by Dr. R. Patrick FrancisBoard Certified Audiologist
Hearing is the primary means by which we interact with other people. Whether it is a mother and child or professionals around a power lunch, hearing loss negatively impacts all relationships at their most basic levels. It can adversely affect personal relationships, self-image and even income potential. In short, hearing loss can be devastating.
Treatment of hearing loss can be complex and how to go about buying hearing aids is a common question. Using this outline may help you approach the process of better hearing in a logical manor and thus, make decisions appropriate for your specific hearing needs and goals.
First, find a competent audiologist with whom you can comfortably work. Audiologists are educated in the evaluation of disorders of the ear and specialize in hearing rehabilitation.
Once you find an audiologist, you need to describe your lifestyle and your hearing needs. An outdoorsman will have different hearing needs than a businessman. A mother will have different hearing demands than a college student. Bringing a trusted friend or relative is a good idea. Many times the hearing needs are not obvious to the person with the loss. Along with the audiologist, the people you spend time with will have insight as to just what and how much you have been missing. Together a list of specific situations and hearing needs can be created. For instance, you may struggle in social situations, at your place of worship, in the car, in meetings at work or in restaurants. Along with communication needs, your safety must be considered. The inability to hear sounds such as a knock at the door, a baby’s cry, an oven timer and car turn signals can lead to dangerous situations.
After you have identified your hearing needs, your audiologist will conduct a comprehensive hearing evaluation. If your problem is of a medical nature, your audiologist will refer you to an appropriate physician. However, the vast majority of all hearing loss is not medically treatable, and your audiologist is specifically trained to treat such hearing impairment. Either way, you should expect a detailed explanation of your hearing impairment in words that you understand.
If you are a candidate, you are now ready to discuss appropriate types and styles of hearing aids. Demonstrations of various technologies are a must! Is the instrument easy to use? What is the best level of technology for you? Are you happy with the appearance of the hearing aid? Is the hearing aid in your price range? Take your time. You should never be rushed into a decision. Initial evaluations can often last two hours.
Once you have decided on a particular make and model, discuss items such as costs, follow-up appointments, services, warranties, and return policies that are included with your purchase. Pennsylvania State law mandates a trial period of no less than 30 days. Most reputable practices will offer longer trial periods, ensuring satisfaction with the performance of the hearing aids. Use your haring aids all day and in a variety of situations so that you truly understand their benefits and limitations. If you do not wear them as much as possible, you deny your auditory system the input needed to begin the adaptation process, and you will not realize the full potential of the hearing aids. Remember, better hearing is a process not an event.
Before the trial period ends, your audiologist should review your list of hearing needs, and together you should evaluate how well your needs have been met. Along with your personal hearing aid experiences, clinical measures should also verify that the instruments are meeting performance expectations. The most accurate clinical measurement employs the use of a tiny microphone placed in your ear directly measuring hearing aid performance while in your ear.
Fortunately, individuals with successfully treated hearing loss report better relationships with their families, better self-image, improved mental health and greater independence and security. Good communication with a trusted and experienced audiologist can make your pursuit of better hearing a pleasant and rewarding experience.