What is a hearing aid?
A hearing aid is an electronic device that can receive and amplify incoming sounds for people with hearing impairment to aim for better sound understanding through proper amplification.
Do I need a hearing aid?
If you have hearing loss and your hearing difficulty is affecting your daily communication, you may consider using hearing aid(s). Prior to that, it is recommended that you consult an ENT specialist to ensure that there are no medical complications associated with your hearing problems. Your audiological assessment should be conducted by an audiologist who can determine your degree and nature of hearing loss, and recommend choices of hearing aids and/or assistive listening devices to suit your listening needs.
Many people don’t like hearing aids because they are noisy. Is this true?
Apart from the speaker’s voice, hearing aid amplifies environmental sounds as well. As the human brain needs some time to adapt to the amplified sounds, it is recommended that the hearing aid user get used to listening in typical quiet environment first before using the hearing aid in more challenging and adverse listening environments (e.g. in groups and/or in noise). Modern digital hearing aid technologies also facilitate listening in noisy environment through automatic noise reduction / cancellation features or let the hearing aid user switch to specific listening programmes in the hearing aid to enhance communication in such environment.
Where can I get a hearing aid?
Hearing aid(s) should be prescribed by an audiologist who is the health-care professional specialising in the diagnosis and (re)habilitation of hearing and vestibular disorders. Audiologists can be found working in public service centres (including Hospital Authority, Department of Health, Education Bureau and Voluntary Organisations) or private hearing aid centres.
For public service centres, please refer to:
For the list of audiologists working in private hearing aid centres, please refer to:
Can I purchase hearing aid(s) directly from a shop without a testing test?
It is not recommended to purchase non-prescribed hearing aid(s) from any shop without having your ears tested. Hearing aids should be adjusted according to individual degree of hearing loss and listening needs. A non-prescribed hearing aid may not provide optimal amplification for you, or you may be at risk of over-amplification that may damage your residual hearing. Please approach and consult your audiologist before purchasing your hearing aid.
What types of hearing aids are available?
There are a variety of hearing aid styles available on the market. Among them, the common styles include Behind-the-ear (BTE), In-the-ear / canal (ITE/ITC), Completely / Invisible-in-the-canal (CIC/IIC), Body-worn, and Open-fit (also known as Receiver-in-canal) hearing aids.
How do I choose hearing aid(s)?
Hearing aids should be chosen according to the individual listening needs, subjective preferences, age, dexterity, cosmetic concern, severity and nature of the hearing loss.
Listening needs Premium and high-end hearing aid models are equipped with more sophisticated digital speech processing technologies. However, they are more costly than entry and mid-level models.
Subjective preferences, age and dexterity Some hearing aid users may prefer their hearing aids to be as invisible as possible. There are now a wide range of BTEs to suit different degree of hearing loss. Custom-made (ITE/ITC/CIC/IIC) hearing aids may not be suitable for young infants, and people with problems like dexterity, earwax or ear drainage.
Cosmetic concern A custom-made hearing aid is smaller in size and plugged into the ear canal. On the other hand, a BTE / Open-fit hearing aid is now more fashionable as it looks just like an ear-worn bluetooth device.
Severity and nature of hearing loss Although modern custom-made hearing aids are getting more powerful by utilizing more powerful receivers (up to 70dB), high-powered BTEs can still provide more gain (up to 80dB).
I have been fitted with a hearing aid but I still can’t hear properly (especially in noisy environment). What can I do?
If you’re a first-time hearing aid user, please allow some time for yourself to get used to the amplified sounds. You could also make a follow-up appointment with your audiologist for any further fine-tuning of your hearing aid. Auditory training may sometimes be necessary for enhancing speech processing ability.
If you experience difficulty in listening even with your hearing aid over time, your hearing aid sensitivity may be changed. Please make a hearing test appointment with your audiologist to see if your hearing aid can be re-adjusted to suit your present listening needs.
For hearing aid users who need to listen in challenging situations like noisy environment, a digital or analog FM wireless sound transmission system may be beneficial. The talker’s voice is picked up directly from the microphone of the transmitter and then wirelessly directed to the receiver which is coupled to hearing aid user’s hearing aid(s). The Signal-to-noise ratio is enhanced while reducing any ambient noise interference.
What audiology tests are used in audiological assessments?
I. Behavioural tests
a) Pure-tone audiometry: This test measures the sensitivity of hearing. During the test, the participant will listen to a range of pure tones of different frequencies and gives behavioural response such as pressing a button or raising his/her hand. Hearing thresholds will then be plotted on a graph called audiogram (a graph showing intensity as a function of frequency).
b) Speech audiometry: This test uses speech instead of pure tones as stimuli. During the test, the participant will listen to speech material such as monosyllabic words, short phrases or sentences and repeats the stimuli as accurately as possible. Speech material in the test will be given at different volume to measure the participant’s speech recognition threshold (SRT). This test provides information on how well one recognises speech.
II. Non-behavioural / objective or physiological tests
a) Immittance Audiometry:
i) Tympanometry: This test is used to inspect middle-ear functioning including the mobility of the eardrum and the conduction of middle-ear ossicles (bones in the middle ear). During the test, an earplug will be placed into the participant’s ear. The device will change the air pressure in the ear canal and thus measure the energy transmission through the middle ear.
ii) Acoustic reflex test: When presented with a high-intensity sound stimulus, the stapedius and tensor tympani muscles of the ossicles in the middle ear contract. This is an involuntary muscle contraction that occurs in the middle ear in response to high-intensity sound stimuli. This test evaluates the middle ear function.
c) Otoacoustic emission test: Otoacoustic emissions refer to the low-intensity sound produced by the cochlea. This test examines cochlear status in the inner ear, specifically, the outer hair cell function.
d) Evoked auditory potentials: This test measures the brain wave activity that occurs in response to sound. The response is collected through electrodes placed on the participant’s scalp and earlobes. This test helps diagnose nervous system problems and hearing loss.
Where can I get an audiological assessment?
Audiological assessments are available at hospitals (public or private), private hearing aid companies and certain voluntary organisations. For public centres that provides audiological services, please refer to this list: http://www.audiology.org.hk/public_info/public-centers-providing-audiological-services/ ; If you wish to look for a private audiologist, you may refer to this list: http://www.audiology.org.hk/public_info/private-audiologists-list/
Who will perform audiological assessment?
An audiologist performs hearing tests.
An audiologist is a health-care professional that specializes in identifying, diagnosing, treating and monitoring vestibular and auditory disorders. In Hong Kong, audiologists are required to have at minimum, a Masters degree in Audiology.