New Options for People With Significant Hearing Loss

Relaxed senior man outdoors with options about hearing loss.

Researchers and scientists have been hard at work to develop technological solutions that can help those with significant hearing loss hear better. These solutions may not be perfect, but they can and do open important doors for those with severe to profound hearing loss.

Communicating With Profound Hearing Loss

There was a time when there were few options to those with hearing loss that was rated as severe or profound to communicate. At “severe” levels, you might have a hard time hearing anything quieter than 70dB (essentially anything quieter than a lawnmower). That’s where the support of your family, your friends, or your community became essential for connecting to the rest of the world.

If you have profound hearing loss, you may rely on written communications, lip-reading, or American Sign Language to communicate with others. American Sign Language can be very effective, but an obvious drawback is that the other person needs to know ASL too.

For a long time, hearing aids simply were not a viable solution for severe or profound hearing loss. They just weren’t powerful enough to make communicating comfortable. Thankfully, that’s no longer the case. New hearing types known as “power” or “superpower” models have been developed to help those with significant hearing loss.

In general, these models fit over the ear. The smaller, inside the ear (ITE) or inside the canal (ITC) styles of hearing aids simply do not have enough power to produce the desired effects. That said, hearing aids that help those with significant hearing loss have indeed become smaller in recent years (some models are even so small that they can be fit on babies, which can help with language development).

A Hearing Aid at the Right Volume

If you decide to try hearing aids, your hearing specialist will work to ensure that your hearing aid is loud enough that you can make out sounds easily but not so loud that you’ll further damage your hearing in any way. That’s why most hearing specialists will use a fairly rigorous testing method to ensure the best possible results. It’s not enough to have that extra power. As with any other hearing aid, that power needs to be calibrated in order to produce therapeutic benefits.

These high-powered (and finely-calibrated) hearing aids have certain benefits:

  • You have control over when (and for how long) you wear your hearing aids.
  • Hearing aids can be tailored to your ears, ensuring long term comfort.
  • As new technology becomes available, you can upgrade your hearing aids and switch to newer models.

Cochlear Implants

In many ways, cochlear implants are a modern medical marvel. These devices can help people with specific types of hearing impairments recover some of their lost hearing. But they aren’t for everyone. Cochlear implants will require surgery–and as such, they are a more permanent option. Additionally, cochlear implants won’t necessarily work with every type of deafness.

That’s not to take away from how they can transform someone’s life. These devices are extremely effective. But many people with significant hearing loss may be able to achieve similar results with a high-power hearing aid.

Most people rely on a variety of strategies to communicate. But it’s good to have options.

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