WHICH STYLE BEST SUITS YOU AND YOUR HEARING LOSS?

As we have discussed in previous articles, there are many factors that go into investing in hearing aids.  Our priority, first and foremost, is basing technology and components inside the units on your lifestyle to ensure they are doing their job for the life you want to live.  It should not be based on what the hearing aid looks like.  With that being said, there are many different styles of hearing aids.  The range of style options allows hearing care professionals to work with the wants and needs of each patient; however,....

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HEARING VERSUS UNDERSTANDING

Too often, the process in which we hear is overlooked.  As a hearing care professional, it is crucial for patients to recognize how our ears and brain work in order to understand the process in which we hear vs. how we understand.  I have worked with many patients and feel that the most successful have a clear understanding of these differences which provides realistic expectations during the hearing aid process.

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MEDICAL CAUSES OF HEARING LOSS

Did you know your health could be negatively affecting your hearing? It’s true!  Hearing loss is associated with a number of different health problems ranging from hypertension to heart health. Today’s article is not to scare you, rather to inform you, and a lot of information will be hard. Working with your primary care physician or another certified healthcare professional can go a long way, especially when we are talking about medical causes for hearing loss.

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TWO HEARING AIDS OR ONE?

Just like our eyes, our brains are wired to receive input from both ears.  There are a few unique situations that allow for only one hearing aid to be utilized, however those are rare.  When a hearing care professional suggests two hearing aids for first time wearers, many seem to think that starting with one hearing aid will be easier to adjust to, and additionally, it will save money.


Research has shown that for individuals who need amplification on both sides but only wear a hearing aid on one side, the ear not being amplified is deprived of sound.  This causes the aided ear to be doing all of the work while the unaided ear risks decreasing more rapidly as it is not being stimulated.  We have all heard the “use it or lose it” principle and this is very much true with hearing and our ears as well.  I would like to discuss reasons for one hearing aid and benefits from two hearing aids, as deemed necessary.


Reasons why someone might have one hearing aid:


As I previously mentioned, there are rare exceptions as to why someone may only have one hearing aid.  One circumstance is if an individual has one ear with a hearing loss and the other ear has normal hearing sensitivity.  With proper testing an audiologist should be able to determine if the ear with a hearing loss is usable and would benefit from

technology, thus allowing both ears becoming equal participants.


Another scenario for only having one hearing aid is if there is an ear that is not usable.  Again, an audiologist will be able to determine this through proper testing.  If testing reveals the hearing aid will not benefit the individual’s hearing capabilities a hearing aid should not be recommended.


Because of the above reasons, it is crucial that an individual who suspects hearing loss schedules an appointment with a reputable audiologist.  Various tests needs to be completed during a comprehensive evaluation to not only determine the degree of hearing loss but also the benefit of hearing aids, whether it is one unit or two.


Benefits of wearing two hearing aids if deemed necessary:


•  Better hearing for soft sounds such as children’s voices and nature sounds

•  Better hearing in background noise

•  Better localization and dis- crimination of where sounds are coming from

•  Better sound quality

•  Listening balance – this means you won’t have to turn your “good” ear to an individual when speaking

•  Higher success and satisfaction when compared to one ear – per many studies

•  Less strain when listening because more input is making its way into the brain.


Improved Localization


Localization is an individual’s ability to determine where sound is coming from.  We utilize timing and our brain’s incredible ability to pinpoint the exact location of the source.  This process begins as sound waves disturb the air.  The sound travels into the ear, it hits one ear slightly ahead of the other.  The sound is then sent down the ear pathway and hits hair cells within our inner ear.  These hair cells transform the sound waves into electrical impulses.  Those timing differences, as well as electrical impulses, are then sent to the brain allowing us to detect the location of the sound.  We use this ability every day without being fully aware of it.  Why?  Because it happens automatically when both ears are performing at equal levels.


Many of the new technology options enable wireless communication between the two hearing aids.  This is beneficial because it allows the units to work as a team to ensure localization cues between the ears are properly determined.  How does this help someone who is hearing impaired?  Localizing sound is very important, more important than many realize.  It is especially important when any kind of background noise is present.  More success with localization means the less stressed those with hearing loss become.


Improved Sound Quality


When thinking about the type of sound quality you prefer, do you like mono or stereo sound better?  Most would say stereo.  When two hearing aids are properly adjusted, meaning the individual needs of each ear are being met, you enjoy a better sound quality.  This is because everything sounds better in stereo.  Additionally, the benefit of sounds being appropriately adjusted means the volume of those soft sounds including grandchildren or soft conversation with someone you love can now be audible.


Safety


Due to the ability to distinguish the location of sound, individuals can potentially stay out of harm’s way, for example oncoming traffic or someone yelling calling your name.


Improved Speech Understanding


The ability to understand speech starts with getting as much volume to the brain as possible.  When two ears are working as a team the brain is able to get more input when compared to only one ear doing all of the work.  This can also help with clarity of the signal.


Conclusion


Hearing is a very complex process.  Having a professional who can look at the each component of the hearing pathway in a diagnostic evaluation will provide further information on what is truly best for each individual.

DR. BREWER

Dr. Brewer completed her Doctor of Audiology degree at the University of Louisville’s School of Medicine and her undergraduate degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology at Miami University in Oxford, OH. She is licensed by the state of Kentucky as an audiologist and hearing instrument specialist. She is also a member of the American Academy of Audiology, Academy of Doctors of Audiology, Kentucky Academy of Audiology and American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.  

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