Photo courtesy of Phonak

Photo courtesy of Phonak

What are hearing aids?

 Today’s hearing aids are fully digital and use both digital programming and processing. Digital processing converts the sound into a precise computer code which presents a cleaner, clearer and more natural sound quality to the hearing aid user. The digital computer chip is extremely advanced, allowing for the most flexibility in adjusting the settings.

All hearing aid programming today is done through computers, giving the audiologist the ability to adjust the hearing aid to the patient’s specific hearing loss. Simply having a computer chip offers benefits to the user, but the real benefit lies in the way the sound signal is processed which is called the ‘algorithm’. Advanced processing algorithms can provide added benefit by restoring normal loudness perception and by optimizing speech cues in quiet as well as in background noise.

Digital hearing aids offer options such as advanced signal processing, multiple memories, remote controls or dual microphone systems. Digital hearing aids provide improved sound quality, speech understanding, and ease of use, as well as more comfortable listening experiences across a variety of environments. The reprogramming capabilities of these technologies also allow the Audiologist to accommodate any changes in hearing loss that may occur.

How do hearing aids work?

Hearing aids enhance sound, filling the gap between natural sound and your child’s diminished ability to hear. While there are several different styles of hearing aids and many manufacturers, all hearing aids consist of the same basic components. Those components include a microphone, which changes sound waves into electrical impulses; a receiver (speaker) which translates the now-strengthened electrical impulses into enhanced (louder) sound waves; and a battery, which provides the energy to operate the hearing aid. A hearing aid works by picking up sound through the microphone, processing that sound into a digital code, and then transmitting the sound to the listener’s ear. Once the sound information is received by the ear it travels through the listener’s hearing system and then is sent to the brain for processing.

What are the different styles of hearing aids?

Photo courtesy of Oticon

Photo courtesy of Oticon

Behind-the-ear hearing aid (BTE)
The behind-the-ear hearing aid, or BTE, is the type that is most recommended for children with hearing loss. The electrical components are housed in a unit that fits behind the ear. Sound is delivered to the ear via a slim tube or earmold, which is connected to the hearing aid. Behind-the-ear instruments and earmolds are available in a variety of colors that your child may choose from.

Open Fit BTE
One type of BTE hearing aid is the open fit. With the open fit sound travels from the hearing aid through a small tube or wire, “slim tube,” to a tiny dome or speaker in the ear canal. A custom earmold may be coupled to the hearing aid in certain circumstances. The advantages of an open fit BTE include greater comfort, more natural sound for the wearer’s own voice, and a more discrete fitting.

An open-fit BTE is not appropriate for very young children, or for all types of hearing loss. Our Audiologists will determine if an open fit BTE is a suitable option for your child.

Standard Earmold BTE
The second type is a standard earmold BTE where the hearing aid is connected to a custom made earmold. The earmold is a soft silicone or vinyl piece that is created directly from an impression of your child’s ear. The earmold will need to be remade as your child grows but this can be done easily in the office without having to send the hearing aid back to the manufacturer for customization.

In-the-ear hearing aid (ITE)
ITE hearing aids are custom molded hearing aids that fill the entire opening of the ear canal.

In-the Canal hearing aid (ITC)
ITC hearing aids are custom molded hearing aids that fill part of the opening of the ear canal but do not fill the ear canal completely.

Completely in the Canal (CIC)
CIC hearing aids are custom molded to fit deep inside the ear canal.

Bone Conduction Hearing Aid
A bone conduction hearing aid is used primarily for children with conductive hearing losses, mixed hearing losses who cannot otherwise wear ‘in the ear’ or ‘behind the ear’ hearing aids, and children who have single sided deafness.

A bone conduction hearing aid consists of a small oscillator (vibrator) worn on the mastoid bone behind the ear. The bone conduction aid amplifies sound but the sound is not passed into the ear canal, instead the sound is transmitted through an oscillator directly to the inner ear. For young children, bone conduction hearing aids are worn using a headband. As children get older, they may be able to receive an implantable version of the bone conduction hearing aid.

The audiologists at PENTA can help provide additional information on the surgical procedure involved to receive the implantable version of this hearing aid.

Cochlear Implant
A cochlear implant is a medical device that is surgically implanted in individuals with significant hearing loss and do not show benefit from traditional amplification. The cochlear implant bypasses damaged inner ear structures and directly stimulates the auditory nerve.

Why are two hearing aids better than one?

If your child has a hearing loss in both ears, the recommendation is to wear two hearing aids.

  • The use of two hearing aids allows a more balanced sense of hearing and better overall sound quality. One is surrounded by sound. Many try to turn up the volume on their sole instrument in an effort to improve the audibility of sound, but this only makes the sound louder and distorted. It will not bring more sounds in or give one better sound quality.
  • When compared to one hearing aid, two hearing aids can significantly increase the ability to distinguish spoken words in normal and noisy listening situations.
  • While wearing two hearing aids, speech will seem to sound clearer, while some sounds in general seem to have a more natural sound quality.
  • Wearing two hearing aids makes it easier to locate the source of a sound whether it is an ambulance nearby, someone calling your child’s name, or the room where the telephone is ringing.
  • It has been found that one is more relaxed with two hearing aids because binaural amplification eliminates the need to strain to hear a sound. If only one hearing aid is worn, one will continually use the “good” ear by turning toward the source of the sound.
  • Just as two eyes are necessary to focus on objects and see the complete picture, two “good” ears are necessary to clearly understand speech, locate the source of a sound, balance incoming noise and deliver a more natural sound quality. This is especially important for children learning speech and language or who are in an academic setting.

Because there are several styles of hearing aids and amplification options available, the audiology team will assist you in choosing the most appropriate hearing aid for your child.

For more information on the different options available or to speak directly with an audiologist, call 404-591-1884.