3. Hearing Aids
During the middle and end stages of Meniere’s disease, patients experience some form of hearing loss. Often, this can be permanent. The disease makes patients more sensitive to loud sounds and makes it difficult to distinguish between low pitches. This makes it hard to recognise speech. Hearing loss occurs because the sensitive hair cells in the inner ear have been damaged, these cannot be repaired and will remain damaged so they will be unable to transmit sounds to the brain.
Hearing devices such as hearing aids or cochlear implants can help people with hearing loss. They are small electronic devices which will amplify sounds, so sounds which patients could not usually hear become clear and will also help to override the tinnitus. There are many different types of hearing aids available, however the type of hearing loss depends on which hearing aid will be most suitable for each patient.
The different types of hearing aids offer different advantages, depending on size, levels of amplification and design. They are all battery operated and the main types are ‘behind the ear’, ‘in the ear’ and ‘in the canal’.
• Behind the ear hearing aids
These have a microphone part that fits behind the ear and an ear piece that fits inside the ear. Ear pieces can either be made of plastic moulded to the exact shape of your ear (known as an earmould) or a thin plastic tube with a dome fitted inside the ear, known as an open fitting. In the moulded hearing aid, the electronic parts are held in the case behind the ear. Sound travels from the hearing aid through the earmold and into the ear. Behind the ear hearing aids are used by people of all ages for mild to profound hearing loss.
Open-fit hearing aids are a new type. They are known as receiver in the ear as it is small, fitting behind the ear completely, with only a narrow tube inserted into the ear canal, enabling the canal to remain open. For this reason, open-fit hearing aids may be a good choice for people who experience a build up of earwax, since this type of aid is less likely to be damaged by such substances. These are usually less visible than the other type of behind the ear hearing aid. In addition, some people may prefer the open-fit hearing aid because their perception of their voice does not sound “plugged up.” (NIDCD, 2013)
Some types of behind the ear hearing aids have two microphones that enable you to listen to sounds in the general vicinity or to focus on sounds that are coming from a specific direction. This can be particularly useful in noisy environments.
Behind the ear hearing aids can be used for all levels of hearing loss.
• In the ear hearing aids
In the ear hearing aids are used for mild to severe hearing loss. This hearing aid is like an ear mould, fitting completely inside the outer ear. It is made of hard plastic and the electronic compartments can be either held inside the plastic ear mould itself or attached to it.
• In the canal hearing aids
In the canal...