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05 Types of Hearing Aid Circuitry

So Your Child has a Hearing Loss: Next Steps for Parents

Two main types of electronics are used in hearing aids:

  1. Analog/Conventional-Your audiologist determines the volume and other specifications your child requires in a hearing aid and a laboratory builds an aid to meet these needs. This is generally the least expensive type of circuitry.
  2. Analog/Programmable-Your audiologist uses a computer to program your child's hearing aid. This circuitry can accommodate more than one program so that your child can change the program to receive better sound across different listening conditions.
  3. Digital/Programmable-Your audiologist uses a computer to program your child's hearing aid and can adjust the sound quality and response time on an individual basis. Digital hearing aids use a computer chip and, as a result, offer the most flexibility to your audiologist in making adjustments. Digital hearing aids also offer a number of settings that allow the user to manipulate the amplification of incoming sound in specific frequencies where it's difficult to hear. Digital circuitry is the most expensive of the above options.

Most of the time, two hearing aids are recommended for your child. Research studies on adults have shown that those people who have a hearing loss in both ears, but habitually wear only one aid, lose the ability to recognize speech in the other ear. This phenomenon is known as "auditory deprivation." Once the ability to recognize speech has been lost, it cannot be restored. If your child has a hearing loss in both ears, using two hearing aids prevents auditory deprivation and helps your child to localize sound and to hear better even in noise.

Hearing aids are expensive, so you will want to understand exactly your audiologist's terms of purchase. You will also want to know whether your audiologist has a variety of hearing aids for your child to try. Some good questions to ask your audiologist are found in the sidebar. While a few insurance companies include coverage of hearing aids, most exclude them. Check your policy before purchase. Some families have been successful in urging their employers, or lobbying insurance companies directly, to offer such coverage.

What can you do if you cannot afford hearing aids? Under the federal law supporting special education (entitled the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA) if your child is already enrolled in a public school education program. You will find further information about IDEA and special education later in this document.

For more information on hearing aids, see the AG Bell What are Hearing Aids online brochure.

© 2011 by Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

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