One out of every eight people in the United States have discernable hearing loss in one or both ears. According to the statistics, approximately 28.8 million U.S. adults could qualify for hearing aids, assisted medical devices to help them hear. What are hearing aids and how do they work?

Armon Jadidian, M.D., F.A.C.S., board-certified otolaryngologist at Ear, Nose, Throat and Plastic Surgery Associates, says, “There are several forms of rhinitis, and treatment will vary by type.”

What Are Hearing Aids?

Older woman with mostly grey hair smiling showing hearing aid in right ear

“Hearing aids are tiny computers that pick up sound and amplify it based on your degree of hearing loss” says Kelli M. Ferry, AuD, CCC-A. They can be worn in or behind the ear. These medical devices are designed to amplify sound if you’re experiencing hearing loss. Hearing aids work by increasing sound through three steps:

  • A small microphone in the hearing aid receives sound and converts it to a digital signal
  • An amplifier increases the strength of the digital transmission
  • A speaker carries the amplified sound into the ear so you can hear

Hearing aid devices have been successfully used to correct hearing loss since 1913. These devices have undergone significant improvements during that time. Today, hearing aids can be as small as the tip of your finger and so discreet you can barely see them at all.

Are There Different Types of Hearing Aids to Choose From?

Senior man having an hearing aid being placed in left ear.

There are several different types of hearing aids, classified by how they fit on your body. There are:

  • In the ear (ITE) hearing aids
  • Behind the ear (BTE) hearing aids
  • Those that fit completely inside the ear canal (CIC)
  • Receiver in canal hearing aids (RTC)

ITE hearing aids are worn in the outer part of the ear and are larger and more visible than CIC hearing aids. However, ITE hearing aids are easier to handle and may be a good option if you have dexterity problems.

BTE hearing aids are worn behind the ear and have a tube that connects to an earmold that fits inside the ear. BTE hearing aids are the largest type of assisted device and are more visible than other hearing aids. They are a good option if you have severe to profound hearing loss.

CIC hearing aids are the smallest type of hearing aid, worn completely inside the ear canal. They are the least visible of all hearing aids but may be difficult to handle and not suitable if you have severe hearing loss.

RTC hearing aids are like BTE devices, but the speaker is located inside the ear canal instead of behind the ear. This can make them more comfortable to wear and can improve sound quality.

Some hearing aids are custom-made to fit the specific shape of a person’s ear, while others are available in standard sizes. The type of hearing aid that is best for you will depend on your specific needs and preferences.

How Well Do Hearing Aids Work?

Young girl with hearing aid using hand to cup ear.

Modern hearing aids are highly effective in addressing various types and degrees of hearing loss due to their advanced technology and features. One key factor contributing to their success is selective amplification. Hearing aids are designed to enhance speech sounds while reducing background noise, making conversations in noisy environments easier to understand. This selective amplification significantly improves speech clarity and communication, enhancing the overall listening experience for individuals with hearing loss.

Many modern hearing aids are equipped with directional microphones that can focus on sounds from specific directions. This feature enables wearers to better isolate and understand speech, even in challenging listening situations such as crowded restaurants or social gatherings.

Hearing aids now offer wireless connectivity to smartphones, televisions, and computers. This allows wearers to stream audio directly into their hearing aids, improving sound quality and reducing background noise. It also provides convenient control and customization of the hearing aid settings through compatible smartphone apps, offering wearers greater flexibility and ease of use.

Do Hearing Aids Help Tinnitus?

“Hearing aids can help with tinnitus, although they do not cure tinnitus” says Ferry. Tinnitus is often caused by hearing loss. Hearing aids help improve the ability to hear, which in turn can reduce the effects of tinnitus. In some cases, hearing aids have been found to be effective in reducing the intensity of tinnitus or even eliminating the condition completely.

However, it’s important to note that hearing aids do not always help tinnitus. Each case is individualized, and a hearing healthcare professional can help you determine if hearing aids may be helpful in managing your tinnitus.

How Long Do Hearing Aids Last?

Senior man with glasses having an hearing aid being placed

The lifespan of a hearing aid varies, but most of these devices are designed to last for five to seven years on average. Scientists are making inroads in this area regularly, and today, some hearing aids can last longer. The longevity of your hearing aid depends upon the type of the unit, the manufacturer, and how well the device is cared for.

It’s important to follow the recommended maintenance and care instructions for your hearing aids to help extend their lifespan. This may include cleaning the hearing aids regularly, replacing the batteries as needed, and keeping the hearing aids protected from damage.

If you notice any changes in the performance of your hearing aid or if you experience any problems, contact your doctor’s office. They’ll determine if the hearing aid needs repaired or replaced.

Are Hearing Aids Covered by Insurance?

Depending on the specific insurance plan and the state you live in, your hearing aids may be covered by insurance. Private insurance plans may offer coverage for hearing aids, but the coverage levels may vary. Some plans may cover the full cost of hearing aids, while others may only cover a portion of the cost. Some plans may also have limits on the type of hearing aids covered or may require a referral from a primary care doctor before coverage is provided.

You should check with your insurance carrier to determine what types of hearing aids are covered under your plan and to understand any limits or exclusions that may apply. They can also help you understand any out-of-pocket costs you may be responsible for.

Are Hearing Aids Covered by Medicare?

In general, Medicare does not cover the cost of hearing aids, although some Medicare Advantage plans may offer limited coverage. The same is true for the cost of hearing aids. You must pay 100% for the cost of hearing aids and exams.

New state legislative mandates require insurance coverage for hearing aids, although federal Medicare plans are exempt from these rules. Currently, 20 states require private health insurers to cover hearing aids for children, and five require coverage for adults and children.

Where Can I Get Help with My Hearing Loss?

If you or a family member have concerns or questions about hearing loss, please contact our office. Prescription hearing aids are available to help you recover from hearing loss. Talk to the caring and experienced staff at The Ear, Nose, Throat & Plastic Surgery Associates at 407.644.4883. We can help you with hearing testing and a treatment plan that suits your goals.

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