Hearing problems are one of the most common health-related issues in America today. Once you decide to do something about your hearing, how should you proceed? With the number of newspaper advertisements and mailers, as well as radio and television commercials, how do you go about choosing a hearing aid that best fits your lifestyle? The choices can be overwhelming. Here are some suggestions you can utilize on your way to enjoying life with better hearing.
- See a licensed audiologist
- Consider the style of hearing aid
- Know what you want to hear
- Think ahead
- Do your research
- Believe all advertisements
- Feel pressured
- Purchase hearing aids online
- Go alone
- Put it off
Do see a licensed audiologist.
An audiologist is an educated health care professional with a master’s or doctoral degree who specializes in the identification, assessment, and management of hearing loss. Audiologists are experts at helping people with hearing problems, but unlike medical doctors, they cannot prescribe medicine or perform surgery. You should ask for referrals from your medical doctor as well as friends and relatives.
An audiologist will look in your ears, remove earwax if necessary, and evaluate your hearing. You should expect the audiologist to discuss the test results with you and make individualized recommendations for hearing aids based upon your hearing loss, lifestyle, and budget. Current hearing aid technology is wonderful, but it is only as good as the audiologist who fits the devices. That is why it is important to trust the audiologist caring for your hearing healthcare needs.
Do consider the style.
There are many styles of hearing aids with different features and prices. In the ear hearing solutions include everything from extended wear, invisible devices that stay in your ear for months at a time and do not require changing the battery. Daily wear aids include custom aids from very small, deep in the ear canal invisible aids to varying sizes that suited to your individual needs and dexterity. Behind the ear models include those with the receiver or speaker of the hearing aids down in the ear canal as well as very water-resistant styles. If you are physically active, you will want a style that is the most secure in your ear. If you have difficulty manipulating small parts, that needs to be taken into account. If you are concerned about cosmetics, let your audiologist know so the most invisible option can be demonstrated. Depending upon your lifestyle, fine motor ability, and cosmetic concerns, the audiologist will recommend a style of hearing instrument you are comfortable with.
Do know what you want to hear.
Knowing the situations you are having difficulty in and knowing what you want to hear will determine the features and level of technology that would most benefit you. People with the same hearing loss will have different needs; someone who is still working will have different needs than someone who is retired. Someone who is very active will have different needs from someone who is not. Do you participate in outdoor activities such as coaching or playing sports? Are you near pools and boats? Do you visit noisy restaurants? Do you enjoy live theatre and music? Do you attend lectures and meetings? Do you spend quite a bit of time on the phone? Do you travel much?
Your lifestyle and communication needs will assist the audiologist with recommendations for specific hearing aid features, including directional microphones, telecoils, automatic program changes for different environments, remote controls, and Bluetooth compatible accessories.
Do think ahead.
Even if you don’t need a certain feature right now, think ahead to any anticipated changes in your lifestyle. If you are retiring soon and plan to spend more time in leisure pursuits, let your audiologist know that. Moving from your home to somewhere that offers meals in a large dining area or volunteering at a hospital might require flexibility in your hearing aid programming. There are remote controls and Bluetooth compatible accessories to help in different situations, including wireless options to stream audio directly from your TV, radio, or cell phone into your hearing aids. Anticipating changes in your lifestyle will enable your audiologist to discuss options for flexibility down the road.
Do your research.
Your research should include information about the experience of the audiologist, what to expect from hearing aids, and what is included in your hearing aid purchase. It’s always a good idea to do some research and be prepared for your appointments. Researching specific brands and features of hearing aids is fine, but keep in mind that not everything you read will be appropriate for you. You will want to know about the trial period, warranties, and any recurring charges for such services as follow-up visits for programming or hearing aid cleanings and for supplies such as batteries. Other information to ask about would be any charges for add-on features or accessories. Be sure to get a hearing aid purchase contract in writing.
Do not believe all advertisements.
Remember the adage “If it sounds too good to be true…” Hearing aids will not eliminate all background noise or restore normal hearing. Beware of advertisements that state a certain technology is available only at a certain location. That would be untrue, as the same technology would be available elsewhere, but perhaps called by another name. Do not choose a hearing aid or a provider because of an incentive for a free gas card or restaurant gift card. Would you choose any other healthcare provider on that basis? Fake checks and “incentives from Uncle Sam” should be red flags to you. If an ad lists prices, be sure to compare apples to apples. An advertisement for a certain name brand hearing aid may be for old technology compared to a newer version sold elsewhere for a higher price.
Do not feel pressured.
You should not feel pressured to purchase hearing instruments, to purchase a higher level of technology than you are comfortable with, or to go beyond your budget. When you decide to move forward, you are investing in yourself; it is not just your hearing, it’s your life.
Do not purchase hearing aids online.
Do not purchase hearing aids over the internet. Hearing aids are medical devices used to treat the medical condition of your hearing loss. Hearing loss is associated with so many medical conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and dementia. Your audiologist should be in contact with your physician and be aware of medications you are taking. Hearing aids need to be fit individually to your ears. Besides the physical fit, the aids should be programmed and “fine-tuned” for you to achieve the maximum benefit. The most successful hearing aid users are those who are taught to use the aids properly and who follow-up appropriately for their hearing healthcare.
Do not go alone.
You should take a relative or friend with you. It is always a good idea to have someone else at a medical appointment to help you take notes and ask questions. Both you and your audiologist will find it is very helpful to have you listen to a familiar voice with the hearing aids you are considering.
Do not put it off.
It takes the average patient between five and seven years from when they first notice difficulty with their hearing to when they do something about it. The longer you wait, the longer it takes for your brain to adjust to the new sound. When left untreated, hearing loss may affect almost every facet of your life, your relationships with family and friends, your work, and your social activities. Research shows that hearing is connected to so many other health conditions, including dementia, and that people who treat their hearing loss are happier, have fewer depressive symptoms, greater social engagements, and improved quality of life.