Behind-the-ear hearing aids, in-the-ear hearing aids, completely in the canal hearing aids, binaural hearing aids…and the list goes on. With so many types and hundreds of brands to choose from, what is a senior to do? First and foremost, don’t go it alone. Too often, seniors are wooed by a catchy ad or a pushy salesman and wind up with an expensive hearing aid that they shove in a drawer and never use. Work with a qualified audiologist who can conduct a thorough hearing evaluation, determine the type and degree of hearing loss and recommend the appropriate hearing aid, says Dr. Phillip L. Wilson, Au.D., Head of Audiology at Callier Center for Communication Disorders, University of Texas at Dallas.
The first thing the audiologist will do is to perform some basic hearing tests, including:
Pure tone air conduction audiometry. Patients listen to a range of beeps and whistles (called pure tones) and indicate when they can hear them, by pressing a button 清晰聽 or raising their hand. The softest sounds they can hear (hearing thresholds) are then marked on a graph called an audiogram.
Pure tone bone conduction audiometry. This test helps determine where in the ear the hearing problem lies. If in the middle ear, the hearing loss can usually be treated medically. But inner ear hearing loss means the sensory cells are not working properly, and that problem is permanent.
Speech audiometry. Patients are asked to repeat words and sentences in quiet and in noise to help the audiologist understand the practical affect of the hearing loss.
Tympanogram. A test of how well the middle ear system is functioning and how well the eardrum can move.
After conducting the tests and isolating the hearing problem, if a hearing aid is the right solution, Wilson says an audiologist should perform a lifestyle needs analysis to determine the type of hearing aid that will work best for your loved one. Some questions the doctor should ask your loved one:
- How active are you?
- Do you have trouble communicating in noisy places?
- Do you live alone? In an apartment? In a large home?
- Do you talk on the telephone a lot? Watch TV often?
- Do you regularly go out to eat at restaurants?
- Do you have trouble hearing certain family members such as women or children?
- Do you have trouble hearing at religious services, at lectures and at movies?
Features to look for
Hearing aid technology is constantly improving, and new products are being introduced all the time. To understand what your loved one needs, you first must know how a hearing aid works.
A hearing aid has three basic parts: a microphone, amplifier, and speaker. The hearing aid receives sound through a microphone, which converts the sound waves to electrical signals and sends them to an amplifier. The amplifier increases the power of the signals and then sends them to the ear through a speaker. The hearing aid can be programmed on a computer to customize the amplification specifically for your hearing loss.