Health Report: Smaller, more modern hearing aids help de-stigmatize hearing disabilities

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Published: Nov. 3, 2020 at 5:02 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Modern hearing aids - small, discrete and more aesthetically appealing, these new devices help de-stigmatize hearing disabilities.

Audiologist Dr. Mariana McIlwain of Fairbanks Hearing and Balance showcases current trends in hearing aid technology. Audiologists are medical practitioners who treat those with hearing loss and proactively prevent related damage.

“There’s a lot of a stigma around hearing, and I hope to change that. I hope the future of our profession changes that. I want people to realize that hearing loss doesn’t define them. There are ways to manage and help you connect better with your world," said McIlwain.

Mcillwain hopes to demystify and fully normalize the use of hearing aids. “Wearing hearing aids is seen... there’s some negative connotation to it. People think that hearing loss is an age related thing. There are so many types of hearing loss. There are a lot of babies born with hearing loss that can be permanent. There are some types of hearing loss that can be temporary, or surgically fixed.”

Personal Amplification Devices, or hearing aids have existed in many forms since the early 1900s.

“There used to be a big negative connotation with glasses and that has changed dramatically. So I think with hearing aids, as technology changes -- I mean now they are getting smaller and smaller, and smarter -- I think it’s just gonna be an accessory that you wear like you do with your glasses. I think that is going to change over time," said McIlwain.

Modern incarnations of hearing aids come in many forms, but they are very small -- almost unnoticeable.

McIlwain continued, “We have in-the-ear hearing aids that are custom made for your ear. They have different sizes. Most of them are battery driven unless they cover your ear completely. And then we have the behind the ear hearing aids that are most common in patients nowadays."

In ear and behind the ear hearing aids
In ear and behind the ear hearing aids(Ryan Osborne)

“We also have some bone conduction hearing aids, and for certain types of hearing loss you may qualify for those.”

An example of a  bone conduction hearing aid.
An example of a bone conduction hearing aid. (Ryan Osborne)

“There is also a cochlear implant, which is a surgically implanted device for more severe hearing losses."

An example of a Cochlear Implant.
An example of a Cochlear Implant.(Ryan Osborne)

McIlwain concluded by saying, “We all want to feel connected, we all want to interact with our community and our loved ones."

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