People with hearing loss are more likely to experience social isolation and depression as their hearing deteriorates. If left untreated, these effects may become an ongoing contributor to the decline of health with age. Not being able to understand speech leads to frustration which can turn into embarrassment and loneliness. These psychological effects can, however, be easily avoided through correct assessment and diagnosis of the hearing problem in conjunction with appropriate treatment options.
There are many effective treatment options for hearing loss including: education about communication strategies, assistive listening devices, hearing aids, Electric Acoustic Stimulation, middle ear and cochlear implant systems.
Besides devices that replace natural hearing, it is also important to learn techniques for improving communication ability. For example, listening in well-lit environments so that a speaker’s face can clearly be seen allows an individual to simultaneously listen and use visual speech cues. Choosing or moving to a quiet place enables individuals to focus on speech. Also making sure that the distance between the listener and the speaker is not more than one metre facilitates clear speech comprehension.
Hearing aids are an effective method for treating mild to moderate hearing losses. They work by amplifying sounds. In the past, hearing aids were regarded as cosmetically unappealing, often being associated with certain stigmas. Today, they are small, discreet and come in many shapes, colours and sizes and can also be customised according to your tastes. In combination with modern technological innovations, this has helped raise the acceptance of hearing aids, enabling them to lose the commonly associated negative connotations. Your hearing care professional is instrumental in selecting an appropriate hearing aid, as some models may be easier to operate for adults with limited fine motor skills.
Hearing aids can be worn behind the ear (BTE ), in the ear (ITE ) or completely in the ear canal (ITC). Open-fit BTE models use thin tubes instead of standard ear moulds to transmit sound into the ear canal. Open-fit hearing aids are generally more suited for individuals with milder degrees of hearing loss. The primary technology used in hearing aids today is digital electronics. Digital hearing aids use a miniaturised computer to convert sound to digital signals taking pitch and loudness into account before amplifying them. They can be adjusted to amplify hearing loss at specific frequencies meaning they can be customized to specific hearing needs. Digital hearing aids can also filter out background noise enabling the user to understand speech better.
Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs)
An assistive listening device (ALD) is an optional aid that can improve day-to-day communication situations. An ALD can be used with or without hearing aids or hearing implants to overcome the negative effects of distance, background noise or poor room acoustics. Essentially, ALDs are tools that enhance the ability to hear. There are many different kinds of ALDs designed for various listening situations including personal frequency modulation (FM), infrared and induction loop systems among others. Some are available to hearing impaired listeners in public venues. Many hearing impaired people use assistive listening technologies either alone or in conjunction with a hearing aid or implant and report benefits such as better speech understanding in difficult listening environments. For more detailed information on ALDs, please contact your audiologist.