Hearing aid technology has exploded in recent years. A tremendous number of options to achieve improved hearing are available. Hearing aid styles range from the completely-in-the-canal to behind-the-ear models. Computerized, state of the art digitally programmable hearing aids are available and, in many cases, provide improved speech understanding in noise. Multi-memory instruments are available that provide different responses for different acoustic environments, so that optimal hearing may be achieved in various settings. Self-regulating and very small hearing aids are available. You, your family, your doctor and audiologist should discuss the hearing aid alternatives. Then you can determine which type will best serve your needs.
Hearing aids worn in both ears are called binaural hearing aids. There are a number of advantages to the patient in the use of aids in each ear. Binaural fitting will usually allow a patient to have balanced hearing, with speech perceived equally loud in the two ears. This will permit localization of sound. The most important advantage, however, is that most hearing aid users are able to understand speech in a noisy background much better than when an aid is used only in one ear. Furthermore, using two aids results in a significant increase in loudness of sound due to binaural summation. The effect on this is that the volume control may be reduced for each ear and this in turn will lessen the impact of background noise.
In many instances hearing aids may be used to alleviate or control distressing head noise (tinnitus). Hearing aid amplification may effectively mask out (keep the wearer from hearing) the tinnitus.
The CROS hearing aid is available for persons with a one-sided hearing loss. This aid picks up sound that originates on the poor hearing side and routes the sound to the better ear. The CROS aid may be worn in behind-the-ear or eyeglass units. Another alternative is a transcranial hearing aid. This device is a powerful ear canal hearing aid that is fitted in the poorer ear. It allows sound to be conducted to the other side.
The BAHA device allows for conduction of sound through bone with almost no loss of sound quality. The BAHA device consists of a surgically implanted pedestal to which a hearing aid is attached. It is used to assist patients with single-sided deafness by routing sound from the deaf ear to the better hearing inner ear. It is also used in cases of conductive hearing loss that are not surgically correctable.