Educational Information - The Hearing Center

Educational Information

The Hearing Process

The ear is generally divided into three parts: the outer or external ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear.

The external ear (the visible portion of the ear) collects sound and sends it to the ear drum. The eardrum is a small membrane that separates the outer ear from the middle ear.

The middle ear houses a chain of three tiny bones that are connected together, the first of which is attached to the eardrum. These bones are set into vibration by movement of the eardrum which continues the transmission of sound through the pathway of hearing. The third bone in the chain is attached to the inner ear by another small membrane or window.

The inner ear contains the tiny nerve endings for balance and hearing. It also contains a very unique fluid that becomes set in motion by movement (or displacement) of the small window. The tiny nerve endings are then stimulated and each send a message or impulse to the brain.

The brain is separated into two sides or hemispheres. The left hemisphere receives the majority of information collected by the right ear, while the right hemisphere of the brain receives the majority of information collected by the left ear. The brain interprets the information received and the sensation of hearing occurs. The small differences in the intensity (or loudness) of the sound reaching our ears, along with the time it takes for sound to reach our ears, plays an important role in our brain's ability to filter noise, interpret or understand speech, and determine the direction from which sound is coming.

When sound is processed through only one ear, the brain is deprived of this very important information, and its efficiency in interpreting sound is dramatically reduced. Therefore, both ears play a significant role in the process of hearing.

Types of Impairment

Basically, there are three types of hearing impairment: conductive, sensorineural and mixed.

Since the outer ear and middle ear are involved in the conduction of sound, a problem located in these areas is considered a conductive hearing impairment. It may be corrected or partially corrected with surgery and/or medication. Amplification or the use of hearing aids may also be an option.

A problem associated with the inner ear is considered a sensorineural hearing impairment. Generally, this type of hearing impairment is the result of damage or degeneration to the tiny nerve endings. It is usually not correctable with surgery or medication. The use of amplification is typically the treatment of choice.If both of these types of hearing impairment occur at the same time, the result is a mixed hearing impairment.

Adapting to Hearing Aids

Adapting to your hearing aids may take time. Be patient. Adjustment time may vary between people. If you're having difficulty, don't give up. Contact our clinic for assistance.

The Hearing Aids

Within the hearing aid, a microphone acts as an artificial ear to "hear" sounds which the human impaired ear may no longer be able to hear. After careful filtering and electronic processing, the sounds are amplified, routed through a speaker and directed into the ear canal.

Begin Gradually

Start by wearing your hearing aids for short periods of time. If you begin to feel fatigued from listening to amplified sounds, remove the hearing aids and rest awhile. If the hearing aids cause pain or irritation, leave them out of your ears and call our clinic immediately.

Quiet Situations

Wear the hearing aids at home where the environment is relatively quiet and can be controlled. Gradually begin to use them in different noise environments.

Position Yourself

Situate yourself in a room so you're directed toward the sound you want to hear and away from distracting noise.

Practice Localizing

Try to determine from which direction a sound is coming and estimate the distance from the sound source.

Sort Out the Noise

Amplified sounds may seem unnatural, particularly if you're not accustomed to hearing them. Certain features of hearing aids are able to reduce the problems this causes, but background noise is still a concern for many hearing aid users. You must re-learn to separate the sounds, identify them, and tune out the noise all over again.

Know Your Limits

Wear your hearing aids in as many listening environments as possible. Learn what you can and can't adapt to. Remember to use communication strategies in difficult listening situations.

Hearing Aid Maintenance

Hearing Aid Care

  1. Always insert and remove your hearing aids over a soft surface.
  2. Do not expose your hearing aids to excessive or direct heat.
  3. Do not expose your hearing aids to excessive moisture.
  4. Remove your hearing aids for CAT, MRI scans or other electromagnetic procedures.
  5. Remove the batteries if you store your hearing aids for any extended length of time.
  6. Never use any tools--other than the tools provided by our clinic--to clean your hearing aids.

Dry Aid Kit

The purpose of a dry aid kit is to remove moisture which may build up in the hearing aid. Moisture can occur from perspiration, condensation or humidity in the air. Dry aid kits are available from our clinic.

Using a Dry Aid Kit

  1. Remove the batteries from the hearing aids and set them aside. The life of a zinc air battery is reduced by exposure to the active ingredients in a dry aid kit.
  2. Leave the battery doors open.
  3. Put the hearing aids (and ear molds if applicable) into the kit.
  4. Seal the kit.
  5. Leave the hearing aids in the kit overnight. More or less drying time may be necessary depending on the amount of moisture present.
  6. Keep the kit closed at all times to extend its usable life.

Battery Information

A good battery is vital for a hearing aid to function properly. The following information will help you obtain optimal battery life and avoid potential problems.

  1. The tab should be removed from the battery 30 to 60 seconds before installing it into the hearing aid.
  2. Battery life depends on: the size of the battery, the drain produced by the hearing aid circuitry, hours of use per day, and listening conditions. If the battery is not lasting as long as expected, track battery life by placing removed battery tabs on your calendar. This will help you determine the average battery life.
  3. Contact your audiologist for the expected battery life in your instruments.
  4. Store batteries in a cool, dry place. Do not refrigerate. Leave the tab in place until you are ready to install the battery. Do not carry loose batteries in your pocket or purse, as contact with other metal objects may short-circuit the batteries.
  5. Remove batteries before placing hearing aids into a dry aid kit.
  6. When the hearing aids are not in use, swing open the battery door. This will ensure the best battery life.
  7. Batteries may be purchased at our office or through our mail order program.
  8. Keep batteries away from children, pets and medications. If a battery is accidentally swallowed, seek medical attention immediately or call the Battery Ingestion Hotline 202-625-3333

Troubleshooting

Some common problems and possible causes for a hearing aid not working properly are listed below, along with some tips which might be helpful in determining the solution. If you need help correcting a problem, please contact our clinic for assistance.

Feedback (squeal or whistling)

  1. Volume adjustment of the hearing aid may be too high. Re-adjust to 1/4 - 1/2 on.
  2. The earmold or hearing aid may not be properly seated into the ear. Remove the earmold or hearing aid and re-insert it into the ear.
  3. Excessive wax may be in your ear canal, causing the sound to reflect back. Check with your physician or audiologist to determine if this is the case.
  4. The earmold or hearing aid may not fit properly. If growth or weight changes have occurred, contact our clinic to see if a new earmold or hearing aid recase is necessary.
  5. Placing a hat or hand over the microphone of the hearing aid may cause feedback.

Intermittent Sound

  1. Moisture may have accumulated in the hearing aid. Use a dry aid kit.
  2. The internal components or a switch may be damaged. Call our clinic for assistance.
  3. The battery contacts may be corroded. Contact our clinic for assistance.

No Sound

  1. The battery may be weak or dead.
  2. The battery contacts may be corroded. Contact our clinic for assistance.
  3. The canal opening of the earmold or hearing aid may be blocked with wax or debris. Clean the opening with a soft brush and/or wire loop (provided with your hearing aids). Daily cleaning will help reduce recurrence of this problem.

Other Problems

  1. Check the earmold, tubing or speaker tubing to be sure they are not plugged with wax or moisture.
  2. If you are troubled with excessive earwax, contact our clinic for assistance.