What research is being done on hearing aids?
Researchers are looking at ways to apply new signal processing strategies to the design of hearing
aids. Signal processing is the method used to modify normal sound waves into amplified sound that
best suits the hearing aid user. NIDCD-funded researchers also are studying how hearing aids can
enhance speech signals to improve understanding.
In addition, researchers are investigating the use of computer-aided technology to design and
manufacture better hearing aids. Researchers also are seeking ways to improve sound transmission
and to reduce noise interference, feedback, and the occlusion effect. Additional studies focus on the
best ways to select and fit hearing aids in children and other groups whose hearing ability is hard to
Another promising research focus is to use lessons learned from animal models to design better
microphones for hearing aids. NIDCD-supported scientists are studying the tiny fly Ormia ochracea
because its ear structure allows the fly to determine the source of a sound easily. Scientists are using
the fly’s ear structure as a model for designing miniature directional microphones for hearing aids.
These microphones amplify the sound coming from a particular direction (usually the direction a person
is facing), but not the sounds that arrive from other directions. Directional microphones hold great
promise for making it easier for people to hear a single conversation, even when surrounded by other
noises and voices.
Can I obtain financial assistance for a hearing aid?
Hearing aids are generally not covered by health insurance companies, although some do. Financing is
usually available. Heritage Hearing Care of New England contracts with numerous insurance
companies. Please check with us and we would be happy to verify your benefits. If no benefits are
offered we offer our patients Care Credit payment plans including some interest free and extended pay
Are new types of hearing aids available?
• Receiver-in-the-ear aids are the latest in hearing aids. They allow for a nice small unit to be placed
behind the ear with a small wire tip being placed in the ear canal. For many individuals these aids meet
aesthetic expectations while also meeting functionality needs. These aids tend to give a more natural
sound quality to the users voice.
• Bluetooth compatible hearing aids. Hearing aids at all price ranges can work with hands free
Bluetooth devices that are worn around the neck. These assist in hearing the cell phone and television
• Middle ear implants, (MEI), work differently than the hearing aids described above. A middle ear
implant is a small device attached to one of the bones of the middle ear. Rather than amplifying the
sound traveling to the eardrum, an MEI moves these bones directly. This results in strengthening
sound vibrations entering the inner ear so that they can be detected. Surgery is required and a
thorough consultation with an otolaryngologist to implant the device.
• A bone-anchored hearing aid (BAHA) is a small device that attaches to the bone behind the ear. The
device transmits sound vibrations directly to the inner ear through the skull, bypassing the middle ear.
BAHAs are generally used by individuals with middle ear problems or deafness in one ear. Surgery and
a consultation with an otolaryngologist is required to implant this device.
How can I care for my hearing aid?
Proper maintenance and care will extend the life of your hearing aid. Make it a habit to:
• Keep hearing aids away from heat and moisture.
• Clean hearing aids as instructed. Earwax and ear drainage can damage a hearing aid.
• Avoid using hairspray or other hair care products while wearing hearing aids.
• Turn off hearing aids when they are not in use.
• Replace dead batteries immediately.
• Keep replacement batteries and all aids away from children and pets.
• Use drying systems as needed to keep moisture buildup at a minimum.
How can I adjust to my hearing aid?
Hearing aids take time and patience to use successfully. Wearing your aids regularly will help you
adjust to them.
Become familiar with your hearing aid’s features. With your hearing instrument specialist present,
practice putting in and taking out the aid, cleaning it, identifying right and left aids, and replacing the
batteries. Ask how to test it in listening environments where you have problems with hearing. Learn to
adjust the aid’s volume and to program it for sounds that are too loud or too soft. Work with your
hearing instrument specialist until you are comfortable and satisfied. You may experience some of the
following problems as you adjust to wearing your new aid.
• My hearing aid feels uncomfortable. Some individuals may find a hearing aid to be slightly
uncomfortable at first. Many people when getting new hearing aids will wear the aid in increasing
amounts of time the first couple of days. The goal is to be able to wear your aids eight to twelve or
more hours a day. If the aid/mold is uncomfortable, then in office modifications can typically be
• My voice sounds too loud. The “plugged-up” sensation that causes a hearing aid user’s voice to
sound louder inside the head is called the occlusion effect, and it is very common for new hearing aid
users. Most individuals get used to this effect over time but a programming adjustment may need to be
• I get feedback from my hearing aid. A whistling sound can be caused by a hearing aid that does not
fit or work well or is clogged by earwax or fluid. Many digital hearing instruments have feedback
managers that can be utilized to minimize feedback.
• I hear background noise. A hearing aid does not completely separate the sounds you want to hear
from the ones you do not want to hear. Sometimes, however, the hearing aid may need to be adjusted.
Many hearing aids have different strengths of noise suppression systems that can easily be adjusted
on the computer by the hearing specialist.
• I hear a buzzing sound when I use my cell phone. Some people who wear hearing aids or have
implanted hearing devices experience problems with the radio frequency interference caused by digital
cell phones. Both hearing aids and cell phones are improving so these problems are occurring less
often. When you are being fitted for a new hearing aid, take your cell phone with you to see if it will
work well with the aid. Some hearing aids with manual override capability can have a special phone
program placed in to the device for talking on the telephone. New digital technology hearing
instruments are compatible with Bluetooth wireless technology. This is accomplished by wearing an
ancillary product around your neck that a Bluetooth cell phone pairs with wirelessly. This in turn will
allow for hands free hearing through both hearing aids.
What questions should I ask before buying a hearing aid?
Before you buy a hearing aid, ask your hearing instrument specialist these important questions:
• What features would be most useful to me?
• What is the total cost of the hearing aid? Do the benefits of newer technologies outweigh the higher
• Is there a trial period to test the hearing aids? (Most manufacturers allow a 30- to 60-day trial period
during which aids can be returned for a refund.) What fees are nonrefundable if the aids are returned
after the trial period?
• How long is the warranty? Can it be extended? Does the warranty cover future maintenance and
• Can the hearing instrument specialist make adjustments and provide servicing and minor repairs?
Will loaner aids be provided when repairs are needed?
• What instruction does the hearing specialist provide?