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Planning Retirement Online

 You can say that again -

August 2008




HearingDeafness affects all ages and modern life hasn’t helped. Discos, loud machinery, even the television can wear away at our hearing.

Struggling to take part in a conversation, having to have the radio or tv on especially loud, not hearing the telephone at the first ring – even deafness in a mild form brings a lot of anguish and problems.

The good news is that while 100 years ago people had to rely on holding a cumbersome trumpet-like device to help them hear, today hearing aids are so small most people won’t know you are wearing one. You can even have implantable hearing aids.

To be effective, a hearing aid needs to contain the sound and increase the volume reaching into the ear and modern hearing aids consist of three basic electronic components: a microphone, an amplifier and a loudspeaker. With so many technical changes and advances taking place, the Royal National Institute for the Deaf has put together an updated guide to hearing aids:

External hearing aids

 behind-the-ear hearing aid

The most commonly used type of aid is the behind-the-ear hearing aid where all the electronic components are contained in a skin-coloured plastic case that sits behind the ear (see left ).


in-the-ear hearing aid

An alternative is the in-the-ear hearing aid, which is a smaller, more compact device worn in the ear canal, although it may not be powerful enough if you have a high level of deafness (see right ).


completely-in-the-canal hearing aid,

Even smaller is the completely-in-the-canal hearing aid, which is virtually invisible when worn. Again, because of its small size, its casing is too small to be able to hold a very powerful amplifier and so it is only useful for mild hearing losses (illustration left ).

If you have problems in the ear canal or middle ear and a conventional hearing aid isn’t appropriate, then there is a device called a bone conduction hearing aid which can be held in place behind the ear with a special headband or alice band.

Analogue and digital hearing aids

Most people have heard about the differences between analogue and digital because of the changes happening in television. Digital hearing aids process sounds in a different way from analogue hearing aids and they can be better at restoring good quality sound than the older type of aids.

Implantable hearing devices

In some cases where there is severe deafness, a cochlear implant can be the answer. This is not a simple procedure and is never undertaken lightly, but it can prove to be a good solution where there is no alternative.

The development of a new middle ear implant is now underway and other innovations are also being researched.

How can you obtain a hearing aid?

In the UK, most hearing aids are available free through the NHS. Your GP may refer you directly to the hospital hearing aid department or to the local otorhinolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat surgeon).

In-the-ear hearing aids are not generally available through the NHS but can be purchased privately. If you are going to buy a hearing aid privately, make sure that you go to a reputable dealer and ensure that there is at least a 28 day trial period so you can make absolutely sure that you are buying the right type of aid for your hearing loss and your lifestyle as they can be very expensive.

More advice is available from the Royal National Institute for the Deaf



Try this test to clarify your hearing ability:

1. Do people seem to mumble or speak in a softer voice than they used to?

2. Do you sometimes miss key words in a sentence or frequently need to ask people to repeat themselves?
3. When you are in a group or in a crowded restaurant, is it sometimes difficult to follow the conversation?

4. When you are together with other people, does background noise bother you?

5. Do you find you have your TV or Radio on at a higher volume than before?

6. Do you sometimes miss words in a telephone conversation?

If you answered yes to three or more questions then you need to seek professional advice.


Hidden Hearing ( offer a free hearing test on 0800 740 8231 and they also have a national network of walk-in Hearing Centres and offer home visits.



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