A report by Access Economics reveals the financial impact of hearing loss on Australians affected by the condition, stating that productivity is hit with a 57% loss as around half of individuals with hearing loss are of working age. The report further notes that in 2005, around 160,000 Australians were unemployed due to hearing loss, and it is projected that by 2050, at least 1 in every 4 Australians will be affected by it.
More than the financial loss, quality of life may be affected as well. Thankfully, various cities across Australia offer a free hearing test with an accompanying subsidy for different types of hearing aids. If you or a loved one is experiencing some hearing loss, read on to find out how you can get your free hearing test today.
How Do I Get a Free Hearing Aid?
Once the extent and severity of the hearing loss is determined, you will find out if you are eligible for the free hearing aid courtesy of the Australian Government Hearing Services Program. The program even allows you to purchase hearing aids with more additional features through a partial subsidy. This way, you only need to pay for the gap amount.
The next step is to find a hearing aid that is compatible with your needs and lifestyle. An audiologist will guide you in choosing the right hearing aid for you depending on the extent of your hearing loss, your lifestyle and occupation, your expectations from the device, your other health concerns, and of course, your own preferences.
There are different types of hearing aids available in Australia, and it helps to understand the functions of each one so that you can make an informed decision as to which type best suits your specific needs.
What Are the Types of Hearing Aids in Australia?
The following options are available if you’re looking to find a hearing device to help you manage your hearing loss.
BTE Hearing Aids
This type of hearing aid sits on the cradle behind the top of your ear. The unit contains the battery, amplifier, microphone and receiver. The sound tube runs into your ear and ends with an ear mould or dome sitting in your ear canal. There are two types of behind the ear hearing aids: the high-powered BTE with ear mould and the open-fit BTE.
High-powered BTEs are for people with more severe hearing loss. These hearing aids require a larger battery and a more visible ear mould that goes into the ear.
An open-fit BTE is a bit more discreet since the dome and tube are smaller. This is good for people who can still catch low-pitched sounds or have difficulty fitting an ear mould. Since the dome is smaller, it allows for background noise to pass through. An audiologist may customise the hearing aid to catch frequencies you are no longer sensitive to and block out those that are negligible.
Since BTE hearing aids are larger than regular hearing aids, they are more visible and may also be inconvenient if you wear glasses. However, this type of hearing aid can accommodate a larger range of hearing loss and some models even have rechargeable batteries.
RIC Hearing Aids
Known by many names such as receiver in canal hearing aid, receiver in ear hearing aids, or RITE hearing aids, these hearing aids look similar to open-fit BTEs since they also have a small unit that sits behind the ear. The only difference is that the receiver is found at the end of a thin sound tube that runs into the ear canal.
There is no dome or mould that houses the receiver within the ear. This means that the ear is left open to allow air and other environmental sounds to flow in. The sound of your own voice is also modulated properly within your ear since it allows the sound to escape. You will find that that your ear does not feel plugged up due to the size of the unit.
RIC hearing aids provide a superior and crisp quality of sound due to their design. The sound will only travel a short distance within your ear canal, minimising integrity loss. However, with this design, it is also prone to moisture and wax damage. People with more active lifestyles may easily misplace this type of hearing aid due to its less noticeable design.
ITE Hearing Aids
In the ear hearing aids are slightly larger than RIC hearing aids, but they are inconspicuous when worn. The entire unit is placed inside the ear. Since these aids are not tethered, each unit is customised according to the ear canal of the wearer for comfort and security.
There are two types of ITE hearing aids: the CIC hearing aids and the ITC hearing aids. Completely in the canal hearing aids are virtually invisible since they are placed further back into the ear canal with only a small tab exposed to pull them out. In the canal hearing aids are placed a bit closer to the auricle. Some brands will offer colour customisation to match the hearing aid with your skin tone.
The device is calibrated by an audiologist, and it comes with a remote control for volume adjustment. These types of hearing aids are better suited for those with moderate hearing loss. The ears will feel plugged or completely blocked, but the auricle allows for natural sounds to be received. ITE hearing aids may not be suitable for people who are prone to ear infections or wax build-up. However, if you are active or wear eyeglasses, you will find this more comfortable than other hearing aids.
IIC Hearing Aids
Also known as invisible hearing aids, this type of hearing aid is placed as close to the eardrum as possible. It requires a hearing practitioner for correct and optimal placement. You can wear it all day without any problems, and you do not have to take it off before bed or showering. Some invisible hearing aids are disposable while others last for several months before the batteries run out.
It works by making use of your own ear anatomy to amplify sounds and deliver them to your eardrum instantaneously. People who experience tinnitus will find that this aid helps manage and decrease the ringing sensation. Wind noises within the ear are also eliminated.
Depending on the hearing loss, it may or may not work for everyone, but unlike RIC hearing aids, IIC hearing aids may work for some who have severe hearing loss. Perhaps the greatest disadvantage is that due to the size of this type of hearing aid, most units are analog and may not be compatible with your audio devices.
Assistive Listening Devices and Other Alternatives
These special devices are used when you only need help hearing in certain situations such as when listening to the radio or television. These types of devices will amplify certain types of sounds for you, helping you hear better when you wear them.
Other types of hearing aids are less common and will require special or additional procedures with an audiologist for fitting and customisation. Some of these are cochlear implants or bone conduction hearing aids, portable body hearing aids, hearing aids embedded in spectacles, contralateral routing of signal (CROS) hearing aids and bilateral routing of signal (BiCROS) hearing aids.
If your hearing loss is affecting the quality of your life, make sure to discuss your concerns and expectations with a trained hearing practitioner. We at Hearing Solvers can connect you with experts so that you can make the best decision for your hearing health. We are committed to helping you find the right hearing device to suit your needs, your lifestyle and your preferences. Are you ready to get back in control of your hearing? Enjoy life to the fullest and register for your free consultation today.