Hearing Aids

Hearing aids are devices that are worn in or behind 1 or both ears to make sounds louder. Some people may be able to hear at a normal or near normal level with them. Others may find that they help, but do not fully bring back hearing. It can take time to get used to them. Things will not sound the same. Some people need to try more than one to find the one that works well for them.

Assistive Listening Devices

An assistive listening device (ALD) can be used with or without hearing aids to deal with problems of background noise, distance, or rooms that are loud or echo.

Some types are:

  • Personal frequency modulation (FM) systems have a transmitter microphone that the speaker uses and a receiver that the listener uses. The receiver can also send sound to a hearing aid. It can help in large group settings, such as classrooms, meetings, or restaurants.
  • Infrared systems are often used at home with TV. They can also be used in large settings like meeting halls. Sound is sent by infrared light waves.
  • Some phones, answering machines, computers, and alarm clocks have features that make sound louder.
  • Alerting devices can give a person a sign they can see or a vibration that they can feel. They are made for things like doorbells, phones, alarm clocks, smoke detectors, and pagers. Text telephones and captions on TV and movies also use visuals.

Implanted Devices

Cochlear Implant

A cochlear implant is a small device that can bring sound to a person with severe hearing loss. It is surgically implanted under the skin behind the ear. It picks up sounds through a microphone, processes them, converts them into electrical impulses, and sends them past the damaged parts of the inner ear to the brain. The microphone and transmitter are worn in a headpiece just behind the ear, and the sound processor is placed in a pocket or on a belt. The receiver and electrode are implanted.

It does not make or bring back normal hearing. But it can help many people understand and communicate in person and over the phone.

Implanted Hearing System Attached to Middle Ear Bones

The Esteem system is used to treat sensorineural hearing loss in adults. It attaches to the middle ear bones and is implanted behind the ear. It has 3 parts:

  • Sensor—senses vibrations and changes them into electric signals
  • Processor—amplifies the signals
  • Driver—changes the electric signals back into vibrations and amplifies them to let the person hear the sound

Communication Techniques

Lip Reading

Lip reading is focusing on how a person’s mouth and body move when they talk to help find out what they are saying.

Sign Language

American Sign Language (ASL) uses signs made with the hands, face, and body. It has its own rules for grammar, punctuation, and sentence order. There are other types of sign language that are based on English, such as spelling out English words with hand signs.


American sign language. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders website. Available at: https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/american-sign-language. Updated May 8, 2019. Accessed October 25, 2019.

Cochlear implants. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders website. Available at: https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/cochlear-implants. Updated March 6, 2017. Accessed October 25, 2019.

Hearing aids. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders website. Available at: https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing-aids. Updated March 6, 2017. Accessed October 25, 2019.

Hearing assistive technology. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: https://www.asha.org/public/hearing/treatment/assist_tech.htm?print=1. Accessed October 25, 2019.

Hearing loss. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/ear-nose-throat/Pages/Hearing-Loss.aspx. Updated August 1, 2009. Accessed October 25, 2019.

Hearing loss and older adults. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders website. Available at: https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing-loss-older-adults. Updated July 17, 2018. Accessed October 25, 2019.

Stachler RJ, Chandrasekhar SS, et al; American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF). Clinical practice guideline: sudden hearing loss. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2012 Mar;146(3 Suppl):S1-35.

Sudden sensorineural hearing loss. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/sudden-sensorineural-hearing-loss. Updated November 26, 2018. Accessed October 25, 2019.

What is a cochlear implant? US Food & Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/ImplantsandProsthetics/CochlearImplants/ucm062823.htm. Updated February 4, 2018. Accessed October 25, 2019.

Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD  Last Updated: 06/03/2020