Popular Myths About Hearing Aids:
MYTH: Hearing aids are ugly, uncomfortable, and will make me look old
FACT: Have you seen the latest hearing aid technology? Designs have become smaller, sleeker and weigh only a few ounces. There are a wide variety of hearing aid styles to fit your hearing loss and your lifestyle. A Hearing Instrument Specialist at Hearing Lab can help you determine what style fits best and then let you try it at home for 30-days risk-free.
MYTH: Buying hearing aids online will save me time and money
FACT: Hearing aids are a medical device regulated by the FDA. They should be selected and fit following a comprehensive evaluation by a licensed Hearing Instrument Specialist or Audiologist. Hearing aids are not one size fits all items that can be purchased off a shelf or worn straight from a box. A licensed professional with experience and expertise can work with you to find the best device for your individual needs and then provide a warranty, follow up care, cleaning, adjustments, and repairs.
MYTH: Hearing aids are too expensive
FACT: Hearing aids are an investment in your health. When you divide the cost of the hearing aid by the number of hours in a day it will help you communicate over the 5 years (on average) you keep the device the price will not seem so outrageous. The price of a hearing aid consists of the costs of research and development, manufacturing, and professional service fees. If you still feel the price of a hearing aid is not affordable on your budget there are several options available to make a hearing aid purchase possible including health insurance, financing, veteran’s programs, AARP programs as well as no and low cost options from foundations across the country.
Hearing Aids Are Not Like Glasses
Glasses help you see, hearing aids help you hear, basic statements like that make it seem like both objects essentially serve the same purpose. We even occasionally see hearing aids advertised as the glasses for your ears! Unfortunately, it’s not so simple, hearing aids and glasses and quite different. Yes, they are both worn on your head and supposed to provide correction (not a cure), but that is where their similarities end.
Even the most advanced hearing aids won’t restore your hearing 100% the way another person can hear naturally. Glasses can restore your vision to 20/20. Hearing aids do a great job of mimicking what our ears are supposed to do, but they aren’t perfect, they are just a substitute for the original.
Glasses and contacts are made in different powers to compensate for eyes that have refractive errors (sorry Eye Doctors for the oversimplification). Once the necessary power is determined and the lenses are put in the frames you leave with the glasses and don’t need to come back until your vision gets worse.
Hearing aids are designed to give your ears different amounts of amplification at every frequency because your hearing loss varies between the frequencies. A hearing aid must also vary the amount of amplification depending on the intensity of the sound at that frequency. Once a hearing aid has been selected and fit it is common to come back for periodic adjustments. Even then, the best-programmed hearing aid will not give a person “20/20 hearing” in every situation. The science of hearing aids has advanced enough to give millions of people the ability to hear the sounds in their lives as naturally as possible, but they are still working to perfectly replicate the intricacies of the auditory system.
Another major difference is that your hearing will not get worse because you are wearing a hearing aid (unless it is improperly programmed). Glasses, on the other hand, do some of the work for the muscles in your eye. The more you wear your glasses the more these muscles get lazy and the more dependent you become on your glasses. Hearing aids are designed to stimulate more nerves in your ear than your natural hearing does on its own. The brain starts receiving more signals from the nerves, which means your brain is actually working harder and is less likely to get lazy like your eye muscles.
Hearing aids are not like glasses when it comes to mechanics. One way we wish they were more alike is when it comes to stigma. Billions of people around the world wear glasses and no one thinks of them any differently. For some reasons hearing aids have not become as mainstream. We hope this changes in the near future.
Hearing aids are not One-Size-Fits-All
The internet has made it possible to buy just about anything you could ever want without leaving your home. When it comes to buying hearing aids online, it is not the best idea.
Buying hearing aids online or by mail order without consulting a hearing healthcare professional can be harmful to your ears.
All 50 states require that consumers use a credentialed hearing care professional to purchase hearing aids. Illinois is actually the only state where it is legal to buy and sell hearing aids online and by mail without seeing a hearing professional. Other states require you to see a professional first, so you can rule out earwax and other medical issues that can affect your hearing.
Buying hearing aids that are not accurately customized to your specific hearing needs can damage your hearing further. When they amplify the sounds too loudly they can easily harm the delicate structures in your ear.
The FDA regulates hearing aids because they are medical devices that require a specific education to select, adjust and fit. In order to determine the type of device that is best for you the specialist will take several steps. First they will administer a hearing assessment in a sound booth. Then they will provide appropriate counseling about your hearing loss. Finally, they will discuss your lifestyle and particular needs, so that you can decide on the best hearing aid.
Buying hearing aids online or by mail may seems like it will save you money initially. However, it is important to remember when you buy from your local hearing specialist you get more than just a hearing aid. They will be available nearby whenever you have an issue. Local hearing specialists generally offer follow-up visits for adjustments, warranties and cleaning services at no extra charge if you purchased the hearing aid from them. You have the peace of mind and convenience. Anytime you have trouble you can drop by to have your device adjusted on the spot without sending it away and hoping it comes back working the way you wanted.
Research has shown that being able to communicate with a person and visit for adjustments and follow ups is better for your hearing and quality of life in the long run.
Open Fit Hearing Aids Vs In The Ear Hearing Aids
Shopping for a hearing aid can be a confusing process when there are so many places you can turn to research your options, including reviews and recommendations from friends. However, an important thing to keep in mind is that hearing aids aren’t one-size-fits-all, straight from the box products. They should be tailored to fit your life and your needs.
One of the many options you have to choose from is whether you prefer an open fit or in the ear style. An open fit hearing aid refers to any style that sits behind your ear rather than inside your ear canal. These have come a long way from the big bulky flesh-tone contraptions you are imagining right now. The design of most open fit hearing aids has advanced so that they are small and very discrete.
An in the ear style hearing aid does just that- sit within your ear. These styles range in size from the very tiny options that are placed deep within your ear canal to the larger options, which fill the entire bowl-shaped area of your outer ear.
Both styles have their own advantages and disadvantages. The style you choose will depend on your personal preferences and your hearing loss.
Open fit advantages
- Diminish the occlusion effect, or plugged up feeling that can bother in the ear style hearing aid wearers.
- Small and lightweight and come in a variety of colors to match your hair or skin tone.
- Do not need to be custom made so they can be fit and programmed on the same day.
- Often cheaper than other styles.
Open fit disadvantages
- Small batteries with short lives
- Limits to the amplification of sound frequencies.
In the ear advantages
- Placed much closer to the eardrum simulating natural sound reception.
- Some styles are nearly invisible.
- Must be custom molded to fit comfortably in your ear.
In the ear disadvantages
- Leaves some people with a plugged up feeling.
- Placement makes them susceptible to more moisture and earwax. They need frequent cleaning.
- Some are very tiny making them difficult to manage for those with dexterity trouble.
- Those same small styles often are too small to hold advanced features like multiple channels.
Other Considerations for Selecting the Best Hearing Aid
With so many different types of hearing aids on the market, it is important to work with your hearing specialist to find a balance between your hearing loss, your budget, and your lifestyle. Remember the smallest hearing aids do not provide as much power as other models meaning they might not work for your level of hearing loss. A Hearing Specialist will diagnose your degree of hearing loss and guide you through the process of choosing a device for your specific needs. The best way for you to decide what type of device works best for you is to utilize a 30-day trial. Any reputable hearing aid dispenser will offer you the chance to wear a hearing aid in your everyday life for 30-days in order for you to determine if it is comfortable and more importantly that it helps you hear in those situations where you need it most. One of the main considerations will be the nature of your hearing loss. The hearing specialist will go over your hearing test results and which hearing aids might work for you based on the severity of your hearing loss.
Consider these questions to ask before buying hearing aids:
- If I only have hearing loss in one ear, why should I wear two hearing aids?
- How many channels do the hearing aids have? How many do I need?
- Do I have the dexterity to get the hearing aids in and out of my ear without struggle? And change the batteries?
- Do I have the vision to operate the controls and change the battery?
- Do the hearing aids come with a remote control? Will I need a remote control?
If you are concerned about appearance the specialist can recommend styles that are less noticeable, but keep in mind not all styles will fit with your hearing loss.
When considering your lifestyle be sure to ask questions like:
- What are the benefits of features like directional microphones, number of microphones and automatic volume?
- How will these hearing aids work with electronic devices like my cell phone, laptop, and television?
- How often will I have to clean and change the batteries on this device?
- Can I operate all the programs myself?
- How often will I need to come in for follow up visits?
- I’m often in noisy environments do these have noise cancelling options to help me hear the sounds I need to?
Hearing Aid Troubleshooting
Just like any electronic device a hearing aid can malfunction or stop working for a number of reasons. While most issues can be solved with a good cleaning, occasionally the hearing aid will need to be seen by your hearing care provider for special repairs. Before you head to your hearing specialist’s office there are a few things you can check at home to try and get your hearing aid working again.
Problem: Hearing aid whistling or howling when inserted
Troubleshooting: This usually means your hearing aid has not been inserted properly. Take it out and insert it again. If you’re wearing a scarf or hat try removing them, they can obstruct sound and make it bounce back into your hearing aid causing the feedback. If the problem persists the size or shape of your ear canal may have changed or you have accumulated earwax that is causing the hearing aid to not fit snugly anymore. Have a doctor check your ear canal.
Problem: Hearing aid is working but the sound is distorted or very low
Troubleshooting: Many times if the sound coming from your hearing aid just doesn’t sound right, it is because the device is dirty. Get out your cleaning kit, replace the filter and tubing and gently brush the microphone and speaker to try and clear out any wax and debris that could be causing a blockage. Another place that may need to be cleaned periodically is the battery compartment. Carefully use a cotton swab to wipe the battery contacts, taking care not to bend them. You can also swab the battery to ensure it is clean.
You should also check for built up moisture. If you have a device with a receiver tube you will be able to see the condensation. Place your device in a dehumidifier box or drying kit for a few hours and see if that helps.
Finally, a distorted sound may also be a sign that your hearing aid battery is dying. Try changing the battery.
Problem: Hearing aid is on but I hear no sound
Troubleshooting: First check the volume control (if applicable) to ensure you didn’t turn it down on accident. Also if your hearing aid has the t-coil option check to see that the switch is turned off. T-coils are designed to bypass the microphone, but if there is no t-coil present you won’t hear anything. If these issues are not the problem follow the above steps for troubleshooting a hearing aid with distorted sound.
Problem: Hearing aid is dead
Troubleshooting: Replace the battery. It doesn’t matter if you just changed the battery 5 minutes earlier. Sometimes you can get a bad batch of batteries and they won’t power your hearing aid properly. We recommend trying a battery from a totally fresh pack just to be safe. Double check that you are using the proper battery size, that you removed the plastic backing and that it is inserted into the battery compartment properly. Also, check for corrosion on the battery or in the battery contact area. If you see corrosion use a cotton swab to gently wipe the compartment clean.
Hopefully following the above tips solved your problems. If you are still having issues call your hearing specialist and make an appointment to have your hearing aid looked at. The specialist may be able to repair your device in office and send you home with it that day. In the event, the hearing aid requires a more complex repair it will have to be sent back to the manufacturer.
When to Upgrade Hearing Aids
It may not always be clear when it is time to upgrade your hearing aids. In general you can expect your hearing aid to last 3 to 7 years. With proper care and maintenance there is no reason your hearing aid can’t last longer. There are lots of variables that can affect the lifespan of a hearing aid like environment and hours of use.
We find that hearing aid users often fall into two groups: those interested in the latest technological advancements and those who could care less.
In today’s world of ever changing technology hearing aids are advancing quickly. New devices are smaller and smarter. They can connect to smartphones and enhance speech comprehension. Those patients who prefer to keep up with technology updates will purchase new aids every 2-3 years.
For those who aren’t concerned with the latest and greatest technology, there are a few ways you can tell you are due for a new set.
1. You don’t hear as well as you used too
You don’t hear as well as you used too with your current hearing aids. Your hearing can change over time. To some extent your hearing specialist will be able to adjust for changes to your hearing. Eventually, you will need to upgrade your hearing aids for a model with more amplification.
2. Your needs have changed.
If you change jobs or pick up a new hobby your hearing aid may not be equipped to function in these new situations. For example: Your new job requires you to talk on the phone more and your hearing aid just doesn’t cut it.
3. Your hearing aid just isn’t working as well as it used too.
Despite frequent cleanings and maintenance appointments, your hearing aid is going through batteries faster and you hear buzzing and feedback more often. These are signs that the electronics are becoming worn out and need replacement.
Choosing to upgrade your hearing aids can be personal preference or happen out of necessity. Either way because you are already a hearing aid wearer you will have an easier time transitioning to new devices. You already have the experience and knowledge of your hearing needs. At Hearing Lab you can try new hearing aids for 30-days to see how new technology can change the way you hear. Schedule you appointment for an updated hearing test today!