Since hearing impairment is an invisible condition, many people try to “pass” without it being detected. These people usually prefer the lost sound to the perceived stigma of using a hearing aid. Despite wishful thinking, a hearing loss can never be successfully concealed. In the attempt, the significant benefits available through medical and scientific technology are missed, friendships may be severed, and the person may gradually retreat to a life of isolation.
If a hearing aid is recommended, there are many types from which to choose. These range from tiny, all-in-the-ear models for mild to moderate losses to large body aids for profound impairments. Some persons require only one aid (monaural), while others receive the most benefit from binaural aids which is one aid for each ear. Hearing aids are assistive devices that improve hearing in many instances, but the aids do not correct hearing or necessarily restore it to normal levels. A hearing aid will, however, lessen the degree of severity of a hearing loss and enable the user to hear many sounds that previously were inaudible.
In buying a hearing aid, price is only one important factor although hearing aids can be quite costly. The reputation of the dealer, how long he or she has been in business, the hours, and the convenience of the office or store are major considerations. Other issues include the maintenance service provided by the dealer, the warranty offered, and whether a trial period is given with the hearing aid. Training in the use and care of a hearing aid is an integral part of the purchase package. Hearing aid dealers are licensed in many states.
The ear-mold, or ear insert, is a vital component of any hearing aid. Some ear-molds are made from a solid plastic material, others from a more pliable substance. Some are simple tubular inserts, while other molds fill the entire cavity of the outer ear. They are made in a manner similar to taking an impression for dentures. Like hearing aids, ear-molds eventually need replacement. Danger signs are whistling noises (feedback), indicating the ear-mold no longer fits snugly in the ear. Annual checks of the ear-mold are recommended.
For persons with sensitivity to regular ear-mold construction, non-allergenic polyethylene molds are often used. Some persons may develop an allergic reaction after using a particular type of ear-mold without difficulty for many years. If irritation or infections suddenly begin, the possibility of sensitivity to the ear-mold should not be overlooked.
In learning to use a new hearing aid, patience and persistence are the keys to success. Hearing aids amplify all sounds including those that are unwanted as well as those that are needed. The crackling of paper and drone of airplanes may seem overwhelming at first. In addition, since the quality of sound through a hearing aid differs somewhat from normal sound, voices may seem unfamiliar. Therefore, it is wise to begin using the aid in quiet, familiar situations for gradually extended periods of time each day. Before long, the aid is likely to become indispensable. However, if the hearing aid is worn for a day and then put away for a week, its full benefit may never be realized.
Hearing loss need not be a tragedy causing embarrassing moments, job change, or social withdrawal. Only procrastination in obtaining needed help has the potential for tragic consequences. One’s hearing should be preserved and protected as a most valuable possession.