Hearing loss affects millions of people for a variety of reasons. While for some the condition is present at birth, it is also commonly associated with the process of aging. Excessive exposure to loud noise—be it in a military setting, industrial work, or even frequent concert attendance—can cause both tinnitus (a “ringing” or “pulsing” in the ear canal) and also some degree of hearing loss. Certain medications, known as “oxotoxic drugs,” can also contribute to loss of hearing and it can also stem from a tumor present on the acoustic nerve. Whatever the reason, it is a burdensome condition that has a tremendous impact on quality of life.
Individuals who suffer from hearing loss often feel socially isolated and have difficulty communicating with others. Such feelings can lead to depression, difficulty with work, and strained family relationships. Fortunately, hearing loss has been studied by medical professionals for many years and research has led to many modern advancements to treat and even prevent the condition. Sufferers have numerous options to explore that will improve quality of life, getting them back to productive work and healthy personal relationships. We will take a look at how digital hearing aids or a hearing amplifier can benefit those suffering from hearing loss.
First Things First: A Medical Evaluation
For anyone suffering from hearing loss, a medical evaluation is an important first step. Hearing loss can stem from many different causes and it is critical to undergo a medical evaluation before trying any kind of treatment or hearing device. The root cause of the loss may need to be addressed medically (such as in the case of a tumor). On the other hand, some hearing losses are temporary and may resolve on their own (for example smoking has been linked to tinnitus and a smoking cessation program may result in restored hearing).
A hearing test is a simple and painless procedure. A hearing care professional will conduct tests where you are placed in a sound-treated booth with headphones, and you will also have your ears examined with an otoscope to rule out a physical cause of hearing the loss or inability to hear certain sounds, such as a buildup of earwax. Additionally, the medical professional will discuss your health and lifestyle history to determine if any external factors may be contributing to the loss (such as the use of a particular medication or frequent exposure to loud noise).
Treatments for Hearing Loss
While some types of hearing loss can be surgically corrected, this makes up only a very small percentage of the population. Surgery is sometimes used when the hearing loss resulted from a traumatic injury or frequent infections. A surgeon will insert small tubes that assist in ear drainage.
A medical professional can also remove earwax from the ear canal that has contributed to hearing loss by first loosening it with oil then suctioning it out of the ear.
When hearing loss is associated with tinnitus, a variety of options may reduce or remove the condition altogether, from discontinuing the use of an oxotoxic medicine to engaging in an active and healthy lifestyle and quitting smoking.
Cochlear implants are sometimes used in the case of extreme hearing loss and the implant works to compensate for the parts of the ear that are not working properly.
Lastly, the most common treatment involves the use of hearing aids or amplifiers and we will dig in deeper to look at the differences between a “hearing aid” and a “hearing amplifier” as well as how they both work.
Hearing Aids Versus Hearing Amplifiers
Hearing aids are medical devices designed to fit in or on the ear that allow the wearer to compensate for hearing loss, whereas a hearing amplifier or personal sound amplifier is an electronic device that picks up noises and amplifies that sound in the wearer’s ear. Their functions are different and so is the price: hearing aids are typically much more expensive than hearing amplifiers. A hearing aid is typically recommended for those with a more serious hearing loss, but amplifiers are gaining popularity as a cheaper alternative for those with a minor hearing loss.
Think of the hearing amplifier functioning as a microphone: it picks up on noise in your surroundings and feeds it into a speaker. It is important to note it amplifies ALL sound, whereas a medical hearing aid amplifies frequencies of sound (and is tailored to an individual’s needs).
Hearing amplifiers are popular for use in settings such as a church or the theater. For example, the device may amplify the sound of a sermon while the audience is quiet so there is no amplified background noise.
How to Choose a Hearing Amplifier
Hearing amplifiers are sometimes thought of as the “reading glasses” for the hearing because they are an over-the-counter option. But their widespread availability does not mean they are all made alike, and there are some important factors to consider when purchasing one.
- First and foremost, discuss the use of a sound amplifier with your hearing specialist and be sure this is an appropriate option for you.
- Make sure the device you choose has good fit and flexibility for your needs: the hearing amplifier should include a selection of different ear tips to ensure you can find the best fit. You also want to ensure the ear tubes are interchangeable and sized appropriately as well.
- Look for a product with top-notch reviews and customer support: be sure it was designed by an audiologist and comes with a warranty.