Hearing loss is the second most common disability in the UK, with about one person in every seven affected.
Difficulty with hearing falls into two main categories: there is either a problem with the transmission of sound between your outer and inner ear (conductive hearing loss), or something is not working properly in the inner ear or en route from your inner ear to your brain (sensorineural hearing loss). In addition, there is a sliding scale in the measurement of hearing impairment, from mild deafness, where you may have difficulty following speech in noisy surroundings, through moderate and severe, to profound deafness, where you reply on lip-reading and sign language to communicate.
There are many different types of hearing aid available so how do you know which will be the best one for you?
This article is written by Jackie Griffiths, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.
Types of hearing aid
All hearing aids are comprised of a microphone, amplifier, and processor (or receiver). The microphone receives sound and sends a signal to the amplifier, which is then processed into output and can be delivered to the individual in a form suitable to their physiology. The kind of output the hearing aid delivers depends on whether it is an acoustic, bone conducting, or electronic hearing aid.
Acoustic hearing aid
Acoustic hearing aids are the most commonly used types and work by amplifying airborne sounds and sending it to the eardrum via the usual pathways.
Bone conducting hearing aid
This hearing aid works by transmitting sound to an oscillator which vibrates against the skull. The inner ear picks up these vibrations and interprets them as sound, bypassing the external auditory canal and the middle ear.
Electronic hearing aid
This method of hearing aid involves electrodes being inserted into the cochlea to stimulate the acoustic nerve, or directly onto the auditory areas of the brainstem (if you do not have an acoustic nerve). These hearing aids are sometimes called cochlea implants.
Technology of the acoustic hearing aid
The electronics inside hearing aids use different technology to amplify and output sound: