Learn More About Hearing Loss & Hearing Aids
Most of the time hearing problems begin gradually, without discomfort or pain. What’s more, family members often learn to adapt to someone’s hearing loss, without even realizing they are doing it. Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine whether you have hearing loss:
- Do I often ask people to repeat themselves?
- Do I have trouble following conversations with more than two people?
- Do I have difficulty hearing what is said unless I’m facing the speaker?
- Does it sound like other people are mumbling or slurring their words?
- Do I struggle to hear in crowded places like restaurants, malls and meeting rooms?
- Do I have a hard time hearing women or children?
- Do I prefer the TV or radio volume louder than others?
- Do I experience ringing or buzzing in my ears?
If you answered yes to several of these questions, chances are you do suffer from hearing loss.
Not necessarily. Only about 13% of physicians routinely screen for hearing loss. Since most people with hearing impairments hear just fine in quiet environments (like your doctor’s office), it can be very difficult for your physician to recognize this problem. Only a trained hearing professional can determine the severity of your hearing problem, whether or not you could benefit from a hearing aid, and which type would be best for you.
There are several causes. The main ones include excessive noise, infections, genetics, birth defects, infections of the head or ear, aging, and reaction to drugs or cancer treatment.
Yes. There are three types of hearing loss:
- Sensorineural: The most common type, it occurs when the inner ear nerves (and hair cells) are damaged and do not properly transmit auditory signals to the brain. Can be treated with hearing aids.
- Conductive: Is typically the result of obstructions in the ear. Can usually be treated medically or surgically.
- Mixed: A combination of sensorineural and conductive.
Hearing loss can occur at any time, at any age. In fact, most people with hearing loss (65%) are younger than age 65! There are six million people in the U.S. ages 18-44 with hearing loss, and around one-and-a-half million are school age.
Only 5% of hearing loss in adults can be improved medically or surgically. The vast majority of Americans with hearing loss (95%) are treated with hearing aids.
- Audiologists are professionals with a master’s degree, Au.D. or Ph.D. in audiology, the study of hearing. They specialize in testing, evaluating and treating hearing loss. An audiologist may also fit hearing instruments.
- Hearing Aid Dispensers are trained in fitting and dispensing hearing aids. Hearing aid specialists are often state-licensed and board-certified to test for hearing loss and to fit consumers for hearing aids.
- Otolaryngologists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of ear, nose, throat, head and neck disorders. Also known as ENT doctors.
You should make an appointment with a hearing professional like an audiologist, hearing aid specialist or ENT doctor for an evaluation, consultation and hearing test. Many hearing care professionals offer this evaluation at no charge.
While you are no doubt concerned about appearance, compensating for a hearing loss by asking people to repeat themselves, inappropriately responding to people (or not responding at all), or even withdrawing from social situations is more obvious than wearing a hearing aid.
Today’s hearing aids are small, discreet and more stylish than ever before. Some are even invisible. And, chances are that once you have a hearing aid, your quality of life will improve so much that cosmetics won’t be as much of an issue for you.
Research on people with hearing loss and their significant others has shown that hearing aids play a significant factor in a person’s social, emotional, psychological and physical well-being.
More specifically, treatment of hearing loss has been shown to improve¹:
- Communication in relationships
- Intimacy and warmth in family relationships
- Ease in communication
- Earning power
- Sense of control over your life
- Social participation
- Emotional stability
When you consider all the benefits of better hearing, you can see that hearing aids hold great potential to positively change your life.
At their most basic, hearing aids are microphones that convert sound into electrical signals. An amplifier increases the strength of the signal, then a receiver converts it back to sound and channels it into the ear canal through a small tube or earmold. A battery is necessary to power the hearing aid and to enable amplification.
While no hearing aid can restore your hearing to normal (except in cases of very mild hearing loss), our hearing aids are designed to let you hear soft sounds that you couldn’t hear before, and prevent loud sounds from becoming uncomfortably loud for you. They are also designed to improve your ability to understand speech, even in noisy environments.
Yes. Most people need an adjustment period of up to four months before becoming acclimated to — and receiving the full benefit of — wearing their hearing aids. However, you should expect to notice obvious benefits during this trial period.
The price of a hearing aid will vary depending on the specific model and features you need, and how effective it is in various noise environments. Whatever the final cost, most hearing professionals do offer financing plans. You should also check to see if you qualify for free hearing aids or discounted hearing aids from your employer, union, the Veterans Administration, insurance provider, HMO or local charity (such as Lions Club).
Inexpensive models are simply hearing amplifiers that will make everything louder (including all the ambient noises around you). They will not, for example, separate human voices from background noises, or hear directional sounds like today’s more sophisticated hearing aids are designed to do.
We believe that you achieve the best possible results with your hearing aids by consulting with a hearing professional in person, so we do not endorse retailers selling over the Internet.