Hearing Loss FAQ

Types of hearing loss
We’re talking about hearing loss when a part of the ear or the hearing system in not working as intended. Therefore, we can distinguish between three types of hearing loss:

Conductive Hearing Loss
Hearing loss caused by something that stops sounds from getting through the outer or middle ear. For example, if the ear canal is clogged with ear wax, this can be fixed easily.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Hearing loss that occurs when there is a problem in the way the inner ear or hearing nerve works. This type of hearing loss is the most common when it comes to age-related hearing issues. But also injuries, excessive noise exposure or a stroke can cause sensorineural hearing loss.

Mixed Hearing Loss
Hearing loss that includes both a conductive and a sensorineural hearing loss.

 

Configuration of hearing loss
A healthy human ear can hear frequencies from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz but most adults hear high pitch tones up to 15,000-17,000 Hz.

A hearing test (or audiogram) shows how loud the sounds need to be at different frequencies for you to hear them. The measured points form a shape which is the configuration of your hearing loss.

The most common hearing losses are:

High-frequency hearing loss or ski slope hearing loss (most common)
High-pitched sounds are hard to hear, while low pitched sounds are heard without significant troubles. People with this kind of hearing loss often don’t think that they have problems with their hearing. However, as many syllables are high-frequency sounds, it is hard for them to understand speech clearly, especially when it comes to “S”, “F” and “TH”. For people with this kind of hearing loss it sounds like other people are mumbling. The graph looks like this.

 

Low-frequency hearing loss or reverse-slope hearing loss
This hearing loss configuration is the opposite of high-frequency hearing loss. While you have issues hearing low pitched sounds, high frequencies are not affected.

Cookie bite hearing loss
The graph has a U-shape, it looks like someone took a bite out of a cookie. Low and high frequencies are not affected, while tones between 500-2000 Hz are hard to hear.
People with this kind of hearing loss can typically hear high pitched sounds like birds chirping and children’s voices as well as low-frequency sounds like thunder. However as many words are in this frequency range they often have troubles understanding speech clearly.

Do I have hearing loss?

Signs of hearing loss

Hearing loss can come in many disguises. It can be hard to tell if you’re losing your hearing. Other people may notice it before you do.Especially for high-frequency hearing loss, which ist the most common one, first signs are:

 

  • Speech and other sounds seem muffled 
  • Turning up the volume of the television or radio
  • Difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds (e.g., birds, doorbell, telephone, alarm clock, women and children’s voices)
  • Difficulty understanding conversations when you are in a noisy place, such as a restaurant
  • Difficulty understanding speech over the phone
  • Trouble distinguishing speech consonants (e.g., difficulty distinguishing the difference between S and F, between P and T, or between SH and TH in speech)
  • Asking others to speak more slowly and clearly
  • Asking someone to speak more loudly or repeat what they said

Do hearing aids help?

How hearing aids can help

First of all: a hearing aid can help to understand better, but it isn’t a new ear. That being said, let’s examine how hearing aids can help to improve everyday ’s life.

Modern hearing aids amplify sound through a four-part system:

  • Microphone (omni/directional)
    picks up sound
  • Computer processor
    analyzes the sound and modulates it for the desired hearing loss
  • Amplifier
    amplifies the modulated sound
  • Speaker
    sends the amplified sound in the ear canal

Hearing aids are designed to amplify sound in order to improve your hearing, but modern digital hearing aids can do even more: they focus the amplification on those frequencies which are important for speech comprehension. This feature helps to understand speech better, even in noisy situations.

High-quality hearing aids have different listening programs. These programs optimize hearing and understanding for different hearing environments like conversations, noisy environments or outdoor activities.

Directional microphones are another feature to improve speech comprehension, especially when it comes to hearing in background noise. Hearing aids with one (omnidirectional) microphone pick up sound from all around, while hearing aids with two directional microphones have the ability to focus (or direct) one microphone toward the sound source while the other decreases some of the background noise.

 

What type of hearing aid is best for me?

Finding the right type and style for you depends on your degree of hearing loss, your lifestyle preferences, and cosmetic concerns.

In general, there are two basic types of hearing aids:

In-The-Ear (ITE) hearing aids

Behind-The-Ear (BTE) hearing aids

 

In-The-Ear (ITE) hearing aids

ITE aids are worn in the ear canal. They fit best for mild to moderate hearing loss. Because of their small size they are hardly noticeable, which makes them a good choice for cosmetically concerned people. Sometimes there might occur a “plugged up” feeling when wearing, depending on the size and shape of the ear canal.

+ small size makes them nearly invisible when worn
+ good and natural sound quality as the microphone is located in the ear canal
+ easy to use
– more cleaning effort as they’re more likely to get plugged with ear wax
– more likely to “whistle” when turned up too high (too much gain)

Behind-The-Ear (BTE) hearing aids

BTE aids sit behind the outer ear with tubing that routes the sound down into the ear canal via an ear dome that doesn’t block the entire ear canal opening. These hearing aids fit best for mild to severe hearing loss. They’re more visible that ITEs but the cleaning is much easier.

+ directional microphones bring better speech comprehension
+ easy cleaning
+ good feeling when wearing as it keeps the ear open
– more visible then ITE hearing aids
– hats, glasses or wigs may get in the way