You may have hearing loss and not even be aware of it. People of all ages experience gradual hearing loss, often due to either the natural aging process or long exposure to loud noise. Other causes of hearing loss include viruses or bacteria, heart conditions or stroke, head injuries, tumors, and certain medications. Treatment for hearing loss will depend on your diagnosis.
The aural or hearing sense is a complex and intricate process. The ear is made up of three sections: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. These parts work together so you can hear and process sounds. The outer ear, or pinna (the part you can see), picks up sound waves and the waves then travel through the outer ear canal.
When the sound waves hit the eardrum in the middle ear, the eardrum starts to vibrate. When the eardrum vibrates, it moves three tiny bones in your ear. These bones are called the hammer (or malleus), anvil (or incus), and stirrup (or stapes). They help sound move along on its journey into the inner ear.
The vibrations then travel to the cochlea, which is filled with liquid and lined with cells that have thousands of tiny hairs on their surfaces. The sound vibrations make the tiny hairs move. The hairs then change the sound vibrations into nerve signals, so your brain can interpret the sound.
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TYPES OF HEARING AIDS
Most people with hearing loss can benefit from hearing aids. Just as there are different types and degrees of hearing loss, there are different hearing instruments with a wide range of functions and features to address a variety of individual needs. Here is a brief summary of the most popular types and styles of hearing aids available today.
This is the smallest type of hearing aid available and it is almost invisible in the ear. All the components are housed in a small case that fits far into the ear canal. This takes advantage of the ear's own anatomical design and ability to collect sound naturally.
CICs are custom made for each ear; however, these hearing aids are restricted to people with ear canals large enough to accommodate the insertion depth of the instrument into the ear. Also, the CIC style uses a very small battery that requires good manual dexterity. This type of hearing aid is not suitable for people with severe hearing losses
A little bigger than the CIC, the ITC hearing aids also fit far into the ear canal. Canal hearing aids use a slightly larger battery than the CIC style. This style is used for mild to moderate hearing losses.
These hearing aids can be used for a wider range of hearing losses. Due to their larger size, ITEs can accommodate larger sound amplifiers and more features such as a telephone switch. They are also easier to handle for many people.
In BTE hearing aids, the electronics are housed in a case that fits behind the ear. Tubing and a custom-made earmould direct the sound to the ear canal. Due to its robust design, this style is especially recommended for children. BTE hearing aids can provide more amplification than smaller devices due to the stronger amplifier and larger battery. This style is available in several colors to match people's hair and skin tone, or in bright, fun colors for children.