What is a hearing aid?

 Hearing aids are devices that increase the loudness of sounds in the ear of the wearer, and thus allowing them to understand speech. The earliest hearing aid was the ear trumpet, characterised by a large cup to collect the sound energy from as large an area as possible, which gradually tapered in size to a narrow orifice for insertion in the ear. They do differ in type but they share certain electronic components and batteries power them.

There are two types of hearing aid because there are also two types of deafness, sensorineural and conductive hearing loss.

 


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  The modern hearing aids are electronic, comprising of a microphone necessary to convert the form of sound to an electrical current an amplifier that intensifies this current, and an earphone that converts the amplified current into a sound of far greater intensity than the original sound. During the 50’s the technology improved exponentially when transistors and smaller magnetic microphones made it possible to build tiny but effective hearing aids. Nowadays cutting edge computer technology has improved hearing aids exponentially. However it does take time and effort to understand the correct form of hearing aid for your problem.

Hearing aids have two distinguishable features; to understand speech they must intensify the various constituents of speech and be able to boost the loudness of these sounds so that the hearing impaired can hear them. Speech sounds are comprised of many different types of components, on different frequencies, all of which need to be amplified by a hearing aid. Audio frequencies or AF for humans fall into the band of between 20 hertz to about 20 kilohertz.

As regards the first characteristic, speech sounds contain many components of different frequencies, which are variously amplified by a hearing aid. The variation of amplification with frequency is called the frequency response of the aid. An aid need amplify sounds only within the range of 400 to 4,000 hertz, although the components of speech cover a much wider range. With regard to the second characteristic—the loudness with which sounds are heard—too loud a sound can be as difficult to understand as one that is too faint. The loudness ranges over which speech is understood best is wide for some users and narrow for others. Hearing aids with automatic volume control vary the amplification of the aid automatically with variations of the input.

Can I buy my own hearing aid?

The National U.K. government statistics report that those who have bought a hearing aid in the private sector are happier with the product more so than those provided with the free NHS hearing aid. There is nothing wrong with the free hearing aids that are dispensed by the NHS, but they offer a limited choice. They only offer a behind the ear hearing aid and many people want the choice to have an in the ear hearing aid. There are safeguards for buying a hearing aid privately, anyone who sells a hearing aid must be both qualified and be registered with The Hearing Aid Council. This body regulates dispensers’ training and conduct, and handles all the customer complaints Our Information Line can give you a list of hearing aid dispensers in your area, and we can recommend the best one locally.

The procedure for acquiring a hearing aid is no different in the private sector than in the NHS, except that you will wait several months for a consultation to have a hearing assessment in the NHS, and will then wait for another several months for a hearing aid. These delays do not apply when you purchase a hearing aid privately. You will still need the hearing assessment, you will be offered the best type of hearing aid for your hearing, and you will be shown how to use it. We would try you with the hearing aid(s) and you would be able to experience the amount of benefit.

 

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