Beyond a television or radio programmed for the
loudest setting, the challenges of caring for a
person who has lost all or part of the ability to
hear are challenging. Talking on the phone becomes
difficult; communicating with others face-to-face is
My dad resisted hearing
devices for a long time, relieved and annoyed when
we took him to the VA hospital for an auditory exam.
He left armed with headphones that connected to a
tiny clip-on device for his shirt or belt, plus an
ďI can hear better when itís
right by the television,Ē he told the doctor, who
grinned. Mom reminded him his ears are on his head,
not on the other side of the room, and yet he
resisted. Try telling someone who thinks the roar of
a nearby train ďisnít too loudĒ that the volume is
uncomfortable for others in the same room.
Maybe Dad and others like him, including two of our
neighbors, have difficulty with hearing aids because
it takes time to adjust. There are various styles of
hearing aides, and two different ways for them to
process sounds, according to the U.S. Food and Drug
Most behind-the-ear (BTE)
aids are contained in a small plastic case that sits
behind the personís ear and is connected by clear
tubing to an earpiece ó itís easy to clean and use
and is sturdy.
An ďon-the-earĒ device called
mini BTE is smaller and connects to the ear canal by
a thin, almost invisible tube. BTEs can have a
smaller piece inserted into the ear or the
traditional ear mold, and are more comfortable, are
said to reduce feedback sounds and are more
My dad didnít like
in-the-canal (ITC), and completely-in-the-canal
(CIC) are in tiny cases that fit partly or
completely into the ear canal. Theyíre the smallest
hearing aids, cosmetically appealing, and do aid
hearing; yet for some, their small size make them
difficult to handle and adjust, which Dad said was
true for him.
All components of in-the-ear
(ITE) aids are contained in a shell, which fills the
outer part of the ear. Itís larger than ITC and CIC
aids, and some people find them easier to handle
than the smaller ones.
Some people adjust
easily to new glasses while others donít, and the
same holds true for hearing aids. Given the variety
of styles, what is comfortable for one person may
not be suited for someone else.
(2007), cited by the American Academy of Audiology,
concluded ď . . . the average length of time a
patient may require to become accustomed to their
hearing aids, regardless of user history, is
approximately 30 days."
Tremblay and Moore
(2012) reported that people who donít do well with
hearing aids (and/or cochlear implants) may have
auditory systems that are "less plastic" (less
capable of representing new acoustic cues).
hasnít wanted to filter out background noises when
youíre talking with someone in a crowded room?
Optional features like a directional microphone,
which amplifies sound from a specific direction, can
assist the person with hearing difficulty. When
activated and pointed at the person youíre speaking
with, for example, that sound will be amplified more
loudly than the sound from another direction (behind
A T-coil (telephone switch) lets the
person switch from the normal microphone setting to
a "T-coil" setting in order to hear better on the
telephone. While all wired telephones made today
must be hearing-aid compatible, the "T-coil"
eliminates environmental sounds (a bird chirping or
a car driving by). Sounds are picked up by the
telephone; additionally, this aid turns off oneís
hearing aid microphone to prevent it from whistling.
If a speaker is far away, like at a lecture, that
sound will be amplified to a greater degree than
Most are familiar with
direct audio input, whereby a remote microphone or
assistive listening system connects to a television
or other device, like a tape player or radio.
Squeals occur when the hearing aid gets too close to
the telephone or has a loose-fitting ear mold.
Hear-it.org, established to increase public
awareness of hearing impairment, says while
hearing aids donít restore lost hearing, they do
help the user hear ó conversations and sounds
perhaps not heard in a while like water running,
birds singing, wind blowing ó better, and improve
his or her social, psychological and physical sense
Some benefits include:
- Improved communication with family and
- Improved self-esteem, feeling tired less
- Feel better about yourself, feeling less
- Improved mental health and concentration
- Promote independence and security
- Ability to increase participation in social
gatherings and increase social contacts
Complex features on a basic hearing device can
meet the personís hearing loss needs, and in certain
situations, may be more costly. Itís advisable for
each person to check with his or her doctor about
the hearing aid and features best for his or her
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