Around 1.4 million people in the UK use hearing aids to help them hear better because of some degree of hearing loss.
Hearing aids pick up sound and amplify it, making it easier to hear. Some use sophisticated filtering techniques to help reduce background noise.
Hearing aids are available on the NHS or privately.
How hearing aids help
A hearing aid is an electronic device designed to improve your hearing. Small enough to wear in or behind your ear, hearing aids make some sounds louder, improving hearing and speech comprehension. They may help you to hear better in quiet and noisy settings.
Not everyone with hearing loss can benefit from hearing aids.
Hearing aids are most commonly used for people with hearing loss caused by damage to the inner ear or auditory nerve (called sensorineural hearing loss) from:
- Injury caused by noise or certain medications
People with conductive loss will require a medical evaluation by a doctor, usually an otolaryngologist. Otolaryngologists specialise in treating disorders of the ears, nose and throat and are also called ENT specialists. Most conductive hearing loss can be improved or corrected with surgery or possibly medical management.
People may choose not to manage their conductive hearing loss with medical or surgical treatment. If the person has an open ear canal and a relatively normal external ear, a hearing aid is another option for managing their conductive hearing loss.
Some people are born without an external ear or ear canal, which prevents use of a conventional hearing aid. These patients may be able to use a bone conduction hearing aid instead of a conventional device.
Seek medical advice if you're not sure about your type of hearing loss and whether or not you would benefit from a hearing aid. Your doctor may refer you to an:
Otolaryngologist. This specialist will perform a medical evaluation in order to determine the cause of your hearing loss.
Audiologist. An audiologist is a hearing specialist who performs tests to determine the type and degree of your hearing loss.
These specialists can evaluate your hearing loss and dispense hearing aids.
If you have hearing loss in both ears, it is probably best to wear two hearing aids.
Batteries power the hearing aid's electronics. Here's how the other parts of a hearing aid work:
- A microphone picks up sound from the environment
- An amplifier makes the sound louder
- A receiver sends these amplified signals into the ear, where they're converted to nerve signals and sent to the brain
Types and styles of hearing aids
Work with an audiologist to figure out which type and style will work best, as well as any special features you need. This depends on factors such as:
The type and severity of your hearing loss
- Dexterity – some devices have small parts which can be fiddly