Frequently Asked Questions
What is an Audiologist?
Audiologists are healthcare professionals who have completed a graduate program and received Doctorate degree in Audiology. Audiologists provide patient-centered care in the prevention, identification, diagnosis, and evidence-based treatment of hearing, balance, and other auditory disorders for people of all ages.
My Doctor told me that I have “nerve deafness” and that a hearing aid will not help me. What can I do?
First, a comprehensive evaluation of your hearing and speech understanding ability is essential. Today’s newest hearing aid technology may offer you benefit, where in the past it did not. Schedule an appointment with an audiologist for a demonstration of the newest hearing aid technology.
Can hearing aids improve my hearing?
That depends on what type of hearing loss you have:
- Conductive hearing loss is usually caused by an obstruction in the ear canal, your hearing may return to normal once the obstruction has been removed. If your hearing does not return to normal, you may benefit from wearing a hearing aid.
- Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the sensory hair cells of the inner ear. This damage can be caused by exposure to loud noise, illness, medication, injury or age. If you have a sensorineural hearing loss, you may benefit from wearing a hearing aid.
- Presbycusis is the loss of hearing that occurs in most individuals as they age. This condition is common and can often be improved with hearing aids.
How long will it take for me to adjust to wearing hearing aids?
Adjusting to hearing instruments varies from person to person and depends upon how long you waited to treat your hearing loss as well as its severity. Our ears collect sound from the environment, but it’s our brain that translates it into recognizable sound. Untreated hearing loss can require a longer rehabilitation process due to brain atrophy. It is important to wear the hearing aids as recommended. Following your doctor’s orders improves your chances for success.
If I suspect I have a hearing loss, what should I do?
If you suspect that you have a hearing loss, consult with an audiologist. An audiologist is trained to identify whether a hearing loss requires medical or non-medical treatment and will refer you to the appropriate medical specialist when necessary. The audiologist will identify, diagnose, treat and manage your hearing loss.
I have hearing loss in both ears. Is it necessary to wear two hearing aids?-
Here’s why two hearing aids can be better than one:
Better hearing in a noisy environment: Hearing in a noisy environment can be improved if the signal reaching each ear arrives at a slightly different moment in time. This time difference can help the brain process a speech signal more efficiently.
Improved signal vs. noise level: Sound source matters: If you have a hearing aid in only your left ear and the person speaking to you is on your right side, much of the speech signal is lost by the time it gets to your aided ear, while the level of the noise in the room enters the aided ear at its normal volume level.
Improved ability to localize sounds: The brain uses the sound entering the ears from the right and left side of the head to determine the direction of the sound source. Having a hearing aid in only one ear can alter this sense of direction.
Will a hearing aid restore my hearing to normal?-
No, hearing aids are designed to make things easier to hear, but cannot restore the natural functioning of your ear. Hearing aids also do not prevent the progression of hearing loss over time.
Why should I go to an Audiologist for my hearing aids?
In all of the medical specialties and allied health specialties, only the audiologist has the formal graduate education focusing on the measurement, evaluation and diagnosis of hearing disorders. The unique skills and professional standards of an audiologist offer the consumer the highest level of hearing healthcare as it relates to the evaluation for, the selection of and the instruction in the use of hearing instruments.
How do I know if I have a hearing loss?
Hearing loss often occurs so gradually that the individual may not be aware of a problem. In fact, it is not uncommon for a hearing loss to be first detected by a family member who is having to speak louder or repeat themselves. Early signs of hearing loss include:
- Turning the TV volume louder than others prefer.
- Difficulty understanding speech in background noise, for instance in restaurants.
- More difficulty hearing children and women than men.
- Difficulty hearing in meetings.
- Difficulty hearing at public speaking events.
- Ringing in the ear(s) when no external sounds is present.
- Having things repeated frequently.
- Difficulty hearing people “with low voices.”
What should I look for when choosing a hearing aid?
That depends on your lifestyle and your budget. An active person who enjoys traveling and athletic activities will most likely need a different model of hearing aid than someone who spends most of their time at home watching television.
Your hearing healthcare professional will ask a variety of questions to help you determine what type of amplification you need. Whatever model of hearing aid you choose, it is important to be honest with the audiologist about your expectations and lifestyle, and schedule follow up visits as requested.
How long do hearing aids last?
With proper use and maintenance, hearing aids typically last between three and five years.
Why Do Hearing Aids Cost So Much?
Professional Services Required for Maximum Benefit
In order to receive maximum benefit from hearing aids, a professionally trained audiologist is involved in the fitting process which typically involves an average of five direct contact hours during the first year. In many cases, audiologists will provide unlimited service during the warranty period (from one to three years) or beyond, for no additional charge. This follow-up care may be “bundled” into the upfront cost of the hearing aid. In other words, when a hearing aid is dispensed, it is typically part of a package that routinely includes certain required professional services such as verification of the hearing aid fitting including, but not limited to, real ear (or probe tube) measurements and aided sound field testing. This package may also include ear impressions, selecting/ fitting/adjusting/reprogramming the hearing aid, patient and family counseling regarding hearing aid use, maintenance and realistic expectations and follow-up appointments.
Mail order or budget clubs may sell hearing aids at lower prices because they are often placed on the user with minimal or no instructions and/or adjustments. (Their components may be less expensive, too.) The user may be charged for return visits including minor tubing changes and adjustments. In the long run, the patient may pay as much or even more than they would from a full-service audiology practice.
The minimum training required for a dispensing audiologist has been a master’s degree, which is now transitioning to a doctoral degree (Au.D.). Mail order discount centers, by contrast, are often staffed by sales people with minimal technical training. Why does it matter? Audiologists know that the most important consideration in hearing aid selection is not the hearing itself; rather, it is the skill and knowledge of the professional dispensing the hearing aid. The audiologist’s responsibility is to ensure that a suitable instrument is selected and to provide an understandable explanation of its merits and limitations.
High Tech/Low Volume
Hearing aids are sold in relatively low volume when compared with other electronic devices. For example, approximately 1.7 million hearing aids are sold in the U.S. per year as compared to several million stereos; yet, the amount of time and resources manufacturer’s spend on development and research is considerable. One manufacturer reports spending more than twenty million dollars developing a single model.
Return for Credit Policy
“Return for Credit” policies are standard among hearing aid manufacturers and required by state and federal hearing aid guidelines, allowing new hearing aids to be returned within an established evaluation period. The costs associated with these policies are considerable, especially for custom products, and naturally must be absorbed in the overall pricing structure.
Weighting the Costs
Communication is vital to human existence. According to a groundbreaking study published by the National Council on Aging (1999), “Untreated hearing loss has serious emotional and social consequences for older persons.” The benefits hearing aid users reported in their lives ranged from improved relationships at home and sense of independence to improved social and sex life. According to the study, the families of hearing-aid users noticed improvements in every dimension the survey measured. An additional “Beyond Fifty” survey conducted by the AARP and Harris Interactive (2003) found that the ability to stay connected to family and friends contributed to quality of life more than overall health. So if wearing hearing aids allows you to resume activities you enjoy, improve relationships with friends and family, retain your independence, etc. the cost becomes a lot more justifiable.