Hearing Aids and Assistive Listening Aids

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Missing in this page is more information about selecting your audiologist and your hearing aid dispenser in various countries, as well as programs for financing hearing aid purchase.

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How to buy an hearing aid

You may want to look in the November 1992 issue of Consumer Reports. There is an article on pages 716 thru 721 entitled "How to Buy a Hearing Aid". I found it to be most helpful. Another suggestion is just to ask other hearing aid users their opinions.

(Contributed by Tony Schreiber at 9 Nov 1993.)

Don't believe everything your hearing aid dealer tells you.

I am a Deaf history buff. During my research, I have not yet seen such argument that inferred Deaf people were against hearing aids. It is possible that I overlook this, but most of my findings mentioned that the Deaf community was not against the hearing aids itself, but aganist the people who tried to sell hearing aids. One of the tactics they used to convince people were that they helped the deaf children to speak better, to hear perfectly and to improve on their reading and writing skills, etc. Here is one of the most drastic examples: In 1950's, a group of hearing aid manufacturers and speech and hearing pathologists tried to get a bill passed in the Pennsylvania Legistative to became a state law. The bill proposed that Deaf persons would be required to have hearing aids if they wanted to drive a car. Fortunately, this bill was thrown out. If it had been passed, the hearing aid manfacturers and audiologists would have profited from the law.

(Contributed by Reggie at 15 Nov 1993.)

What does an hearing loss measurement mean?

Disclaimer: I think the information here, acquired largely in order to understand my own hearing impairment, is fundamentally accurate. However, I have no formal training in hearing sciences and moreover have deliberately omitted some issues (e.g. those concerning frequency) and simplified others to save space.

The decibel (db) is essentially a measure of loudness of sounds, and the higher the decibel number, the louder the sound. The faintest sounds normal-hearing humans can sense are around 20 db. Sounds of much over 120 db cause pain (for everyone with an eardrum, deaf as well normal-hearing). I believe that past 150 db or so, we're talking about shock waves and blast effects rather than sound.

As a measure of hearing impairment, decibel level refers to how loud sounds must be for the individual to hear them. Thus "Hollow Chocolate" Sarah's 40-decibel hearing loss means that she can hear only sounds somewhat louder than 40 db -- what she has "lost" is all sounds of about 40 db or less. This matters because the sounds of normal conversation range from about 40 db (such unvoiced consonants as "s" and "f") to about 60 db (the louder vowels), so Sarah probably misses a few speech sounds. This is called a "mild" hearing impairment, and hearing aids might help Sarah a little, or might be not worth the trouble.

Someone with a hearing loss of about 60 decibels, a "moderate" hearing impairment, has lost all the sounds of normal conversation and almost certainly would be helped by a hearing aid.

Many people with mild or moderate losses can get pretty much all speech sounds with the help of hearing aids, but someone with a loss of about 75 decibels, a "severe" hearing impairment, probably cannot get all speech sounds even with a properly fitted hearing aid. Roughly, this is because amplification that brings 40-db consonants up to 75 db will simultaneously push the 60-db vowels to 95 db, and for reasons I don't quite understand 95-db sounds will drown out 75-db sounds (even though 60-db vowels don't drown out 40-db consonants for those who can hear them unamplified); meanwhile, non-speech sounds and other background noises are also amplified, aggravating the problem. This can be dealt with to some extent by electronic trickery, but the bottom line is that the severely hearing impaired miss a significant fraction of the sounds of speech, many to the point of being unable to understand speech by hearing alone even with optimally fitted hearing aids.

A person with a 90-decibel loss, a "profound" hearing impairment, has the problems of the severely impaired in much more extreme forms: amplification that makes the soft consonants hearable makes the loud vowels (and many background noises) nearly painful. Probably the only speech sounds such a person, even with properly fitted and set hearing aids, can hear are vowels, and even these are easily drowned out by background noise. Consequently most if not all of the profoundly hearing impaired who can understand speech normally depend at least as heavily on speechreading as on hearing to do so.

A person with a 110-decibel loss can, at best, hear only some of the sounds of vowels (which are actually fairly complex sounds, not pure tones). Nevertheless, as Bryce Carey says, the human brain is a devious instrument, and this much hearing can make understanding speech significantly easier than lipreading alone. (I believe that there is at least one person with this degree of loss who can use the telephone. Not just via TTY: this guy can actually understand his mother's speech over the phone).

That is really the limit of "useable" hearing. Someone with a 120-decibel loss effectively can hear only painfully loud sounds and thus probably cannot use this hearing, at least for understanding speech.

(Contributed by David James at 3 Feb 1995.)

My 7 year old child does not want to wear his hearing aid. What to do?


Does anyone have any suggestions on how to encourage a 7-year-old to wear hearing aids without forcing him to wear them? We have been offering them to him and asking him if he would like to wear them. Sometimes he says yes, other times he says no. He needs to wear them more often in order to get any benefit from them.

I'm especially disappointed that he did not want to wear them tonight, when the classic "The Sound of Music" was on NBC. The voices are so beautiful in this movie, even I can tell that with my hearing aids.


First, I would check his earmolds - are they old? Do they fit well? Maybe they are uncomfortable or causing annoying feedback.

Second, I would check to see if he has an ear infection. Lots of kids who usually love their aids suddenly dump them when their ears hurt.

Third, I would check to see if the aid(s) are working. It's possible that that the mic or receiver (or something else) has failed and all he is hearing is a loud static noise or greatly distorted sound.

Fourth, is it possible that his hearing has changed and they don't sound as good as they used to?

Fifth, (actually, I would probably do this first) I would ask him.

As you, as a hearing aid wearer, know, there are times when kids who usually love their aids ("what? I have to take them off to sleep?!?) just decide they don't want to bother with them. Maybe he has been teased by someone recently or maybe he is just curious what it's like not to have to wear them. If this is the case with your son, then I suggest waiting it out. Continue just as you have been, offering them, but not pushing. [We all know that a kid who is pushed, pushes BACK :-) ] And keep in mind, The Sound of Music is out on video and you can rent it when he decides he likes his aids again! :-) In my experience, for kids who normally do like their aids, this period is relatively short - a week or two. It also is very common in middle school - around the age of 12 -15.

The other possibility is aids never really made a difference for him, and he has just realized that and doesn't know how else to tell you. We all have heard the stories of kids feeding their aids to the dog or flushing them down the toilet (this seems to be a favorite for kids!). This is just their way of telling us the aids don't do squat and they'd rather not bother with them. If this is the case with your son, well.....then rejoice that you won't have to deal with your insurance company any longer! :-)

Hope this helps!

Mrs. Geeslin - the audiologist :-) (otherwise known as Holly)

(Contributed by Holly Geeslin at 9 Apr 1995.)

How to keep aids on 20-month old?

We are the parents of 2 hearing impaired childern plus 2 hearing (one adopted). We used hair tape to help keep the aids securely on the children. We also use fish line tied to the elbow which can then be tied to a safety pin on the collar of the child.

In addition, you can ask your audologist for a "loop" which goes around the ear to help keep the hearing aids on.

(Contributed by Larry Herrman at 8 Dec 1995.)

My old father is losing his hearing and does not admit it.

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Last update date: 
1996 Feb 22