The largest hurdle for the hearing impaired can be acceptance of the problem.
If you are having difficulty with your hearing, experts advise that you see a physician to make sure no medication is causing the problem, that neither medication nor surgery can relieve it and to determine if you can be helped with a hearing aid. Your doctor can refer you to a specialist to fit you with the appropriate aid.
Hearing aids are miniature amplification systems. They usually consist of a microphone, which picks up sound waves and converts them into electrical signals; an amplifier that increases the strength of the signal; a battery that powers the aid; a receiver that changes the electrical signal back to sound waves, and a specially-fitted ear mold that connects the receiver to the ear canal.
The four basic types:
* In-the-ear: Fits directly into the ear, with a section extending into the ear canal. Most suitable for mild hearing loss.
* Behind-the-ear: Curved unit rests behind the ear, connected to the ear mold by a short plastic tube. Effective for mild to severe loss.
* Eye-glass: Built into the temple of glasses.
* Body aid: A case carried on the body, connected to the ear mold by a cord. The most powerful amplification, but rather cumbersome. Becoming outmoded with the development of more sophisticated amplification techniques.
For more information about hearing loss, possible treatment, and hearing aids:
The Better Hearing Institute--Runs toll-free National Hearing HelpLine, which last year received 18,000 calls. Can refer you to qualified hearing specialists, hearing and speech centers and hearing- aid specialists. 638-7577 or 1-800-424-8576.
The National Hearing Aid Society--Toll-free hearing-aid information line. 1-800-521-5247. Also publishes consumer kit with directory of certified hearing-aid specialists and booklet on hearing aids. For a copy, write: National Hearing Aid Society, 20361 Middlebelt, Livonia, Mich. 48152.