MORE THAN 31 million Americans of all ages live with some level of hearing loss, according to the Better Hearing Institute. Our increasingly noisy society has, unfortunately, ensured hearing problems are no longer an exclusive affliction of age; while people 55 to 64 make up the largest group with hearing loss, the second largest segment are people who are just 45 to 54, a time when many of us are in our prime financially, socially and professionally.
Hearing loss can stand in the way of all those positive things in life. Research has linked hearing loss to a number of emotional problems, from negativism to chronic depression. Helen Keller, blind and deaf since infancy, once observed that while a loss of vision “separates us from things,” hearing loss “separates us from people.”
Fortunately, assistive technology has advanced by leaps and bounds since Keller’s era. It’s now possible to find a hearing aid to fit nearly any lifestyle, no matter how active or relaxed, and any cosmetic preference, from discreet to virtually invisible.
“Wearing a hearing aid has improved my quality of life,” says golf legend Arnold Palmer. “Golf is my business. I found that when I could hear the click of a golf ball to actual noise level, it improved my golf. Once I could hear the golf club hitting the ball, it gave me a much better definition of what I needed to do in hitting some shots.”
“Early hearing aids didn’t assist the wearer well in certain complex sound situations, such as when using a cell phone or in a noisy environment like a concert or crowded restaurant,” says Dr. Barry Freeman, from hearing aid maker Starkey Laboratories, Inc. “And many people were concerned with the cosmetic and social aspects of wearing an aid.
“Hearing aids are not just large pieces of plastic sitting behind your ear any more. Today’s hearing aids run and process sophisticated algorithms just like a computer to provide the listener with an excellent experience - all wrapped in an elegant package,” Freeman adds. “From hearing better in noisy situations like restaurants to eliminating annoying whistling (feedback), there is a hearing aid solution to meet every need.”
Choosing a hearing aid that’s right for your hearing loss can directly affect your quality of life. The experts at Starkey offer some tips and advice when choosing a hearing aid:
Consider the style.
There are now many options, including behind-the-ear (BTE), receiver-in-canal (RIC), completely-in-canal, in-the-canal and in-the-ear.
Each offers a different level of assistance and cosmetic appeal.
• BTE styles are appropriate for most types of hearing loss, and technology such as Starkey’s Sweep Technology, which allows the wearer to adjust volume and settings with a simple sweep or touch of the finger, make a BTE aid appropriate for those with limited dexterity. A BTE sits on the back of the ear and has a tube that runs to an ear bud or custom earmold in the ear.
• RIC styles are appropriate for mild to moderate hearing loss and offer a more discreet, open-fit solution. They lessen feedback by widening the distance between the microphone and the receiver. The RIC also sits behind the ear and has a thin tube that connects to an ear bud or custom earmold in the ear. The receiver in a RIC is in the ear near the ear bud instead of in the case behind the ear.
• For those seeking a small, discreet aid, completely-in-canal is a good option. Nearly invisible when worn, this style is good for treating mild to moderate hearing loss and uses the natural anatomy of the head, pinna and ear canal to provide a clean, clear signal. They are custom designed to fit entirely in the ear canal, reducing feedback and improving sound quality.
• In-the-canal styles fit within the ear canal but are still slightly visible within the outer ear.
Information provided by ARA?Content.