Before You Buy Hearing Aids

Questions you may want to ask before you purchase hearing aids:

Most people with poor eyesight would not consider trying to function without glasses or contacts, but some people who cannot hear well resign themselves to living in an increasingly quiet world.  Hearing usually fades gradually which makes it harder to realize how serious the problem has become.  Some people may not want to be seen wearing hearing aids.  Often, the very prospect of purchasing a hearing aid can be confusing and/or overwhelming.

Purchasing a hearing aid represents a significant investment.  If you, or a loved one, are considering a hearing aid, here are several points for you to consider:

  1. Choose an Audiologist you trust. If you suspect you have a hearing loss, consult with an Audiologist.  An Audiologist has a graduate degree specifically in the measurement and non-medical treatment of hearing impairment.  You need someone who will be committed to helping you hear your best.  Obtaining hearing aids and getting used to them is a process.  During that time, you will see your Audiologist several times.  You want to feel comfortable with your Audiologist and it is best to choose a caring individual who is truly interested in helping you hear your best.  Avoid those who sell only one brand of hearing aids.  No manufacturer makes a hearing aid that is right for everyone
  2. Get a diagnostic evaluation. Your hearing test is the foundation on which a successful hearing aid fitting is built.  The Audiologist will test your hearing to determine the type and degree of your hearing loss.  An audiometer is used to determine your speech understanding abilities, as well as your hearing thresholds, which are the softest sounds you can hear at various pitches.  They will also test your middle ear and eardrum for proper function.  The Audiologist will explain your loss to you and tell you whether your loss is conductive, sensorineural or mixed in nature.  Sensorineural hearing losses in, once diagnosed, are treated with the use of amplification or hearing aids.  Approximately 90% of all hearing losses are sensorineural in nature and cannot be treated medically.  If the nature of your loss is conductive or mixed, the Audiologist will refer you to a physician specializing in diseases of the ear for a medical evaluation.  Hearing tests are diagnostic procedures and are typically covered by insurance.  Avoid the free hearing test.  Understand your choices.  Once a sensorineural hearing loss has been diagnosed the Audiologist will offer you several choices of hearing aids.  Hearing aids are fairly simple in principle.  They consist of a microphone, an amplifier, a receiver and a battery.  However, the technology and size varies and will affect the cost.  Most hearing aids fit today are digital in technology.  Some are very basic featuring only five pitch bands while others might contain more advanced levels of technology featuring up to 20 individual pitch bands to precisely fit your hearing loss.  The styles vary from behind-the-ear all the way to nearly unnoticeable hearing aids.  The Audiologist will make recommendations based on your hearing loss and your lifestyle.  It is more cost-effective to get a better quality hearing aid that you will wear than to get the less expensive model and not wear it because it does not meet your needs.  Talk with your Audiologist and discuss your expectations and match them to the level of technology that will appropriately address them.  A quality hearing aid in your ear is a better value than a less expensive hearing aid in a drawer.
  3. One hearing aid or two? If you have hearing loss in both ears, you need to wear two hearing aids.  Our brains are able to process speech better, especially in noisy areas, when both ears are amplified.  Occasionally it happens that one ear is “unaidable.”  In that situation, a CROS or BiCROS system is appropriate.
  4. Ask questions. There are many very good manufacturers of hearing aids and no simple way to tell in advance which one will work best for you.  Audiologists work with several hearing aid companies and narrow their recommendations based on your specific needs, hearing loss and lifestyle.  In today’s age of technology, some consumers spend time researching various hearing aid manufacturers online, while others still rely on word of mouth and what has worked for others.  Talk to people you know who wear hearing aids as well as your Audiologist.  Ask questions.  

 

Once you have established a relationship with an Audiologist you trust and have had all of your questions answered, you need to make a decision about which hearing aid is best for you.  The Audiologist may  take an impression of your ears.  It is very important to get a good ear impression.  A rushed impression makes for a poor-fitting hearing aid.  The hearing aid could be too loose and then whistle, or it could be too tight and cause your ear to hurt.  It can take approximately two weeks to obtain the new hearing aids.  Your Audiologist will give you a written price quote and information about your new hearing aids before you leave the office.

  1. Being fit with your new hearing aids. Plan to spend about an hour with your Audiologist on the day of your hearing aid fitting.  The Audiologist will make sure they fit properly and will program them to your specific loss.  It is common to start with only one program at the initial fitting; adding more at follow up appointments as needed and if your hearing aids are equipped with multiple programs.  You will learn how to properly insert and remove your hearing aids and their batteries.  Your Audiologist will also discuss proper care and cleaning of your hearing aids.
  2. Adjusting to your hearing aids. If you have grown accustomed to living with hearing loss, you may find at first that hearing aids overwhelm you with sound.  You are hearing things you have not heard in a long time.  While you may have to “build up” how long you wear your hearing aids, the more you wear them, the quicker the adjustment process will be.  It may take several visits to the Audiologist to fine tune the hearing aids and get comfortable with insertion, removal, changing the battery and caring for your hearing aids.  Be patient, once you get through the initial adjustment period things will get much easier.

Does it sound like a lot to remember?  Relax!  The most important thing to remember is to work with an Audiologist you trust and feel comfortable with.  Armed with this information, you are on your way to making a good decision regarding your hearing aid purchase.  If you would like further information or would like to schedule an appointment, please call Hearing Consultants at (513) 489-3300.