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Understanding Your Hearing Aid Machine

Thursday, July 11, 2019 5:22:50 PM Asia/Calcutta

You are having difficulties in hearing and therefore, you thought that now you should buy hearing aids and made it a habit of wearing them regularly. Bravo, you have been doing great till now! But do you often think that you can get back your natural hearing? Yes, hearing aids have the ability to enable you to hear better.

No doubt hearing aids are the most widely used and are quite effective as a hearing loss treatment solution. But hearing aids do no more than simply amplifying the sounds as they receive. If you think that by wearing a hearing aid machine your hearing will be restored, then you would be wrong. An ear hearing device uses your residual hearing, that is your remaining hearing ability to amplify the sounds and to enable you to hear.

 

Why is it So?

Let’s get into the basics of the human ear structure. Well, you know that the human ear is divided into three parts, namely the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. 

If we take a closer look into the inner ear, we find the spiral-shaped cochlea situated in the rigid bony labyrinth situated in the outer wall of the inner ear. Inside the cochlea, we have thousands of tiny hair-like structures called hair cells - 3,500 inner hair cells and 12,000 outer hair cells. These tiny hair cells are very sensitive and once damaged, they could never be recovered.

 

How Do We Hear?

Let’s quickly summarise the whole complex procedure of hearing and the functioning of the human ear into some basic steps. The sound waves are received by the outer ear which after travelling down the long passage of the ear canal strike against the eardrum or the tympanic membrane and cause it to vibrate. These vibrations are then transferred to the ear ossicles or the small ear bones which further passes them over to the inner ear. The hair cells in the cochlea of the inner ear convert these sound stimuli into electrical impulses which are then sent to the brain via the auditory nerve. The brain understands and recognises these signals as sounds, and only then can we actually ‘hear’. Although this whole process occurs within a fraction of seconds, yet it is quite a complex one and involves many other by-processes and chemical reactions.

 

How Do Hearing Aids Work?

A hearing aid machine typically has three parts - a microphone which picks up the sounds, an amplifier which makes the sound louder and a receiver which sends the amplified sounds to the ear canal of the user. Yes, the modern digital hearing aids are advanced and takes the listening experience to a whole new level by transmitting the sound signals to a computer chip which adjusts the pitch and volume by working with discrete sections of the sound frequency according to the hearing requirements of the hearing aid machine user. But no matter how smart and intelligent your digital hearing aids are, your natural hearing ability won’t be recovered. It is because the hair cells once damaged won’t be regenerated again!

 

Analog or Digital?

Of course, digital hearing aids! While the old hearing aid machine users who are comfortable in using the analog devices of the previous few decades and would say that these devices are really well, we would suggest one and all to try out digital hearing aids. They are designed to enhance your hearing ability. And what’s more? The updated digital devices are packed with so many features that would cater to your individual needs and lifestyle preferences, thus making your life much easier. Also, they are much more user-friendly with easy programmable options and buttons. And not to forget the sleek designs and extremely small sizes which are absolutely lovable.

The maximum that can be done is that your Audiologist can fine-tune your hearing aid machine or filter out the wind or other background noises, and make some certain program upgradation. The digital hearing aids can thus match with your specific hearing loss pattern and customise your listening experience. You can also directly stream audio, take calls and even adjust your program settings using smartphone apps.

Here is a post on the different features one would get in the modern-day digital hearing aids: ‘Latest Technologies Used in Modern Day Digital Hearing Aids’. You can also go through another blog of ours on ‘7 Must-have Features in Your Digital Hearing Aids

 

Factors that Affect the Success of a Hearing Aid Machine

Whether or not your hearing aid would work for you depends upon a variety of factors. These include -

  • The type and severity of hearing loss

  • Your lifestyle choices

  • Whether you have ear infections

  • Your dexterity and ease of use

  • Whether you have been ignoring your hearing problems for a long time

  • Whether you have lost your hearing before learning a language or after it

  • Whether you are going to use it on a regular basis as and when suggested by your Audiologist

You can check out our blog on ‘Does Hearing Aid Machine Work for Everyone?’ for more information on this topic.

 

Which Would be the Right Hearing Aids Types for Me?

The main types of hearing aids include -

  • BTE or Behind-the-Ear

  • Power BTE

  • RIC or Receiver-in-the-Canal

  • ITE or In-the-Ear

  • ITC or In-the-Canal

  • CIC or Completely-in-the-Canal

  • IIC or Invisible-in-the-Canal

Each has its pros and cons. Do check out the advantages and disadvantages of each of the hearing aids types in our previously written blog: ‘Advantages and Disadvantages of Hearing Aids Types

 

Now that you are aware of what each hearing aid device has in store for you, you can shortlist them by analysing which one would match your needs. Of course, consider discussing with your Audiologist throughout this important decision-making process at a recognised hearing aid clinic near you.

 

Some Buying Tips

With so many features in today’s digital hearing aids, one would get really confused as to which device to go for. Don’t worry! We are here to help you out. Here is a guide for the hearing aid buyer: ‘10 Tips for Buying Hearing Aids

 

Care and Maintenance Tips

Things wouldn’t just end once you buy hearing aids. Your devices need to be taken care of. The more you take care of them, the more they would take care of your hearing. We have a separate blog on ‘Are You Taking Care of Your Hearing Aids?’. Do check it out, it might be helpful.

 

What If You Meet Hearing Aid Disasters?

While you might try your best to take care of your new hearing aids, accidents are sure to happen. In such cases, we don’t want you to panic. Instead, we have for you a guide to how to cope up and deal with these situations: ‘5 Common Hearing Aid Disasters: How to Deal With Them?

 

For more help, check out the blog post from Consumer Reports. It has got some wonderful information and would be a complete guide for the hearing aid buyer: https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/hearing-aids/buying-guide/index.htm

 

To sum up, you are definitely going to hear and do so quite well, but you won’t get back your normal hearing ability, that is, you can’t hear with using a hearing aid machine.

Bone Conduction Hearing Aids: Benefits and Limitations

Thursday, June 20, 2019 6:20:36 PM Asia/Calcutta

Hearing aids are so popular that the first thing that comes in mind while talking about the best hearing loss treatment is that of hearing aid devices. Hearing aids no doubt have the highest success rates all over the world, but they too have their limitations! Hearing aids can benefit you as long as the internal structure of your ears is all right. Because the traditional hearing aids - no matter how smart and updated they are - would use the user’s natural outer, middle and inner ear, including the auditory nerve.

What if you have a perforated eardrum or have other deformities in your outer or middle ear? What if your cochlea in the inner ear is severely damaged, so much so that sounds amplified by the hearing aids won’t be processed and transferred to your brain? Even the most advanced digital hearing aids won’t work in these cases! Apart from the traditional way of hearing with the help of hearing aids, sounds can also reach the inner ear by conduction through the bones of the skull situated behind the ear. Bone conduction hearing aid is the best solution for individuals with conductive hearing loss, unilateral hearing loss, single-sided deafness and for those who are having a mixed hearing loss and have problems wearing In-the-ear (ITE) or Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids.

What are Bone Conduction Hearing Aids?

Bone conduction hearing aids, also known as an auditory osseointegrated device (AOD), are designed to make sounds audible to the individual with hearing loss by transferring them to the inner ear through bone conduction. Their system consists of a sound processor or the bone conduction device which picks up sounds using microphones and a coupling mechanism.

 

Benefits

  • Better sound quality with less distortion. BAHA would provide better sound quality as compared to the traditional bone-conduction hearing aids, because there is no damping of the sound signal when it is being transferred through the skin.

  • Provide a 360-degree sound perception.

  • Get relief from annoying feedback sounds.

  • The BAHA sound system is much more discreet and comfortable.

  • Today’s bone-anchored digital hearing aids use the same technology as seen in any premium hearing instrument.

  • It is much easier to predict preoperatively how well a BAHA user would do as preoperative testing is possible.

  • Problems of allergies or ear infections won’t affect the performance of your device.

  • As compared to the middle-ear implants, the BAHA surgery is very simple and straightforward, and it can be performed under local anaesthesia, which is not the case in the former.

  • The greatest advantage of a BAHA device is that the ear canal is not occluded by ear-moulds fitted inside it as in the case of traditional hearing aids.

 

Limitations

Although the bone conduction digital hearing aids of this generation are quite advanced, they too have their limitations -

  • Since it is a surgery, risks still remain, however small and fewer they might be.

  • Side effects include chronic infection and trauma to the bone.

  • Irritation of the skin around the implant surgically placed.

  • In some cases, persistent pain might occur.

  • There may be risks of skin overgrowth over the device.

  • Death of skin flap due to an interrupted blood supply - a condition known as skin flap necrosis.

It is, therefore, always advised to consult a good Audiologist and a trained surgical team. Choose your hearing loss treatment options wisely. Sometimes BAHA is better than even the most advanced digital hearing aids. What is the point of going for traditional hearing aids if they fail to work? Talk with your Audiologist and get better guidance.

Comments | Posted in Digital Hearing Aids By Phalguni Bannerjee

7 Must-have Features in Your Digital Hearing Aids

Wednesday, May 22, 2019 7:19:35 PM Asia/Calcutta

You are extremely mesmerised by the advancements hearing devices are making and you have planned to buy digital hearing aids. Because these are the hearing aids you need so badly! You feel that the technologies found in these digital hearing aids are just for you!

Of course, hearing aids are primarily meant for amplifying sounds, but the technological boom in the past few decades have also found their way into listening devices as well, which made many other features to be incorporated into them. Many hearing aid manufacturing companies offer multiple features which are designed to cater to your personal needs according to your lifestyle choices. But there are certain features which you must look for while buying digital hearing aids. While the previous analog devices amplified all the sounds without differentiating between what’s really necessary and what’s not, the digital hearing aids of this generation are built only to make your life easier and simpler - with a more comfortable hearing experience.

Do make it a point to discuss your lifestyle choices with your Audiologist while buying digital hearing aids and leave the rest upon him to decide which device would suit you the best - based on both your hearing abilities and personal requirements. Check out for these must-have features in the device you would plan to buy -

  • Multi-channel - Digital hearing aids have the option of multi-channels. Channels in hearing aids enhance the listening experience of an individual by modifying each of the discrete sections in the sound frequency ranges. The more the channels in a hearing aid, the more capable will the device be to work with more and more discrete sections by dividing the frequency range into smaller parts.

  • Binaural processing - Just as you won’t have a complete and balanced vision if you see with only one eye, similar is the case with our hearing mechanism. If both of our ears are not properly engaged in receiving, transferring and converting sound stimulus due to certain problems in either of them, we would experience an unbalanced and muffled hearing. That means if we use binaural digital hearing aids and if the two are not properly linked, then we would not have a very enjoyable listening experience.

  • Digital noise reduction - Using cheap hearing aids of very poor quality would make you feel annoyed and frustrated in noisy listening situations, such as on the roads or at a busy restaurant, particularly if you are having a conversation with someone. The modern digital hearing aids are quite advanced with noise-cancellation features which would reduce or cancel out the background noises, enabling you to stay focused on speech.

  • Digital feedback reduction - Often the analog hearing aids produced internal feedback sounds due to improper fitting of the device in the ear canal. Choose digital hearing aids which would reduce these annoying feedback sounds.

  • Directional microphones - The hearing aids of today are designed to provide you with more comfort, especially in noisy listening situations. One amazing feature to combat the problem of distinguishing speech in noise is that of adaptive directionality. Digital hearing aids, nowadays, are being updated with more advanced directionality features to help you stay focused on the conversation - no matter in which listening condition you are in.

    The directional microphones in hearing aids enable the user to concentrate on the sound sources they want to, by ignoring or minimising the others which are relatively unimportant. Digital hearing aids can have two or more directional microphones separated by a specific distance. Although the directionality feature allows the listener to focus on sounds coming from the front, one advantage of multiple microphones in hearing devices is that you can even listen to someone speaking from behind.

    To learn more about how directional systems work in ear machine, read our blog on ‘The Concept of Directionality Used in Digital Hearing Aids’.

  • Multiprogram - Digital hearing aids of today are advanced with multiprogram storing capabilities. In other words, it would save your volume and program preferences which you have set in different listening situations.
  • Direct streaming - With the introduction of wireless technologies like Bluetooth and WiFi, life has become so much easier and enjoyable. Wonders happened when these technologies found there way in listening devices as well. There are so many apps that allow you to connect and easily pair your digital hearing aids to your smartphones via the latest wireless technologies. Thus, the hearing devices of this generation can now directly stream your phone calls and music into your hearing aids from your smartphone. This allows your hearing aids to turn into a wonderful pair of stereo headphones! Isn’t that absolutely wonderful?

In a nutshell, digital hearing aids are incomplete without these smart features. Do make a smart choice and live a better quality of life.

Comments | Posted in Digital Hearing Aids By Phalguni Bannerjee

Questions to Ask Before Buying Digital Hearing Aids

Monday, April 8, 2019 4:50:45 PM Asia/Calcutta

Who doesn’t want a happy and peaceful life? Hearing loss may have been the spoiler for quite a long time, but not any more. It’s time to fight with it. And purchasing the right digital hearing aids is an important step towards that. A good decision taken now can change your entire life.

There are many things to consider before you actually go and buy the device and these are really important. Take the time out, do the research and do think upon these. Because you are going to require a device which will serve you for many more years.

What Should You Ask Before Buying?

  • Is the provider giving me the best customer service?

Why should you compromise with the quality of the products and the associated services? Never go anything but the best. Shortlist some of the brands providing good quality digital hearing aids and service providers. Do enough research on each of them. Nothing is worse than facing a service-provider who doesn’t cooperate. It is always better to know about all the terms and policies before buying than suffering due to an unpleasant service later on after purchase. Even if the quality of the products offered is good enough, you would not get a satisfactory result if your dealer doesn’t cooperate.

  • Does money-back guarantee really mean money back?

Make this very sure before falling prey to any exciting and sometimes misleading offers. Don’t let your hard-earned money go due to these false promises often made by some dealers. Do check whether the quality of the products is worth your time and money.

Of course, a reputable company will provide what is promised and will never mislead you. Check whether you are given the refund facility if you are unsatisfied with your product. Also check that you are been given full support in case your device is damaged and needs to be repaired.

Many companies offer a ‘no-questions-asked’ policy during the trial period, but often they end up asking numerous questions and take a lot of time before actually refunding for your product you are unsatisfied with.

  • Are you getting the after-sale services?

Buying a hearing aid doesn’t mean purchasing only the device. It comes with a package including the follow-up visits to the Audiologists, the reprogramming of your devices, education and guidance, adjustments, the repairing services and the availability of batteries. It might happen that your device got damaged after a certain time or your digital hearing aids need reprogramming. In the first case, you would require a good team that repairs your device and provide a spare hearing aid during that period. In the latter, you would require the help of a skilled Audiologist who would reprogramme your device according to your hearing needs.

  • Is there a warranty period?

Every good hearing aid dealer would provide you with a warranty period. But always ask and be sure what components are covered in the warranty period before you make the purchase. If you need extra coverage or an extended warranty period, talk to your dealer and your Audiologist for the available options.

  • When should I replace my device?

Most digital hearing aids should last at least 5 years, if not more. However, the life of your devices would depend greatly on the way you use them and take care of them. A lot depends upon the quality of the device as well and the features they have. Make sure to ask for the approximate time your device should work well. In case of breakdowns, consult your dealer from whom you purchased your digital hearing aids. They should either repair it or replace it with a new one (if within the warranty period). So always make these things clear before you make the investment.

  • How often should I need to adjust my hearing aids?

Your hearing keeps changing from time to time. Therefore, you need to get a hearing check-up done from at regular intervals. Your Audiologist will guide you through and tell you when to adjust or reprogramme your device or when you need to upgrade your digital hearing aids. Consult your Audiologist immediately if you face any discomfort with your device.

  • What accessories do I need?

There are certain accessories and tools that ensure that your hearing aids keep working their best. Look for cleaning kits and dehumidifiers to remove excess moisture from your device. A dirt-and-moisture-free device is bound to give you the maximum benefits.

 

The point which you need to understand that every hearing centre is different. You just need to check whether the above few things are there in the centre you have chosen. These are the basic requirements that you need to have in a hearing aid clinic and do consider checking out these things before making the purchase. Because a good decision taken now would determine your quality of life.

Comments | Posted in Digital Hearing Aids By Phalguni Bannerjee

CROS and BiCROS Hearing Aids

Tuesday, March 26, 2019 11:29:29 AM Asia/Calcutta

Single-Sided Deafness

Often there are cases in which people have a hearing loss in one ear and don’t have any aidable hearing loss in the other. This condition is also known as single-sided deafness or unilateral hearing loss. Single-sided deafness or SSD is a condition in which a person has lost his or her hearing in one ear, and has anywhere from normal to profound hearing loss in that ear and no hearing loss in the other ear. SSD causes real problems even if the working ear or the better ear has excellent hearing. Often untreated single-sided deafness might lead to stress, anxiety and depression, and you might isolate yourself socially. Therefore, the CROS and the BiCROS digital hearing aids are introduced so as to help people with SSD to hear better by making use of the better ear.

 

How is Single-Sided Deafness Different from Asymmetrical Hearing Loss?

While single-sided deafness, as already mentioned, refers to the condition in which an individual has some degree of hearing loss in one ear and absolutely normal hearing in the other; asymmetrical hearing loss, on the other hand, refers to the condition in which a person has mild to moderate degree of hearing loss in one ear, and severe to profound degree of loss in the other. CROS hearing aids are generally recommended for people with single-sided deafness and those with asymmetrical hearing loss are recommended BiCROS hearing aids.

 

Why is Binaural Hearing So Important?

Our body is a ‘machine’ which is finely tuned and properly balanced. If anyone organ gets damaged it will ruin this balance. Similar is the case with our ears! We really need two ears to hear well and have a proper and correct perception of sound. If there is a loss of hearing in any one of the ears, the sounds from your surroundings won’t be picked up in the correct way - thus resulting in a wrong and often misguiding sound perception - which can be dangerous!

Binaural hearing or hearing with both the ears has advantages in ways more than one (otherwise why would you be gifted with two ears)! Our brain makes use of information received from both the ears. It is only after receiving information from both the ears will the brain be able to process the information about the sound signals correctly, thus enabling you to have a distortion-free sound perception.

Hearing with two ears definitely has great advantages over hearing with one in situations like -

  • Improved speech recognition and understanding even in noise.

  • Better sound localisation or better recognition of the direction of the sound.

  • With binaural hearing, you will have a clearer and a much more natural sound perception as you are able to hear sounds coming from all the directions. It is because you will be able to hear sounds approaching from a much wider range, thus enabling you to understand and comprehend sounds better.

  • ‘Stereo’ hearing or binaural hearing (hearing with two ears) is less strenuous than ‘mono’ hearing (hearing with only one ear). People with monaural hearing usually get tired more faster than those with binaural hearing.

  • Two ears will act as a cushion as the sounds are divided equally between the two ears. This characteristic of binaural hearing also enables you to tolerate louder sounds much better than you would have done with monaural hearing. That is you won’t have to face jarring effects if you face some sudden loud noises.

  • Children will learn speech and language skills better than those peers with mono hearing (due to unilateral hearing loss or single-sided deafness).

  • Individuals with binaural hearing respond in group discussions much faster than their peers with monaural hearing.

  • Children with binaural hearing are more self-confident than those with monoaural hearing.

  • Binaural hearing makes sure that you can have your peace-of-mind while performing your day-to-day activities.

So this is why you need to hear well with both the ears!

 

CROS Hearing Aid Systems

CROS and BiCROS hearing aids are usually recommended for people with single-sided deafness. The CROS (Contralateral Routing Of Signals) digital hearing aids are recommended for individuals who have lost their hearing in one ear and have normal hearing in the other. In other words, the CROS hearing aid device is recommended for those who have unaidable hearing loss in one ear and no loss in the other. This device takes the sound from the poor ear to the working ear to enable you to hear well with less strain. The CROS device is usually not considered a full-fledged hearing aid.

The CROS hearing aid has microphones and an amplifier chip, but no speaker. The transmission of sounds takes place wirelessly from the hearing aid on the poor ear to the receiving hearing aid on the better ear. Although it may seem strange to wear a hearing aid on the ear with normal hearing, it is just delivering the sounds from your bad ear, and not amplifying any sound.

CROS Hearing Aids

There is yet another case in which the person has hearing loss in both the ears - with aidable hearing loss in one ear and unaidable loss in the other. In such a case, BiCROS (Bilateral Microphones with Contralateral Routing of Signal) hearing aids would be helpful. This type is similar to the CROS system - a CROS transmitter is paired with an active hearing aid. It is suggested for people who have asymmetrical hearing loss, with one ear being better than the other, though both have some degree of hearing loss. For example, a person having mild to moderate degree of hearing loss in one ear, and severe to profound degree of hearing loss or even total hearing loss in the other - would qualify as an ideal candidate for BiCROS digital hearing aids.

A BiCROS hearing aid picks up sounds from the ear with unaidable hearing loss (that is from the bad ear), processes it and mixes it with its own input and then amplifies the mixed signal and delivers the resultant into the other ear with aidable hearing loss (the better ear). This whole process is done in such a manner that you would feel that you are actually hearing from your bad ear.

BiCROS Hearing Aids

 

The Conclusion

The goal of these CROS devices is to provide the person with a sense of binaural hearing when true binaural hearing aid fitting is not possible. The good news is, these digital hearing aids are introduced with advanced wireless technologies with which the user no longer needed to stay connected physically, and yet enjoy the listening experience seamlessly.

This type of set-up is made so as to enable you to have a clear sound perception from all the directions and from both the sides of your head - which is important. In other words, the CROS and the BiCROS digital hearing aids are designed to give you a feeling of binaural hearing.

Comments | Posted in Digital Hearing Aids By Phalguni Bannerjee
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