Hearing Aids/ Hearing Loss
Q & A
Q: Why is sound loud enough sometimes but I still cannot make out what my friend is saying?
A: A common misconception of hearing loss is that as long as sound is LOUDER you will hear it CLEARER. This is not always the case. When we conduct a hearing test, both sound loudness and sound/speech clarity are assessed. How clearly a patient hears sounds, especially high frequency consonant sounds in speech, depends on the functionality of the patient's inner ear. There are tiny hair cells that help us to finely discriminate speech sounds; each patient has varying degrees of damage to these cells, and this affects how well we can tell one sound from another. A good example to think of is that damaged hair cells are like an out of tune key on a piano, no matter how loud the note is played, it will sound out of tune. We cannot accurately determine how clearly a person hears without obtaining a full hearing test
Q: Are hearing aids really noticeable? I remember my grandmother's hearing aid being big and bulky!
A: Hearing aid technology has come a long way, even over the past 5-10 years. The components that make up a hearing aid have become smaller and smaller, therefore we are able to fit even severe hearing losses with relatively small hearing aids. Some technology can even be completely hidden within the ear canal. The type of hearing loss and severity often will guide the Audiologist’s recommendations of hearing aid styles and technology.
Q: Why are hearing aids so expensive? Are they covered by insurance?
A: Currently, most insurance companies do not cover 100% hearing aid costs. Medicare does not cover any portion of the costs, but some private companies may, depending on your plan. Hearing aids are digital now, meaning that you are essentially purchasing mini computers to wear on or in your ears. Whereas older, less advanced hearing aids had only 1-3 channels (or frequency bands) that could be adjusted in the device, newer digital hearing aids can have upward of 20 channels of sound to control/adjust. There are a lot of components that go into making each device, and additionally, the manufacturers of hearing aids put a lot of money into research and development of new and improved technology. All new hearing aids are also required to come with warranties (from 1-3 years from purchase date) - the cost also covers any replacement parts that may be needed over the life of the warranty if something were to get damaged.
Q: Will hearing aids cure my hearing loss?
A: Amplification is meant to AID in hearing problems, it cannot fix a hearing loss or make your hearing "normal". Our main goal is to give patients realistic expectations regarding their hearing aids and their hearing loss, every patient's loss is different, and goals may vary. In short, we want to improve the ease of listening and sound quality with hearing aids. Ideally, we want the patient to have less strain and stress during communication in multiple listening environments.
Q: I tried hearing aids 15 years ago with no luck, should I try again?
A: Absolutely! Hearing aid technology has grown by leaps and bounds. Devices are more advanced in their speech processing, noise reduction ability, and size. Additionally, one major issue with hearing aids many years ago was the presence of feedback (unwanted whistling/noise from the hearing aids). Management of feedback has also become very advanced, the majority of patients with well-fit hearing aids can hold their hands or the telephone up to their ears and not hear any extraneous feedback/whistling.
Q: I hear mixed reviews from my friends who wear hearing aids, why do some people have success and others dislike them?
A: Each patient has his or her own individual characteristics that will affect their outcome with hearing devices. The anatomy of everyone's ears are different as well as the type and degree of hearing loss. Additionally, a major part that goes into hearing aid success is the competency level of the person fitting you with the hearing aid. The professional selecting and fitting you with your hearing aids can make or break the entire hearing aid experience.
Q: Who should I see to get fit with hearing aids?
A: We recommend that you see a professional with a Doctorate of Audiology (Au.D) degree. In the past a master’s degree in Audiology was required, but since 2007 the Au.D degree has been the "gold standard” for the profession. Some states allow those with hearing instrument specialist (HIS) or hearing aid dispenser (HAD) licenses to fit patients with amplification, but this requirement is not as advanced nor is the training as thorough as an Au.D degree. Audiologists may work in hospitals, in private practice, or alongside ear, nose, and throat (ENT) physicians.
Q: Even if I have a hearing loss, won't hearing aids make me look old?
A: With the size of hearing aids shrinking, we can make the devices very inconspicuous and small. Also, with improved hearing through use of hearing aids, I am sure your friends and family will welcome the change of not having to speak as loud or repeat themselves as frequently. Additionally, with Bluetooth ear pieces and prevalence of MP3 players, it is not unusual for people even without hearing loss to have electronics in their ears. Additionally, many audiologists will have stock hearing aids in office for you to try and see if you are comfortable with the look of hearing aids.
Q: I have hearing loss in both ears; can I just get one hearing aid rather than two?
A: If a
hearing loss is present in both ears, we will almost always recommend two
hearing aids. You see with two eyes, you listen with two ears. There are
numerous research articles supporting the use
of two hearing aids; our brain is able to process sound better in noise and we are stimulating both hemispheres of the brain with binaural listening. With that being said, there are some exceptions to fitting a patient with two hearing aids, mainly if one ear is considered a "dead" ear; meaning that even with a hearing aid the patient cannot hear sounds and/or speech. There are other recommendations for patients with this type of problem (example: bone conduction options or Cros/BiCros devices).
Q: I have ringing in my ears, do hearing aids help with that?
A: The ringing or hissing sound is called Tinnitus and is very common in the hearing loss population. There are some conflicting views on where tinnitus is generated. Some professionals believe it is generated in the inner ear, while another school of thought is that it is generated in the auditory processing centers of the brain. If you have tinnitus, it is important to be evaluated by an Audiologist and a physician. Often, physicians will recommend other tests to see if there is a something anatomically abnormal that is causing the ringing/hissing in the ears. There are also varying degrees of tinnitus and different patients manage the subjective sounds differently. Some hearing aids have "maskers" that can be programmed to help distract the brain from recognizing the tinnitus. Additionally, there are generators separate from hearing aids that help with tinnitus management. A great resource for general tinnitus information and for tinnitus research is the American Tinnitus Association.