If you’ve experienced hearing loss, but haven’t been able to decide if you want a hearing aid, learn how having one can improve your quality of life.
When people asked Ed a question, he usually didn’t hear them. During business meetings, background noise often caused him to lose track of the conversation. Telephone calls were even worse. These situations were frustrating not just for Ed, but for his family, friends and coworkers.
Ed’s hearing loss affected his job performance and his relationships. He finally gave in and was fitted for a hearing aid. To his surprise, he found that this simple device improved his quality of life.
An estimated 28 million Americans suffer from hearing loss. Just one in five of them uses a hearing aid, though. Many people who could benefit from hearing aids are embarrassed to admit they need them. Others are turned off by the costs.
Hearing aids work best in people with sensorineural hearing loss. This is a condition in which the hair cells in the inner ear have been damaged. Even though it won’t completely bring back normal hearing, a hearing aid can be a godsend for those who can’t be treated with medicine or surgery.
If you think you need a hearing aid, ask your doctor to refer you to an audiologist. Make sure he or she is certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Your audiologist will do testing to measure your hearing loss. He or she will also help you find the hearing aid that best suits your needs.
Types of hearing aids
All hearing aids work the same way. A microphone passes sound to an amplifier. The magnified sound is then sent to a receiver, which delivers it to the ear.
There are three types of hearing aids.
- Behind-the-ear (BTE): Worn behind your ear and attached to an earmold that sits inside the ear. Another style of BTE consists of a narrow tube that goes into your ear canal. This keeps the canal open and can help make your voice sound more natural to you.
- In-the-ear (ITE): A hard plastic case that is placed inside of the outer ear.
- In-the-canal (ITC) and completely-in-the-canal (CIC): A tiny case that fits partially or completely inside the ear canal.
Telecoils (also known as “T” switches) are available on some hearing aids. They help eliminate background noises. They amplify sound and make talking on the phone easier. They can also be used with assistive listening devices that are installed in public places like theaters and auditoriums.
Adjusting to your hearing aid
Your audiologist will show you how to insert and remove your hearing aid. You will learn how to operate switches and adjust to different listening environments. You will also be shown how to use assistive listening devices.
Caring for your hearing aid
- Turn it off when you’re not using it.
- Keep it away from heat and moisture.
- Clean it regularly to avoid damage from earwax.
- Don’t use hair care products while wearing it.
- Replace and dispose of dead batteries right away where they can’t be reached by children or pets.
The average price of a hearing aid is about $1,500, but some cost well beyond $3,000. Pricing depends on style, features, type of battery, battery life and other factors. These costs don’t always include related services. Audiologist fees, battery replacement, hearing aid adjustment and other expenses may cost extra.
Hearing aids are often not covered by health insurance. Check with your health insurance carrier. Medicare does not cover hearing aids for adults. They will, though, pay for children’s hearing aids and related services.
Some organizations provide financial assistance to those who cannot afford hearing aids. To learn more, call the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) Information Clearinghouse at one of the following numbers:
- Toll-free voice: 800-241-1044
- Toll-free TTY: 800-241-1055