What are hearing aids?
Hearing aids are as the name suggests, they are aids to help your hearing. Similar to the way spectacles help you see clearly, hearing aids do very much the same for your hearing.
Simply put, hearing aids are devices that help you hear better. They come in different shapes and sizes but all now work in a similar way. All of them now have a built-in microphone that detects the sounds, which is processed electronically by a tiny microchip. The signals from this are then passed to a receiver (essentially a tiny loudspeaker) where they are then converted and amplified into louder sounds that you can hear.
Hearing aids cannot make your hearing perfect, but they can make sounds louder and clearer. This will, in turn help to reduce the impact that hearing loss has on your life.
Hearing aids should help you with everyday sounds such as the cooker timer, phone and doorbell. They will also help with speech on a one to one basis, and will help with things like your TV. Usually making it sound clearer and bringing the overall volume down. Some more of the more sophisticated things hearing aids will help with are things like music, listening in a car and even speech within noisy environments. This however does not mean it will be as good as it once was when you were in your teens. It is important to note that they will only help if you have some hearing left. For example, you wouldn’t wear glasses if you were completely blind. Understandably this is because glasses help to improve the sight you have left. Hearing aids are the same. So don’t wait until it gets worse! Fix it now!
How to get hearing aids
If you are a UK resident there are a couple of options to get hearing aids where needed. The first would be to see your GP. If you explain where you are finding it difficult, the GP should be able to refer you to a hearing specialist for an assessment. Whether that is with a private hearing specialist or NHS Specialist. If they think you might need a hearing aid they will be able to get you into a pair.
When you see a hearing specialist, they may recommend some aids. This normally depends whether this is an independent outside of the NHS working with a contract for the NHS. If they are you may talk to them about the different types available and which is best for you. Again, if this is with an NHS contractor you may be able to try a few types before choosing one. If you are referred into the hospital, generally you will be given an option of two types. Both these types will be Behind the Ear (BTE). One thin tube, the other with molds. We will go into hearing types later.
The other alternative to NHS is the private market. Within the private market your options for choice will be better, not just on style but also with the technology level. The private hearing sector tends to be over 5 years ahead of the NHS’s technology level. Going to see a private Hearing Aid Dispenser (HAD) is generally a lot easier, this is due to a lot of choice and competition. Most private hearing aid practices will offer a free hearing test and wait time are generally under a week. The hearing specialist or HAD will then be able to help and advise you around the often-confusing subject of hearing aids.
No matter where you end up to getting your aids there are types many types that can be available to use straight away. Some other models need to be custom made which will be by taking an impression or cast of your ear. These usually take 2-3 weeks to be ready.
Collecting your hearing aids
When you go to collect your hearing aids, the HAD will program them to suit your level of hearing loss. It will then be matched to your hearing test. During the fitting session the HAD should show you how to use it and how to look after it. This will and should include what you are to expect, especially if you are new to hearing aids. This is a very important step, as there will be a lot of new sounds and noises for you to explore and get used to.
Usually you should be booked another appointment within 2-4 weeks later to check how things are going and how you are adjusting to the hearing aids. This may vary within the NHS.
The Long Term,
Once you have had your aids for a year most private practices will offer a service and scan of your hearing. They will normally offer this on a yearly basis. This is to maintain quality and make sure you are getting on with them as expected. After 2 years you should be given a full hearing test, this is because your hearing has likely changed. Meaning, the hearing aids will need to be adjusted to suit your needs again. Finally, if you feel something is not right, talk to your HAD, they want to help. There is no way you HAD will know there is a problem if you are not vocal about it. So don’t suffer in silence, don’t put them in a draw and don’t give up! Speak to you HAD.