You may have heard conflicting reports about hearing aids, particularly the quality and effectiveness of NHS hearing aids.
Here are some facts to help you decide if you should consider a hearing aid now, together with some of the things that first-time hearing aid users commonly ask.
Do you turn up the TV?
At the most basic level a hearing aid is an amplifier. If you hear the television better if you turn up the volume a bit then a hearing aid will help you as it will ‘turn up the volume’ of the world around you.
Worried about background noise?
Some people say they have problems wearing a hearing aid due to the unpleasant levels of background noise they experience. It is true that the most difficult listening situation for someone with hearing loss is when there is a lot of background noise. This is true both with and without a hearing aid. However, modern technology has made big improvements for hearing aid wearers in this area. Once you are used to a hearing aid you should cope much better in this sort of situation than you did before.
If you have cosmetic concerns about wearing a hearing aid keep in mind that increasingly younger people are wearing them. Hearing aids are getting smaller and more discreet. There shouldn’t really be any stigma in wearing a miniature computer behind your ear, which is effectively what you are doing.
The increasing use of mobile phone earpieces and personal stereos means that walking around with all sorts of things in and on our ears is becoming more commonplace. If you feel that despite all this you still want a hearing aid that is completely unnoticeable you may want to consider an in-the-ear device. However, you will not be able to get this via the NHS and you will need to investigate our private services.
Will it make my hearing worse?
The simple answer to this is no. The only exception might be the case of someone with a profound hearing loss since birth. The extremely high sound levels produced by the hearing aid have the potential to damage the residual hearing. But even here, modern technology makes this less likely than ever.
Will I grow to depend on the aid?
There is no physical dependency and it will not change your underlying hearing in any way. The only dependency is a psychological one and a result of the improved hearing that you get when wearing the aid.
Are hearing aids just for old people?
As hearing aids become more effective, younger people are realising the benefits and are starting with one sooner. The attitude that ‘I will have a hearing aid when I’m old and I really need it’ is a bad idea. Hearing aids are easier to get used to when you are younger and more adaptable and when your hearing loss is relatively mild.
I’m not deaf, it’s just the clarity
If you just lose your high frequency hearing, sounds will become muffled and unclear without any real loss of volume and a hearing aid can help this. Modern devices can amplify selectively and just restore the parts of the hearing that are missing.
I don’t think I’m deaf but my friends and family say I am
They are probably right! We are usually the last people to notice the effects of gradually increasing hearing loss. If your friends and family tell you that your hearing is starting to decrease get it checked. A hearing aid audiologist will recommend a hearing aid if you need one but ultimately it is your choice whether you have an aid or not.
I know people who do not get on with hearing aids
It takes time to get used to a hearing aid. Some benefits are immediate. For example, if the TV is too loud for other people, you should be able to turn it down as soon as you get your hearing aid. However, listening in a noisy place is more difficult.
You need to get used to hearing sounds that you may not have heard for a while. Bear in mind that the older you are and the worse your hearing, the more difficult this adaptation can be. But you can get used to a hearing aid at any age and almost all patterns and degrees of loss can be helped.
If I am deaf in both ears, will I need two hearing aids?
It’s up to you. Two hearing aids have advantages in certain situations and for some types of hearing loss more than others. Your audiologist will discuss the pros and cons with you. It is better to have one hearing aid that you wear than two that you do not.
I am not a ‘gadget person’ – is it complicated?
The sophistication of modern hearing aids means that they can be set to a fully automatic setting. That means no volume to adjust or other controls to manage.
Who is not suitable for a hearing aid?
Most people with hearing loss can be helped with a hearing aid. Those who cannot be helped fall into three main categories:
- People with a total loss of hearing. If there is no useful hearing at all, there is nothing for the aid to amplify. A cochlear implant is the only option.
- People with normal hearing test results but poor speech discrimination. Here the ear is acting like a ‘scrambler’ and will only add to the confusion. However, many people who think that they have a discrimination problem actually have a high-frequency hearing loss. You shouldn’t try to self-diagnose this problem. Get your hearing checked.
- People who have chronically discharging ears that cannot be blocked by a hearing aid. In these cases bone conduction or bone-anchored hearing aids are the best solution.