Hearing Aids

As long as the cochlea and the auditory nerve survive, hearing loss can usually be compensated with an electronic hearing aid. Many of these are available. In principle, all are alike; a microphone picks up sound, an amplifier provides more energy, and an earpiece directs it to the hearing mechanism. Even if the eardrum and middle ear are damaged, a bone-conduction unit can often carry energy to the cochlea.

If the loss in hearing acuity is considerable, speech communication may no longer be satisfactory. In such circumstances (if not sooner), the use of a hearing aid should be considered. Loss in intelligibility is the usual result of loss in high-frequency sensitivity—which is often the result of continued exposure to noise. The frequency response of the hearing aid should be tailored to compensate for the specific deficiencies of the ear; if everything through the audible spectrum is simply made louder, the ear may be so affected by the low frequencies that no gain is realized in intelligibility.

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