What is a hearing aid?

A hearing aid is a small electronic device that is used to improve your hearing. Hearing aids are typically worn behind the ear and can make sounds easier for you to hear — either in noisy or quiet conditions.

Hearing aids work by picking up the sound around you. An amplifier makes the sound louder, and the receiver sends the sounds to the ear.

What are the different types of hearing aids?

The most common types of hearing aids include:

Analog hearing aids

Analog hearing aids work by converting sound waves into electrical signals and then amplifying them. These hearing aids are typically less expensive than the other types and have very simple volume controls.

Digital hearing aids

A digital hearing aid can convert sound waves into codes and then will amplify them. These devices are more expensive, but typically are more effective. 

There are three main styles of hearing aids:

  • Canal hearing aid
  • In-the-ear hearing aid
  • Behind the ear

Your doctor will evaluate your case and work with you to determine which option is most appropriate for you.

Who is a candidate for a hearing aid?

Hearing aids are most appropriate for patients who have damage to the inner ear or to the nerve that links the brain to the ear. Damage could have been caused as a natural part of aging, from loud noises such as from an explosion, disease or medications.

Advantages of a hearing aid

There are many advantages to wearing a hearing aid including:

  • You may be able to hear sounds better
  • You may be able to hear telephone conversations more clearly
  • You may be able to more effectively communicate with others, especially in noisy situations

Limitations associated with a hearing aid

Although hearing aids are effective, they will not restore your normal hearing. Other limitations of hearing aids include:

  • Because hearing aids can amplify sounds, they can amplify background noise as well
  • It may take a few months and numerous office visits to adjust to the hearing aid 
  • You may need to adjust the hearing aid settings, which may be complex
  • Hearing aids can be expensive

Results from hearing aids

Although hearing aids have dramatically improved over the last 20 years, only 20 percent of patients who could benefit from them actually use them. There are more than 17 million people who have hearing loss in the U.S.

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