One Size Fits One: Hearing Loss and Amplification
Hearing loss is an individualized, complex trait that is unique to each patient. Many factors affect how a hearing loss may impact a patient’s lifestyle, including, but not limited to, duration of hearing loss, degree and type of hearing loss, ability of understanding speech in background noise, anatomy of the ear, history of noise exposure, cognition, presence of tinnitus, previous experience with hearing aids, age of the patient, and much more. It is no surprise with hearing aids that one size does NOT fit all!
There are many different makes and model of hearing aids currently available for patients that are hearing aid candidates. Although all hearing aids have the same basic components, and they can all be fit to real-ear prescription measures, they differ in how they are worn by a patient. One primary style of hearing aid is called an “in-the-ear” hearing aid. This type of hearing aid is custom, meaning it is formed to the patient’s ear, and sits entirely in the ear. The size of this device can vary from very small to quite large. The other primary style of hearing aid is called a “behind-the-ear” hearing aid and is inserted in the ear by a wire or tube with an attached earpiece. The main portion of the hearing aid sits behind the patient’s ear. There are many specific styles of hearing aids within each of the two categories described above. It is important to understand the complexities of one’s hearing loss and how each style may affect outcomes with a hearing aid, before selecting the right device.
The other half of hearing aid selection centers around the processing abilities of the internal components of a hearing aid. Hearing aids with basic levels of technology have fewer controls for audiologists and hearing aid dispensers to use and manipulate, whereas higher levels of technology offer more control and improved computer processing abilities in different acoustic environments, such as in background noise. Those are just a few examples of what different levels of technology can offer patients.
It is important to be educated about hearing loss before selecting a hearing aid, as there are many factors that affect outcomes and overall benefit with hearing aids.