Term: Hearing Aids

Description:

Hearing aids are devices which can be inserted into or mounted on the ear, amplifying sounds collected by a device-mounted microphone (and, in some cases, other methods) to compensate for poor hearing. While older hearing aids were little more than just that, modern aids have a variety of enhancements and extra functions that truly demonstrate the advancement of Health IT. For instance, some hearing aids have filtering technology built in to exclude annoying or meaningless sounds such as background noise, and advanced digital circuitry is capable of cleaning up and enhancing the sounds as well. And for many years, hearing aids have come with FM receivers calibrated to a standard which allows shows, like plays and speeches, to broadcast the sound directly to the hearing aid via radio.

Styles of Hearing Aids:

  1. Behind the Ear - The parts of the BTE hearing aid are held in a small case that fits right behind the ear. The case is connected to a plastic mold by a clear tube formed to fit around the top part of your ear. BTE hearing aids can be used for all degrees of hearing loss, and they can even be made with special features in order to help with different aspects of life. For example, the telecoil can help hearing during phone calls. The BTE hearing aids are usually recommended for children for safety reasons, as well as the fact that they allow for growth of the child without damaging the hearing aid.
  2. On the Ear (or Mini BTE) - The OTE hearing aid is just a smaller version of the BTE aid. Like the BTE aid, the parts are in a smaller case behind the ear, connected to a plastic mold by an almost invisible clear tube. The smaller earpieces reduce the visibility of the hearing aid, as well as the feeling of "fullness" in the ear. These types of aids are often found to be more comfortable than BTE hearing aids.
  3. In the Ear - The parts of the ITE hearing aid are also held in a small case that fits in the outer part of the ear. This type of hearing aid is used by people who have a varying degree of hearing loss. Just like BTE aids, ITE hearing aids can be made with special features like telecoils and a directional microphone system that helps you distinguish voices in a noisy room. However, unlike the BTE aid, children do not usually use these because they must be replaced as the child grows.
  4. In the Canal - the ITC hearing aid consists of two major parts: the microphone, which typically hooks or mounts on the outer ear in some way, and a large fitted mold containing the speaker, which is inserted directly into the ear canal. Due to its low cost, this style is often seen in mail-order magazines and other cheap sources of elderly medical equipment. ITC hearing aids can also be made with special features (telecoils and a directional microphone system.) The ITC hearing aid can be damaged by earwax and fluid draining from the ear, causing them to not be recommended for children.
  5. Completely in the Canal - The CIC hearing aid fits completely in your ear canal, practically unseen from anyone else. These hearing aids benefit from increased miniaturization and precision, causing ITC hearing aids, as well as the other styles, to slowly become obsolete. Again, earwax and fluids can cause problems, so the CIC aids are not recommended for children. Also, the small size can be difficult for some people to handle.
  6. Bone Anchored Hearing Aid - The BAHA is made up of three different parts; the titanium implanted portion, an external abutment, and the sound processor that clips onto the abutment. The BAHA essentially works by taking sound and transmitting it through vibrations to the inner ear through a bone near your ear. This type of hearing aid allows the sound to bypass the ear canal and the middle ear completely. The titanium implant is placed through a surgical procedure and eventually integrates with bone near the back of the ear.

Alternatives or other options:

  1. A new app called uSound, that was recently introduced. It allows you to use your phone while wearing a headband in a way that could theoretically replace the need for the traditional hearing aid. One feature allows you to do the hearing test right over your phone, without having to go in and see a professional. The price is also an attractive feature because this would only cost one a few dollars to purchase the app (if it really works like it claims), versus having to spend hundreds to even thousands of dollars for your traditional hearing aid.
  2. Cochlear Implants - CI's is a device that that is surgically implanted and works with an external device to allow sound to bypass the damaged tiny hair cells in the inner ear, called the cochlea. These hairs are what traditionally allow you to hear normally, or prevent you from hearing if they have been damaged.

Applications:

Hearing aids are able to enhance sounds as much as necessary and are individually calibrated to each person's specific hearing problems. These are a wonderful tool for helping the hearing-impaired to function normally in society. The different types of hearing aids available allow for people with moderate to sever hearing loss to be able to hear again. Not only do they help with regular conversation, but with many other tasks as well, from talking on the telephone, to being able to overcome impairment and continue working, to just enjoying a television show or group event with the family. Hearing aids are a huge advancement in Health Informatics, and are providing people with a way to continue their lives as normally as possible.

Graphics:

4 Different Types of Hearing Aids
4 Different Types of Hearing Aids


CIC Hearing Aids
CIC Hearing Aids


Bone Anchored Hearing Aid
Bone Anchored Hearing Aid



















external image COCHLEAR-IMPLANT.jpg



Web Related Terminology:

Telecoil
Bone Anchored Hearing Aid
Directional microphone
Cochlea

Web Resources:

Healthy Hearing
Hearing Loss Association of America
Health Lob
Bone Anchored Hearing Aid
Hearing Aid of the Future

Citations/References:

The Hearing Center
History of Hearing Aids
Cochlear-Implants