Sensorinueral hearing loss can be temporary or permanent. Many causes of sensorineural hearing loss that are related to disease or infection can be treated with corticosteroids or antibiotics, or a combination of both.
If sensorineural hearing loss is permanent or does not respond to treatment, then hearing aids may be prescribed.
How Hearing Aids Work
All hearing aids work in the same fashion. A microphone picks up signals, an amplifier increases the signal, the signal gets sent into the ear canal and the human body takes it from there, changing the signal into an electrical impulse that travels from the nerve to the brain where it is translated into “sound.” Hearing aids are like eye glasses, in that eye glasses are an aid to seeing correctly. When you take off your glasses, your vision is still poor. When you remove your hearing aids, your hearing will still be poor. Hearing aids are unlike eye glasses in that they cannot restore perfect hearing the way some glasses can give 20/20 vision.
Types of Hearing Aids for Sensorineural Hearing Loss
There are two basic types of hearing aids that may be prescribed for mild to severe sensorineural hearing loss: behind the ear (BTE) and in the ear (ITE). A cochlear implant may be recommended for severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss.
ITEs are used by about 80% of people that wear hearing aids. The circuitry that makes the hearing aid operate is located in the external portion of the ear. Some styles are designed to fit deeply in the ear, with no portion in the concha (external ear). These types of hearing aids are barely noticeable, and because of their design, they transmit less wind noise to the wearer. This may not be an important feature to a person that spends most of their time indoors, but it is a great benefit to sportsmen, outdoorsmen, and people who work outside for a living.
BTEs are very popular for children and people with moderate to profound hearing loss. They are made of two parts, the small case that fits snugly behind the ear and a custom ear mold that fits inside the ear. This style is popular for children because only the ear mold will need to be replaced as the child grows. Hearing aids are expensive, and replacing the entire aid as the child grows would be costly. Because these styles have the option to be more powerful than some of their ITE cousins, they are also used when hearing loss is severe to profound.
Implants are used when hearing aids are not effective in providing speech benefit. Cochlear implants bypass the damaged portion of the inner ear and deliver impulses directly to the auditory nerve. They have an external component and an internal component. The internal component is implanted in the bone under the skin behind the ear during a surgical procedure. The external portion is called a sound processor and is worn behind the ear. The two parts connect via a magnet from the processor to the implant and radio frequency transmission across the skin.
Hearing Aid Adjustment and Cochlear Implant Mapping
Just as it can take time to get used to wearing glasses or contacts, wearing hearing aids or living with a cochlear implant takes time as well.
BTE and ITE hearing aids may need to be adjusted by your audiologist. Don’t be surprised to discover that you will need to schedule time for a follow-up visit. An audiologist will adjust your cochlear implants using a process referred to as “mapping.” Keeping a journal of how long you wore your hearing aids and any issues you had with hearing will help the adjustment process go smoothly.
Remember, your audiologist is your partner in better hearing and stands ready to help you.