some sounds as it measures location by comparing the quality of sound signals through each ear. The most significant advantage of two hearing aids is setting them to work at a lower volume. The tones are louder when your brain receives signals from both ears compared to one.
There are many types of aids, each providing a unique experience, so depending on your needs, you can customize the product with the right features.
How Hearing Aids Work
How does a hearing aid help you hear? The short answer is that it works as an amp for your ear. In the simplest form, a hearing aid is a miniature public address system. It’s built with four basic components:
- Power supply (batteries)
- Speaker (receiver)
Regardless of the size or style, all hearing aids have these four components. The microphones convert acoustic energy (sound) into an electrical signal. This electrical signal is transmitted to the amplifier, which is then converted back into sound.
The amplifier is located between the receiver and the microphone and serves to increase the amplitude of the signal from the microphone. Once amplified, the sound travels to your inner ear. With the advent of digital signal processing, hearing aids can improve speech understanding, enhance speech perception, and offer precise directional capabilities. Most brands allow you to shape instrument settings to fit your hearing needs.
How to Choose a Hearing Aid
If you’re new to using hearing aids, choosing one can be challenging. They’re available in different sizes and colors and offer varying technology levels.
- Aesthetics – Hearing Aid Style
Wearing a hearing aid could also mean adding something to your overall style. There are different sizes and styles for these devices, some small and invisible, while others sit visibly on your ears. You can pick your preferred hearing aid style to ensure comfort and aesthetics. From Completely In Canal (CIC) style, to Full Shell In The Ear (ITE), there are types for each situation.
You can customize your hearing aids with special features to improve your ability to hear in different situations. For example, you can choose aids with noise reduction technology or directional microphones. Some come with rechargeable batteries, while others offer wireless connectivity that allows you to pair them with your smartphone.
- Environmental Factors
Your environment can also affect your choices when it comes to buying hearing aids. For example, if you spend time in a noisy setting, you would want hearing aids to isolate background noises.
- Your Hearing Loss Condition
Some people struggle to hear soft sounds. Sounds such as the rustling of a newspaper may at times disappear, so you will need hearing aids that are designed to amplify soft, ambient sounds. Get checked to know the kind of hearing loss you’re suffering from and this will help you to buy the right hearing aids.
Hearing loss affects millions of people from across the globe. If you’re one of these people, you can find hearing aids that can help you hear sounds better. First, visit a doctor to pinpoint your hearing loss's characteristics, as this information will help you choose the right type of hearing aid. With technological advancement, you can customize your aid to include features such as Bluetooth connectivity and noise reduction.