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The Hearing Aid Guide for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Hearing aids were initially huge, horn-shaped trumpets with a large open piece for “catching” sounds at one side. It evolved into a smaller funnel shaped tube and later into radio style transistor devices. The modern day hearing device owes a part to Alexander Graham Bell who amplified sound in his telephone electronically. This technique was adopted by hearing aid manufacturers. Later, Thomas Edison discovered the carbon transmitter which converted sounds into electrical signals and vice versa through wires. This was used in making hearing aids.

There are different types of hearing aids available. Body worn aids comprise of an earmold, a case that can be carried in the pocket or fixed in the belt, and a wire connecting the two devices. Behind The Ear (BTE) aids are the most used hearing aids. It’s similar to the body worn aids in that it has a case, an earmold, and a tube. The case is behind the ear and the earmold sits in the ear while the wire comes from the back to connect to the earmold. The sound is transmitted electronically or acoustically. These are helpful when hearing loss is mild to severe. With advancements, these aids have been designed so that they are not easily visible.

In The Ear (ITE) aids are custom hearing aids made specifically to suit each person. These ear aids fit behind the outer bowl of the ear. It’s not advisable for smaller children as they do not mould well and the hearing aids have to be replaced as the children grow. The Receiver in Canal (RIC) hearing aid is somewhat similar to BTE aids. The real difference is that the speaker is placed inside the ear canal and connected with thin wires instead of an acoustical tube. The sound is smoother with reduced distortion. The small behind the ear piece and thin wires makes it inconspicuous. ITE aids are preferred over other ear aids due to its visual appeal and sound quality.

In The Canal (ITC) or Completely in the Canal (CIC) hearing aids are very small. Fitting in the lower part behind the ear, these aids are hardly visible. A person can see the device when looking directly into the ear of the wearer. The ITC hearing aid is helpful when hearing loss is mild to moderate. However, this type of hearing aid is expensive when compared to BTE aids. A more sophisticated version of the ITC is the Invisible in Canal (IIC) hearing aid. It works on the same premise as the ITC but it’s totally invisible because the device is fitted even deeper in the canal. IIC hearing aids are not recommended for younger or older people.

Open fit hearing aids have a small plastic case that fits behind the ear with a fine tube which ends in a small silicone or acrylic tip inside the ear canal. In this way, the occlusion effect is reduced. Quite recently, disposable hearing aids have been introduced. Fitting about halfway into the canal, disposable hearing aids can be used by people with mild to moderate hearing loss. The main advantage is that they are thrown away after a period of time. However, disposable hearing aids should never be seen as a permanent solution for hearing loss.

Cochlear Implants are small electronic devices that consist of two parts: one that fits behind the ear and another part that is placed under the skin through surgery. It helps a person who is hard of hearing to understand speech and sounds in an environment. Cochlear implants do not restore complete hearing. Adults or children who are hard of hearing or deaf can get a cochlear implant.

Nonverbal communication is important while dealing with the deaf and hard of hearing. They get cues from your body language, facial expressions, gestures, and so on. Sign language is one of the widely used means to communicate. Cued speech is also effective though not as popular as sign language. Some hard of hearing people can read lips. To help them understand, you have to speak slowly so they can read your lips.