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Q. How do hearing aids work?


A. Hearing aids convert speech and other sounds to acoustic signals, which they then amplify. Some hearing aids depress lower-frequency sounds and amplify higher-frequency sounds.


Developing technology has produced increasingly smaller, more efficient hearing aids. There are several different types, informally named by their placement in or around the ear: behind-the-ear, in-the-ear, or in-the-canal hearing aids.


It's important to remember that although hearing aids can amplify sounds, they won't make words clearer or speech easier to understand, except by making the sounds louder.


Q. How will my health care provider know if I need a hearing aid?


A. Your health care provider will take a complete medical history and do a physical exam to rule out other causes of hearing loss that may be treated medically or surgically. He'll also determine whether the loss is the result of medication, infection, or another problem. If you have true hearing loss, your provider will recommend evaluation by a licensed audiologist to determine the best type of hearing aid for you.


Q. How do I use my hearing aid?


A. First, you need to know how to insert your hearing aid:


* Wash your hands.


* Make sure the hearing aid is turned off and the volume is all the way down.


* If you have an ear mold-type hearing aid, check the mold to be sure you have the right one (they're shaped differently for each ear). Then line up the mold with your ear, tip it forward slightly, and place in the canal.


* Gently push the hearing aid into place while rotating it backward slightly to line up with your ear. The ear mold should fit snugly and comfortably.


* Gently adjust the other pieces of your hearing aid. Place the behind-the-ear section carefully over your ear.


* Turn on the hearing aid and slowly raise the volume until it's at a comfortable level.



Wearing a hearing aid takes some adjustments. You may want to start out by wearing it for short periods and gradually increase wearing time until you feel you're used to having them on. Once you've adjusted, you should try to wear it as often as possible.


To remove your hearing aid: turn the hearing aid off and the volume all the way down. Then, rotate the ear mold forward and gently pull outward to remove it.


Q. How do I care for my hearing aid?


A. It's important to keep your hearing aid-especially the ear mold-clean, dry, and free of ear wax. You can wash the mold part with mild soap and water, but be sure to detach it from the hearing aid part so you don't damage the electronics. If your hearing aid doesn't detach, you can simply wipe the mold section with a damp cloth. Never immerse your hearing aid in water. Likewise, be sure to store your clean, dry hearing aid in its case when you're not wearing it.


Q. How do I change the batteries?


A. Replace dead batteries in your hearing aid with new ones of the same type, following the manufacturer's instructions that came with your hearing aid. Before you insert the new batteries, make sure you've turned off your hearing aid. Check to be sure you're matching the positive and negative signs on the battery with those on the hearing aid. If you wear your hearing aid 10 to 12 hours a day, you'll probably need to change the batteries about once a week.


Q. Are there any special precautions I should take?


A. Remember that moisture and excessive heat are enemies of your hearing aid.


* Don't store your hearing aid near a stove, a heater, in direct sunlight, or near any other heat source.


* Be careful wearing your hearing aid if it's raining or snowing, or when you're engaged in an activity that causes you to perspire.


* Don't wear your hearing aid in the bathtub or shower or while using a hair dryer, vaporizer, or hair spray.


* Avoid dropping your hearing aid.



If you experience ear pain, drainage, or infection or if your ear mold doesn't fit properly or is uncomfortable, contact your health care provider.


This patient-education guide has been adapted for the 5th-grade level using the Flesch-Kincaid and SMOG formulas. It may be photocopied for clinical use or adapted to meet your facility's requirements. Selected references are available upon request.