New advances in circuitry also help to reduce environmental sounds, such as wind, without sacrificing speech intelligibility, said Dr. Coelho. This is ideal for someone who spends a lot of time outside, he said.
Explore This IssueMarch 2009
Technology also allows hearing aids to achieve more amplification before an individual is bothered by feedback, noted Dr. Palmer. Feedback has been one of the challenges frequently associated with open hearing aid systems, she noted.
No automatic chip does what the patient wants it to all the time, noted Dr. Hawkins, so hearing aid models have an override option. Hearing instrument companies are working on refining their algorithms for these automatic settings, he added.
Type of Hearing Aid Is Individualized to the Patient
While open-ear devices have their benefits, they are not for everyone, noted Dr. Palmer. Decisions on what style is best for a particular patient depends on audiometric results and the individual’s specific communication needs, demands, and lifestyle, she said.
For example, someone who is outdoors a lot may need a water-resistant device, said Dr. Palmer. Additionally, people who are physically active may not want BTE devices because they are afraid of having them knocked off, she said. In these cases, a hearing aid that fits completely in the ear canal (CIC) may be a better option, she said.
One drawback of CIC hearing aids is that they cannot house directional microphones because of how small they are and where they sit in the ear, said Dr. Barton. However, an advantage of the device is that less power may be needed because it requires a potentially deeper fitting near the tympanic membrane, and the concha is open and resonates, increasing the high-frequency input to the hearing aid microphone, she explained.
Collaboration Between Otolaryngologists and Audiologists
In today’s health care and reimbursement environment, otolaryngologists may have little time to talk to patients about their many hearing aid options, noted Dr. Hawkins. The ENT can encourage patients to pursue hearing aids and work with a good audiologist, he said.
Overall, a good working relationship between otolaryngologists and audiologists is absolutely critical to providing the best care for patients and their hearing needs, according to both Gregory Artz, MD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, and Nancy Catterall, AuD, F-AAA, Director of the Jefferson Balance and Hearing Center at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.