Learn about the types of hearing aids, who they benefit and how they work.
What are hearing aids?
Hearing aids are small electronic devices which capture and amplify sound and send it down the ear canal, through the middle ear to the inner ear. Some advanced hearing aids also have ways of processing sounds to help people with hearing loss hear and communicate better. There are different types of hearing aids - some are worn behind the ear, some in the ear and some in the ear canal.
Who can they benefit?
Hearing aids work best for people with mild to severe hearing loss.
What do they look like?
There are many different hearing aid designs to match different kinds of hearing loss. See the Types of hearing aids section for pictures and descriptions of the various types. Hearing aid technology is constantly improving, allowing for more sophisticated features, greater power and smaller and more stylish designs.
- Steps to getting hearing aids
Getting a hearing aid is a simple, straightforward and fairly speedy process. You can typically have your hearing test and hearing aid fitted, or at least a hearing aid trial initiated in the same appointment. Once fitted with your hearing aid, you should use it every day, so your brain and ear can re-adjust to the world of sound as quickly as possible. This is particularly important during your initial trial period, when you will be evaluating your hearing aid to ensure it works well for your lifestyle and different listening environments.
As hearing needs often changes over time, you should continue to visit your audiologist or hearing specialist for regular check-ups. The good news is that modern hearing aids are flexible and can be easily adjusted or upgraded to match your evolving hearing.
Steps to getting a hearing aid
1. Hearing test
Your hearing health specialist will test your hearing to determine the type and degree of your hearing loss and if you may benefit from a hearing aid. They will probably also ask you questions about how hearing loss affects your everyday life and your medical history. The results of your hearing tests will be recorded on a graph called an audiogram, which your hearing specialist will explain in detail.
2. Hearing aid evaluation
If you have a hearing loss, your hearing health specialist will discuss what to expect from hearing aids. It’s important you understand the different types of hearing aids and their pros and cons before making a treatment decision. If you have hearing loss in both ears, your hearing specialist is likely to recommend you use two hearing aids (one for each ear). If you already have hearing aids, your hearing specialist will advise if your hearing loss has progressed to the point where you need new ones or should consider a different hearing technology.
3. Fitting and testing
Your audiologist or hearing specialist will fit your selected hearing aids and test them to make sure they are working well for you. Testing typically involves placing a tiny microphone in your ear alongside your new hearing aid to measure the actual sound waves your hearing aid produces. Your hearing specialist will know if the amount of amplification is correct for your hearing loss.
4. Trial period
In Australia, the United States and many countries across Europe, most reputable audiologists and hearing specialists are required to provide at least a 30-day trial period.
If hearing aids do not work for you, their cost should be refunded if they are returned within the trial period, but the fitting/programming fee may not be. It is important to get the most out of this trial period by wearing your hearing aids as much as possible, in as many settings as possible. You should also note any hearing situations that don’t seem right, and return to your hearing specialist for any necessary adjustments.
You will visit your hearing specialist at a follow-up appointment a few weeks after your hearing aids have been fitted. They will check your progress and identify the sounds, tones and speech you can hear with your hearing aids, and provide fine-tuning if needed. They will also review how to wear, use and care for your hearing aids to get the most out of them and prolong their life.
6. Long-term use
Getting used to hearing aids takes time and patience. It may take a while to become accustomed to once again hearing all the sounds you have been missing, especially if your hearing loss has progressed over a long time. For best results, you should wear your hearing aids every day, not just for special occasions.
It’s important to remember that hearing aids can’t restore normal hearing or completely filter out background noise. However if sounds don’t seem right or you don’t think you are getting the full benefit of the hearing aid, you should speak to your hearing specialist about your concerns. If your hearing loss has progressed to the point where hearing aids are no longer enough, your hearing specialist may recommend a cochlear implant or a direct bone conduction system.
Learn more about types of hearing aids
Learn about cochlear implants
Learn about bone conduction hearing implants
Learn about adult aural rehabilitation
Find a hearing specialist in your area to discuss how to get a hearing aid and whether they could benefit you
- Cost and insurance
Many forms of private and government health insurance do not cover the costs of hearing aids or the tests and services needed to get them. A few states are moving toward requiring some insurance coverage, and certain insurance companies let you add hearing coverage to your insurance plan for an additional fee. However, these plans usually only cover a small portion of the costs. Before being fitted for a hearing aid(s), you should look into the costs and reimbursement offered by your insurance.
The NHS covers the cost of a basic hearing aid for those who need them. You can also access private hearing aid dispensers on your high street (at extra cost).
- What to expect
The year after receiving your hearing loss treatment is a crucial period on your journey to better hearing. During this time you will work closely with your audiologist and other hearing and speech specialists to fine-tune your hearing device and learn how to listen and communicate again. Remember your participation in the rehabilitation process is key to the long-term success of your new hearing technology.
Hearing aids - after fitting
Most audiologists and other hearing aid providers allow a trial period of at least 30 days, during which time you should use your hearing aids as much as possible, in as many settings as possible. You should also note any hearing situations that don’t seem right, and return to your hearing specialist for necessary adjustments.
Hearing aids - follow-up
You will visit your audiologist or hearing specialist at a follow-up appointment a few weeks after your hearing aids have been fitted. They will check your progress and identify the sounds, tones and speech you can hear with your hearing aids, and provide fine-tuning if needed. They will also review how to wear, use and care for your hearing aids to get the most out of them and prolong their life.
Hearing aids – rehabilitation
You will need to be patient and committed as your ear and brain learn how to hear new sounds. This may take some time, especially if your hearing loss has progressed over a long time. To get the most out of your hearing aids, you should wear them every day, not just for special occasions.
You will also work with your audiologist and other hearing and speech specialists on a range of aural rehabilitation activities. These will focus on optimising your hearing aids, exploring assistive devices that might help, and learning new listening and communication skills.
It’s important to remember that hearing aids can’t restore normal hearing or completely filter out background noise. However if sounds don’t seem right or you don’t think you are getting the full benefit of the hearing aid, you should speak to your audiologist or hearing specialist about your concerns. If your hearing loss has progressed to the point where hearing aids are no longer enough, your hearing specialist may recommend a more advanced hearing technology such as a cochlear implant or a direct bone conduction system.
The information on this website is for educational purposes, and is not intended to replace medical advice. Please consult a hearing healthcare professional to diagnose or treat a hearing or health problem.