Treating Hearing Loss

Who you should see and what steps you should take.

By Elizabeth Brassine, Au.D

Hearing is one of the body’s most remarkable senses. It integrates with our brain to help us connect with the world around us. Made up of a complex system of delicate and synchronous parts, it’s easy to take this vital sense for granted. If any of these components aren’t working properly, the result could be hearing loss. For 48 million Americans––or nearly one in five ages 12 and older––this is precisely the case.

If you think you or someone you know has hearing loss, you’re probably wondering what the next step should be: that’s easy––see a hearing professional. It’s important to see someone who specializes in hearing issues such as a Doctor of Audiology. Schedule a comprehensive evaluation to begin treatment and rehabilitation as soon as possible.

Don’t do it alone
While hearing loss typically can’t be reversed, most cases can be managed with the help of an Audiologist and hearing aids.

See a professional
Just as every person is unique, every hearing loss and need is unique too. To ensure you get a solution that’s custom-fit to your precise needs and lifestyle, it’s always recommended that you consult with an audiologist. These trained experts have the experience, education, and technology needed to diagnose and measure your degree of hearing loss, then recommend and administer a solution personalized for you, including ongoing support and care.

Get the right solution
Today the best solution for sensorineural hearing loss is hearing aids. Like all high-tech devices, hearing aids have improved significantly over the past several years in terms of performance and appearance. From “invisible” solutions that fit deep inside your ear and are virtually undetectable but still deliver exceptional sound quality, to wireless options that stream audio from your phone and TV, today’s hearing aids sound better, fit more comfortably and perform more reliably than ever before.

How a hearing aid works (the basics)
A microphone picks up sound and converts it into an electrical/digital signal. An amplifier then increases the strength of the signal, which in our more sophisticated devices, is manipulated by advanced signal processing. This allows the signal to be “shaped” to someone’s hearing loss. The receiver or speaker converts it back into sound and sends it into the ear canal, to eventually reach the inner ear. That signal goes up the auditory pathway to the brain which “hears” and understands the sound as speech.

There is a difference between basic amplification products and hearing aids. Hearing aids and personal sound amplifier products (PSAPs) both improve the ability to hear sound. PSAPs are typically stripped of sound enhancement features. In many ways, these devices are a throwback to the old analog hearing aids that basically just made all sounds louder. However, hearing aids are designed to improve your hearing in more difficult listening situations with advanced technology features like feedback elimination, noise reduction technology and often better ability to hear on the phone.

Two are better than one
Nearly 95% of people with sensorineural hearing loss can be helped with hearing aids. But wearing two hearing aids delivers these additional benefits:

Better understanding of speech
Better understanding in background noise
Better and smoother sound quality
Better sound identification and localization
Better tinnitus masking

Treatment makes a difference
Research by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) concluded that hearing loss treatment is shown to improve: physical health, communication in relationships, warmth in family relationships, ease in communication, emotional stability, sense of control over life events, and earning power.

The right fit
Today’s best hearing aids are precision instruments, utilizing advanced technology that can and should be customized to fit your specific hearing loss and unique lifestyle needs. Determining which hearing aids are right for you depends on a variety of important and unique factors including: the nature and severity of your hearing loss, your eyesight and dexterity, the size and shape of your outer ear, the types of activities you enjoy (listening needs assessment) and cosmetic concerns. That’s why getting fit with the advice and consultation of an experienced Audiologist can’t be overemphasized.

Get the most out of your investment
The Better Hearing Institute reiterates this in their report “The hearing aid fitting process requires complete in-person hearing assessment in a sound booth; the training and skills of a credentialed hearing professional in order the prescriptively fit the hearing aids using sophisticated computer programs; and appropriate in-person follow-up and counseling. This is not possible when consumers purchase one-size fits-all hearing aids over the internet or elsewhere.”