How a Hearing Aid Works
In its simplest form, a hearing aid is an amplifier that makes sound louder. Today’s hearing aids do much more than that, but they wouldn’t help much if they didn’t amplify. Let’s take a look at basic elements that make amplification possible.
A microphone converts sound into an electrical digital signal.
An amplifier increases the strength of that signal.
A speaker/receiver converts the amplified signal back into sound and sends it to the inner ear. The brain “hears” and understands the sounds.
Hearing aids require power to amplify sound. An inexpensive and convenient source is a battery. Hearing aid batteries come in five sizes, which are based on the style and size of the hearing aid.
Of course, hearing aids do much more than just amplify sound. They also improve hearing in difficult situations with advanced technology features like feedback elimination and the ability to hear better on the phone. Wireless hearing aids also allow you to wirelessly connect to your favorite devices like TVs, music, phones and more
To learn more about different hearing aid options, contact Kim at Advanced Hearing Centers’ front desk, (404) 943-900 today.
Ten Important Questions to Ask Before Buying a Hearing Aid
Selecting your first hearing aid can be a stressful experience. With so many options, brands and styles available, it can be easy for a first-time hearing aid buyer to get overwhelmed. Audiologists and certified hearing specialists can not only diagnose your degree of hearing loss, but also guide you through the process for selecting the best hearing aid to match your specific needs.
During your hearing consultation, consider asking some of the following questions about your new hearing aids:
- Will hearing instruments actually improve my ability to hear?
- If I only have hearing loss in one ear, why should I wear two hearing aids?
- Which hearing aid style will be best for my hearing loss?
- Which digital features are indicated for my lifestyle needs?
- What are the benefits of hearing aid features—such as directional microphones, number of microphones, automatic volume and others?
- Is there a trial period to test the hearing aids? (Most manufacturers allow a 30- to 60-day trial period during which aids can be returned for a refund.)
- What fees are nonrefundable if the aids are returned after the trial period?
- How long is the warranty? Can it be extended? Does the warranty cover future maintenance and repairs?
- Can the audiologist make adjustments and provide servicing and minor repairs? Will loaner aids be provided when repairs are needed?
- How many memories do the hearing aids have? How many listening situations do I encounter?
According to the Hearing Health Foundation, about 28 million Americans between ages 20 and 69 have some hearing loss due to loud noises at work or play. “Potentially, noises that are 85 decibels (dB) and louder can cause permanent hearing loss, especially as exposure times increase,” says Rachel A. Raphael, MA, CCC-A, an audiologist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. Here are some suprising ways we damage our hearing.
- Hairdryers. “The noise from hairdryers can exceed 100 dBs,” says Raphael. If you have to use one, hold it as far away from your ear as possible and operate it at its lowest—the quietest—speed. Pick a low dB model: Some manufacturers list the dB number on the packaging. Clean the filter often as well: dirt forces the motor to run less efficiently and more noisily.
- Lawn mowers. Lawn mowers can make a nasty racket, up to 106 db. When you’re mowing, wear protective ear devices such as earplugs or earmuffs, or both, says Raphael: “Protective hearing devices range from over-the-counter types of roll up or flanged [ridged] plugs to custom-fit earplugs.” You can also buy a quiet lawnmower: Reel mowers are the quietest (and good exercise), and electric mowers are less noisy than gas ones.
- Viagra—and other medications. “A possible side effect of taking Viagra [sildenafil] is hearing loss,” says Raphael. Drugs with names that end in mycin such a Gentamycin, sometimes used in cancer treatment, can also harm hair cells. Pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil,) and aspirin are all associated with hearing loss. Using ibuprofen daily, increased the risk of hearing loss in women under age 50 by 48 percent. Ask your doctor to give you a baseline hearing test before taking these drugs and have your ears retested every six month to a year. If your hearing is stable, test every two years or immediately if you notice a hearing change.
- Earwax. Packed wax can hinder hearing. An ear, nose, and throat doctor can clear your ears of wax, or you can use a syringe kit available at drugstores or online. “Never use Q-tips, except to clean outer ear curves,” says Raphael: “You may push the wax in deeper or puncture an eardrum.” You can also clean by pouring a capful of hydrogen peroxidein each ear, as long as your eardrums are not perforated. Let sit for 30 seconds, then rinse out with water.
- Smoking. According to a 2011 study at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, exposure to tobacco smoke almost doubles the risk of hearing loss in adolescents. An earlier study of almost 4000 people published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that smokers were nearly 70 percent more likely to suffer hearing loss than non-smokers
- Loud music.Hardly surprising, but key to realize, say Raphael: “Music played loudly through ear buds can cause permanent hearing loss over time. The painless damage is often not noticed until it is too late. If others can hear the music playing out of your ear buds, it’s too loud.” An MP3 player is 105 dB at its maximum sound: The Hearing Health Foundation suggests that people listen at that level for no more than 15 minutes at a stretch.
- Diabetes. According to a 2013 review of 13 studies involving more than 20,000 adults at the Niigata University Faculty of Medicine in Niigata, Japan, researchers found that people with diabetes were twice as likely to have hearing loss as those without diabetes. Although researchers can’t explain the correlation, some medications diabetics take such as diuretics, drugs that increase urine ou put, could affect hearing. Their recommendation: If you have diabetes, get your hearing tested.
This week Starkey is officially releasing the Halo aid and TruLink technology that allows you to wirelessly link and control your hearing aid with your iOS device (Android coming soon). The device represents the latest generation of integrated devices and effectively eliminates the need for other costly intermediary technology (if you already have a smartphone of course).
With the Halo you can map your frequent locations to preferred programming modes, stream your iPhone’s audio output to your aid, use your iPhone as a wireless microphone, and improve feedback and background noise reduction.
Being a Medical Practice Partner of Starkey’s we have had early access to the devices and can’t wait to begin delivery of these devices to our patients.
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Tinnitus is a ringing in the ears that can be a symptom of several conditions of the ear. These conditions can include can include simple temporary issues like infections and ear wax, or may be related to inner ear or nerve damage that is permanent. Tens of millions of Americans experience tinnitus, most of which are only minimally bothered. However about 1 in 4 patients are bothered enough by tinnitus that it can impact social interactions, sleep, and cause mood disturbance. Tinnitus can be a strong trigger for depression and anxiety, and leads to reduced quality of life.
Tinnitus is a noise only experienced by the patient – we have no definitive test for tinnitus. The perceived noise is generated in deep within the brain’s auditory centers. Typically tinnitus goes hand-in-hand with sensory hearing loss, but not always!
Our principles of tinnitus treatment include first improving any hearing loss, evaluating for concurrent musculoskeletal and psychological conditions, and finally considering Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT). If tinnitus is severe enough you may be recommended to get a medical evaluation by one of our specialized physicians (Otolaryngologists) as well.
TRT is a process that uses hearing devices to transmit a controlled and modulated noise back to the auditory system in order to promote long-term suppression within the brain’s auditory centers. This uses principles of neural plasticity in the neural pathways. The character of the modulated sound is programmed in part by the patient, and is then transformed by complex mathematical algorithms based on decades of hearing research.
In the past some providers have treated tinnitus essentially like a pure psychological illness, offering expensive “talk therapy” and specialized two week away-from-home courses (“tinnitus camp”). This older treatment helped a few patients but for most they simply were expensive and further worsened the stigma of tinnitus as a patient-caused problem.
Our philosophy is much more practical and useful to the majority of patients with bothersome tinnitus. No away-from-home course is needed, and we don’t even own a talking couch! We have a number of affordable devices backed by peer-reviewed science that alleviate tinnitus by using technology to direct neural plasticity.
Just how we make the impression (or “mold”) of the ear canal has a ton to do with how well the device works, feels, and therefore how successful it is in practice. One of the commonest reasons for hearing aid noncompliance or disuse has to do with fitting issues, directly related to the feel, and indirectly related to perceived sound quality.
Lantos Technologies (Caimbridge, MA) has a pre-FDA novel device to better measure and “mold” the ear canal. The Lantos Scanner uses laser technology and a complex algorithm to produce a high-resolution map of the ear canal better than traditional impression material. This data will be used by audiologists and custom hearing aid manufacturers to more easily and accurately make hearing aid impressions.
We beleive that better impressions of the ear canal represent the next big leap in hearing aid technology. Physicians’ offices using this technology (pending FDA approval currently) should find elevated patient satisfaction and improved compliance. This will make fitting of complete-in-canal and “invisible” aids much more reliable (and painless!).
Adult-onset hearing loss affects millions of Americans and accounts
for a huge economic burden in our country. There are two major forms
of hearing loss – “sensory / neural” and “conductive”. Sensorineural
hearing loss is caused by injury to the acoustic nerve or the cochlea.
These injuries can be from noise damage, viruses, meningitis, and of
course the slow degeneration of aging. Conductive hearing loss is
most commonly from an earwax impaction, fluid behind the ear drum,
infections, or a type of ear scarring called otosclerosis.
A hearing test is a brief painless test battery performed by an
audiologist to determine what your hearing level is, how it compares
to normals, and what type of hearing loss you may have. This, as well
as a microscopic examination of the ear and eardrum will allow the
physician to make recommendations about improving your hearing.
Wax removal, antibiotics, steroids, minor procedures, and sometimes
MRI scans can be useful in sorting out the hearing loss. An
electrical hearing test, called an ABR, is often helpful as well,
especially in young children.
Sometimes the only option for improving hearing are hearing aids.
These have gotten much smaller and much more advanced over the past
decade. The smallest of which are now the size of a large pencil
eraser and are completely hidden in the ear canal. Your physician and
audiologist can make recommendations about which type and size of
hearing aid may be best for you.
Why do restaurants wreak such havoc on your hearing? The most common sort of age-related hearing loss begins the in the highest frequencies (1000Hz and above). Most speech tones are lower than this, however missing out on high pitches makes it particularly difficult when sound localization is required. Bustling busy restaurants with high ceilings are notorious for creating a lot of acoustic “noise”. Many times you will be trying to hold a conversation with more than one individual, who may not be immediately in front of you, while their voice is competing with dozens of others in an acoustically-challenging room.
Hearing loss in restaurants is usually the first sign of age-related hearing loss (or any other sort of progressive high frequency loss). The same is true for difficulty in conference rooms, conference calls, or airplanes – making it particularly difficult for busy businesspeople. All of these environments have a lot of acoustical competition. It is ironic that we evaluate your hearing in a quiet sound-proof booth, so many times your degree of listening difficulty is underestimated by a routine hearing test. Usually in a 1-on-1 quiet environment there is much less hearing trouble.
A real world test of hearing aid function is critical, which is why we stand behind our money-back policy if your hearing cannot be satisfactorily improved.