A hearing aid is an external device that is worn in or behind the ear to amplify sounds, enabling some hearing impaired people to hear more clearly. Individuals whose hearing impairment stems from damage to the hair cells, small sensory cells in the inner ear, may benefit from a hearing aid. This type of hearing impairment is typically the result of disease, injury, or aging. Hearing aids work by magnifying sound vibrations that enter the ear, which are detected by surviving hair cells. The hair cells are then able to complete their normal actions and transfer these sound vibrations into neural impulses that are passed to the brain, where they are interpreted as sound. While these devices may seem miraculous to somebody who has developed a hearing impairment, they are not without problems.
Hearing aids may be expensive to purchase and maintain, especially where replacement batteries are concerned. Depending on the style and size of the hearing aid, the device may be easily visible, be difficult to remove, prove difficult to replace the batteries of, interfere with the wearing of eyeglasses, cause feedback, or pick up excessive background or wind noises. Your doctor or audiologist may discuss the pros and cons of each style with you and help you determine the best hearing aid for your lifestyle. Furthermore, hearing aids may actually cause physical pain.
The main source of pain from hearing aids is a bad fit. Like with new shoes or glasses, a new hearing aid will require a period of adjustment. The patient will likely be very aware of the presence of the new hearing aid for a few days. If the hearing aid is painful, however, it may be inserted improperly or it may not fit correctly. To ensure you are properly inserting your hearing aid, your audiologist or hearing aid specialist should have you practice inserting and removing the hearing aid a number of times in the office. In other situations, a hearing aid may create “hot spots,” a spot on which the hearing aid rubs and causes irritation. If you experience a hot spot, stop wearing the hearing aid and see your hearing aid specialist as soon as possible for an adjustment. Hot spots may be extremely painful, but fortunately are usually quickly and easily corrected.
A hearing aid may not work properly if it does not fit correctly, and the pain of a poorly fitting hearing aid may deter the patient from wearing it. Your audiologist or hearing aid specialist know this, and should be happy to work with you until you find the right fit.