A hearing aid is a small electronic device worn behind the ear or in the ear canal. It amplifies sound so that a person with hearing loss can hear sound better. Hearing devices have three components: a microphone, amplifier and speaker. Sound comes through the microphone and is converted into an electrical signal and sent to the amplifier. The amplifier increases the power of the signals and sends them to the ear through the speaker. Today’s hearing aid is much smaller and more powerful than the hearing devices our parents and grandparents wore even 10 years ago. Advances in digital technology make them better able to distinguish conversation in noisy environments; many are Bluetooth capable and connect with smart phones and other personal electronic devices we now use on a daily basis.
Most hearing loss is caused by the ageing process, however regular exposure to loud noises, heredity, and some illnesses can also cause hearing loss. Around 90% of all cases of hearing loss are because the microscopic hair cells in the cochlea (or inner ear) become damaged which limits their ability to detect soft, higher frequency sounds and means that they cannot send a complete signal to the brain. As a result, it becomes difficult to understand the consonants that allow us to understand speech.
The first sign of hearing loss is a difficulty in hearing certain sounds or tones clearly. For example, you may be unable to distinguish similar sounding words or hear higher pitched voices, such as those of children. Other signs include difficulty with cross-conversations, hearing at a distance such as in meetings, listening to the TV or radio, or hearing in large buildings where there may be echoes such as in churches or auditoria.
If you think you have a hearing loss, the first thing you need to do is have a free hearing test at your local Amplifon branch. It may be that a build-up of wax or an infection has temporarily affected your hearing, in which case our hearing aid audiologist can advise you on the best course of action. All our hearing aid audiologists are trained to identify cases where a medical opinion or treatment is required, so they would refer you, if necessary, for treatment by your GP or at your hospital's Ear, Nose and Throat department. If your hearing loss isn't due to these problems, then our hearing aid audiologist will be able to recommend hearing aids suitable for the level of your hearing loss and your lifestyle.