When a patient with hearing loss gets advised by an ENT or audiologist to use hearing aids, suddenly so many questions arise in the patient's mind. All such questions and their answers are addressed in this article. You can use it as a manual on what to do next.
Before I address your doubts and questions, you first need to understand the anatomy of the ear.
Your ear is divided into three parts:
If any deformity or problem occurs in the outer or middle ear, then most of them can be managed by medicines or certain procedures. In a few cases, such as outer or middle ear infections, ear wax deposition, foreign body in the ear canal, tumor in the outer or middle ear, and discontinuity of three bones present in the middle ears, surgery might be needed.
Due to any complications, if surgery cannot be done, and the patient does not have ear discharge, the doctor may recommend using hearing aids to compensate for the hearing loss. If the problem lies in the inner ear (hair-like structures inside a snail-like structure which gets damaged due to various factors like noise exposure, age, autoimmune diseases, etc.) or auditory nerve, then your audiogram will show the sensorineural type of hearing loss. The doctor may recommend hearing aids as no remarkable treatment options are there. Moreover, if the hearing aids do not work, the doctor may recommend a cochlear implant, which is very common in case of hearing loss in children since birth.
1) Can I wait for some time and then use hearing aids?
If you are waiting for some time to go for the hearing aids, then you are not providing stimulus to the auditory area of the brain for that much time. So gradually, that area gets deprived, which is called auditory deprivation. When you finally decide to get a hearing aid, you will not get the best results due to auditory deprivation.
Analogy - It is similar to you not using your hands for a long time, and the hands are at rest, so next time you want to lift something with your hands, you will feel it is extremely difficult to do so.
2) I do not want to go for hearing aids, can you give me ear drops or medicine?
Medicines and surgical treatment are available for only the outer and middle ear problems. Most of the hearing loss are due to inner ear problems, which are irreversible. If it occurs in the auditory nerve area beyond the inner ear, then surgery is a must. But if the hearing loss occurs due to cochlear hair cell damage (a crucial part of the inner ear), then there is absolutely no treatment. Sometimes, if the treatment is taken between 72 hours, intratympanic steroid application helps a bit, but even after steroid application, some degree of hearing loss will be there. See the diagnosis written on the report, as it gives you a better idea about where exactly the problem is. For example, the sensorineural hearing loss means it is due to the inner ear or auditory nerve, which is mostly irreversible.
3) I do not want to use hearing aids in both the ears (even if both the ears are diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss). Fit one hearing aid, and I will come again later for the second one.
If the pure-tone audiometry test result shows the hearing loss in both the ears, you should not delay the fitting of hearing aids in both the ears. Getting only one hearing aid disturbs the balance of hearing. Speech may sound unnatural because only one ear will be clear. Auditory deprivation occurs even if you are using one hearing aid, and loss is on both the ears.
4) I do not want to invest much. Please give me the wired one (the pocket model).
The digital hearing aids are expensive, but the wired pocket model hearing aids are outdated and do not work according to frequency-specific amplification. It amplifies all the sounds together without considering how much loss you have in which frequency. Go for the basic level or mid-range digital programmable hearing aids, which can be programmed through a computer according to your hearing loss. Think of it as an investment. Long-term hearing loss may affect attention, concentration, socialization, etc. You may feel isolated if you are not able to listen to others properly.
5) I am listening well, but the people around me are talking slowly. Is your report correct? Do I really need to use hearing aids?
In case of age-related hearing loss or a person with hearing loss for a long time, there is always a misbelief that maybe the other person is speaking slowly and we adjust ourselves by looking at the other person's mouth and start doing lip reading. In that case, we start losing our hearing ability gradually. We do not get feedback on our voice, so we tend to speak louder than normal. Turning up the TV volume is also seen in some cases. Requesting for repetition and answering out of context are some of the signs of hearing loss. So, it is us who need to take action today.
6) Medical science is so advanced nowadays, how can it be possible that there is no cure for sensorineural hearing loss?
Yes, there are some research still going on to restore hearing loss that occurs due to damage in the cochlea, but it is not completed yet. Intratympanic steroid application may show some results, but it is not that effective, and the treatment can only be taken for sudden hearing loss (within 72 hours of hearing loss). Considering the adverse effects of steroid application, it is not widely used.
7) My relative or my neighbor used hearing aids, but that did not work for him/her. Will it work for me?
That person may have a different hearing loss, or maybe he did not use appropriate hearing aids, or the hearing aid programming was not done properly. If it did not work for another person, it does not necessarily mean that it will not work for you. Hearing aid trials should be done before fitting.
8) I think my hearing loss is due to wax in the ears; maybe I will hear properly after cleaning.
During an otoscopy, the doctor can see if the wax is there or not, and you can see your ear canal on the monitor screen. If there is wax, it will be removed by the doctor easily. But it is wrong to think that all hearing loss are due to wax deposition.
9) Do hearing aids damage ears?
Nowadays, digital programmable hearing aids can be programmed according to the degree of hearing loss. This prevents over-amplification. Moreover, sudden noise can be blocked automatically by the programmable hearing aids. So, there is no harm in using the digital programmable hearing aids. Non-digital or pocket model hearing aids may damage the hearing and ear in some cases. Never go for voice amplifiers, as it will definitely damage your hearing and ears.
Do not delay your treatment at all. You can go for a second opinion if you feel so. Do not predict anything and consult only registered medical practitioners. Keeping the patient with hearing loss isolated worsens the situation. You need to raise your voice to start a conversation. Let the hearing aids do the amplification part so that you can start talking at the normal level. Important: Hearing aids should be programmed only by an experienced audiologist.
Last reviewed at:
31 Jul 2020 - 4 min read
MASTER IN AUDIOLOGY AND SPEECH- LANGUAGE PATHOLOGY
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