How Effective Are Hearing Aids?

A young woman is fit with hearing aids to find out how effective are hearing aids?

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Have you been recommended hearing aids? Or are you considering taking action to improve your hearing ability? Whatever the case, you may wonder, “how effective are hearing aids?” and “is it hard to adjust to hearing aids?” Read on to find out.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 466 million people have disabling hearing loss globally. This number is likely to increase to over 900 million by 2050.

The prevalence of hearing loss was estimated to be 880,350 people in New Zealand in 2016, representing 18.9% of all people. Males are more likely to have hearing loss (472,961 people) than females (407,388).

If you fall into this category, don’t despair because many organisations invest in research and development to manage and solve the problems associated with hearing loss.

Research and development have led to many technological advancements that provide increasingly comfortable and practical solutions.

A Proper Diagnosis

If you have difficulty hearing, there are several solutions available. However, finding an ideal solution for your hearing loss starts with a proper diagnosis.

Your physician may refer you to an audiologist or hearing instrument specialist. They can assess your hearing ability by extensive examination that may include tone and speech tests.

They can measure hearing loss using a grading scale of decibels hearing loss (dB HL) as follows:

Degree of hearing lossHearing loss range (dB HL)
Normal0 to 25
Mild26 to 40
Moderate41 to 55
Moderately severe56 to 70
Severe71 to 90

A proper diagnosis is the first step to your peace of mind. Many people start by talking through their hearing ability with their general practitioner.

Suppose your general practitioner suspects a hearing loss is present. In that case, they may refer you to an audiologist or Otolaryngologist (an ear, nose and throat specialist) depending on the suspected cause and severity of the hearing loss.

The most important thing to do is not withhold treatment. Like most healthcare issues, waiting longer to do something about it is rarely beneficial. This is especially true in unexplained rapid hearing loss, sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL), or sudden-onset hearing loss.

How sudden is sudden, you ask? SSNHL is 30 dB or more significant hearing loss over less than 72 hours. Depending on the cause, which needs to be diagnosed by a healthcare professional, SSNHL is considered a medical emergency.

After a full diagnostic hearing test, your audiologist may recommend a range of treatment options, including hearing aids, cochlear implants, or in rarer cases, a referral to an Otolaryngologist for possible surgical intervention.

How Do Hearing Aids Work?

The first electric hearing aid, the Akouphone, was created in 1898 by Miller Reese Hutchison.

Akouphone created by Miller Reese Hutchison in 1898

Over the years hearing aids have gone from cumbersome devices that weren’t very portable to modern devices with wireless connectivity and powerful sound processing capabilities.

The basic concept of sound amplification is still a part of the hearing aids in use today. In a fundamental sense, modern hearing aids use a three-part system that includes:

  • A microphone that converts the sound it receives into a digital signal.
  • An amplifier that advances the clarity and strength of the digital signal.
  • A speaker that amplifies sound into the ear.

When prescribed hearing aids, there are many options to consider. With a diverse range of styles available, you can select a device inside the ear canal or one that sits behind the ear. Either way, the hearing aids function more or less similarly.

Perhaps the main differences in which hearing aid you end up with will be its technology and how it’s programmed uniquely to your specific hearing needs. Your type of hearing loss, lifestyle, budget and where you choose to purchase your hearing aids will all influence the outcome.

Digital render cross-section of a modern BTE hearing aid

10 Tips on How to Adjust to Wearing Hearing Aids

With hearing aids, you might hear things you have not heard in a long time. Usually, high-frequency sounds like birds chirping beeps from electronic devices and even children’s voices will be suddenly audible.

These “new sounds” and auditory stimulation may take some time to adjust. There is no one size fits all adjustment period; everyone is different.

And with the improvement in hearing aid sound quality over the past few years, that adjustment period has anecdotally reduced significantly. But it’s essential to keep in contact with your audiologist to express your concerns.

Your hearing aids may also need adjusting in the first few weeks or months to make them as comfortable as possible.

Adjusting to wearing hearing aids will vary for everyone, but you can make the transition more accessible and successful by keeping the following topics in mind.

1. Have an Open Mind to Auditory Confusion

Some of the trouble you may experience when you first start using your hearing aids can be auditory confusion. It occurs when there are many sources of conflicting noise, making it difficult to isolate or locate individual sounds.

Your brain is adjusting to hearing noises in your environment more clearly. This adjustment can be challenging, especially if you’ve had untreated hearing loss for many years. As your brain adjusts to hearing everyday sounds again, auditory confusion will likely lessen.

Remember, everything will seem loud at first, but your brain will eventually prioritise the sounds around you, and they will blend into your subconscious.

2. Be Accepting

Acceptance is the first step in adjusting to a significant change. It makes the rest of the journey easier and even more enjoyable. When you purchase your hearing aids, you will likely be at ease with your hearing loss.

3. Be Positive

Better hearing will enhance your quality of life. Be open to learning about your new hearing aids and how to use them.

4. Educate Yourself

Asking questions is great, and doing plenty of research. You might research online and ask people who have had a similar experience. Learn about hearing loss and treatment options to prepare for your journey to hearing well again.

5. Be Realistic

Unfortunately, your hearing will not be like it once was. Your hearing aids won’t be a perfect solution. They will help you hear much better, but not the same as before.

6. Keep Practising

Get comfortable using your hearing aids, including practising putting them on, taking them off, and cleaning them.

Listening to audiobooks can also help you to practice hearing different sounds. Eventually, it will become part of your routine, and listening will become more natural.

7. Remember to Rest

Change can be overwhelming and mentally and physically tiring. Don’t push yourself too hard. Give your mind and body time to rest throughout the process.

8. Go Easy on Yourself

At some point, a challenge with your hearing journey may frustrate you. Do your best to keep some perspective in mind. Hearing aids change what and how you hear. That’s a significant amount of change to manage.

Be patient with yourself as you adjust and learn about your hearing aids. Take the time to get used to them and celebrate small and large accomplishments.

9. Reach Out if You Need Help

Reach out for help when you are unsure how to resolve your issue. Your audiologist will very likely help in this type of situation.

10 Keep Your Friends and Family in the Loop

Talk to friends and family about your challenges. Keep them updated on your progress and share your experiences. Involving people close to you while you adjust to your hearing aids will make it easier and more enjoyable for all.

5 Ways Hearing Aids Can Improve Your Life

Hearing loss can be a difficult diagnosis to receive. You may have found yourself withdrawing from social activities even before your diagnosis due to the stress involved. Trying to be increasingly alert and focused during conversations can be tiresome.

But withdrawing from social activities can lead to loneliness and depression and has been linked to the early onset of dementia.

Choosing to wear hearing aids to assist with hearing may overcome these experiences and contribute to a better quality of life. Here’s why.

1. Delaying of Dementia

Studies showed that hearing aids reduced the chances of developing dementia by 18 per cent. They also delay the onset of dementia symptoms, indicating that without hearing aids, symptoms could develop up to two years earlier.

A decline in cognitive ability makes it harder to understand what you hear. Poor hearing ability changes the brain because hearing loss stresses your mental resources.

2. Decreased Risk of Falling

The same study noted a 13 per cent reduction in falls-related injuries. Hearing aids improve overall balance in older adults, including enhanced standing and lateral balance.

3. Reduce depression

The use of hearing aids also reduced the risk of developing depression and anxiety by 11 per cent. Due to stress on your cognitive resources, changes to your brain are made worse by loneliness, isolation, and depression.

4. Improve Quality of Life

Don’t miss out on conversations again. Hearing aids allow you to enjoy socialising, which is excellent for your overall health and well-being.

5. Lower Healthcare Costs

People who wear hearing aids are also more likely to have lower healthcare costs.

Hearing the Music Again

With hearing loss, there are many options available to assist you in continuing to live your everyday life.

Getting a proper diagnosis to understand and weigh your options would be best.

So, how effective are hearing aids? And can they assist with your diagnosis? Ear Health can help you answer these questions.

You can find extensive information about hearing loss on our website.

Book your appointment today to start hearing the music, children’s voices, and the sweet sounds of nature again.

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