To hearing aid or not?
When late deafened adults start their journey into hearing loss it is gradual. At first it doesn’t affect our lives but as time goes on it becomes more and more difficult to understand our world in the same way. There comes a time when we get sick of struggling but where do we turn for help? And how do you know you are getting the right and best information?
Should you wear a hearing aid? If so what kind? How will I know what works best for me? Why do you have to pay so much for one? One friend of mine said when they started exploring hearing aids they simply felt their hearing aid dispenser was simply trying to up-sell them; make them buy a more expensive aid than they needed.
So what do you do? Firstly, go to a hearing aid dispenser who has a good reputation. Ask your doctor, or other friends who may have a hearing loss. The investment in a hearing aid can be expensive and you do need to trust your audiologist to work with you to find the best solution.
When you first enquire about an aid you will have a hearing test and then the audiologist will recommend a hearing aid to you. They will probably tell you about the free government hearing aids available in many countries. But then they’ll probably also say that these hearing aids won’t be suitable for you. So you get the feeling that the hearing aid supplier is simply trying to sell you a hearing aid so that they will make more money.
Generally this isn’t the case. While I don't think many audiologists (hearing aid people) explain things well, what he/she is telling you is probably quite true - the government hearing aids may not do much for you. They are at the cheaper end of technology and therefore cannot be programmed as well to meet your specific needs. The benefits of being programmable is not the sophistication of touch buttons, many programs and so on that they come with, but rather that the aid can be fine tuned to your hearing loss making sure you get the best possible sound you can. Aids which have fewer programmable options simply amplify sound. Amplifying sound, while it will help you to hear, will NOT return to you the sounds you can no longer hear. Let me explain.
Assuming you have the most common kind of hearing loss, sensorinueral, the little hairs in your cochlea are dying or deformed. This means when the sound vibrations get into your cochlea, the membrane which vibrates with sound cannot stimulate the hairs any more. This stimulation is needed to translate the sound vibration into an electrical impulse which then travels to your brain so you can interpret sound.
If the hair cells have died completely then it doesn't matter how loud you amplify sound, because the 'connection' is missing - the membrane can't stimulate the hair cells so you can never hear the sound. With better quality hearing aids, audiologists can fine tune the programs to reach some of these hair cells which haven't quite died away and this is why these aids will give you a better chance of hearing more.
Still confused? Why not check out internet forums for people like yourself. Open Google and type “Hearing loss forums in the USA” or anyone Australia can do the same "Hearing Loss Forums in Australia." If you are in another country try the same thing but substitute your country.
Another way is to search for a hearing loss support organisation in your area. Search the internet, ask your audiologist/hearing aid dispenser, your doctor or failing that go to the local council and ask. In Australia the prominent one is Better Hearing Australia with branches in all states.
You don’t just get a hearing aid, stick it in your ear and walk away hearing again. Your hearing loss is at a different level than everyone else’s and may even have unique characteristics. You need an aid which can be tailored to your need to get you the best sound you possibly can get. Remember, a hearing aid cannot return sound you can no longer hear. All it can do is amplify sound you already hear. With the more sophisticated technology the better the amplification which can be programmed to your specific needs.
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