My focus today is to bring you some general information, consumer tips, and some resource information to consider when purchasing a hearing aid for yourself or someone you care about.
My wife says I have selective hearing. I can't hear the honey do things, but I can always hear her when she says dinner is ready.
Hearing loss is a fact of life for us baby boomers. We have endured a greater increase in noise pollution than any other generation. Prolonged or loud noise exposure seems to have overtaken age, as the leading cause of hearing loss. We may have been exposed to hours of farm or factory machinery noise, growing up with loud music and concerts all have taken a toll on our hearing.
One in 10 Americans more than 31 million experience some degree of hearing loss. This makes it our nation's third most prevalent chronic health condition, after arthritis and high blood pressure. Its just my luck to have all three.
How do you know whether you or someone you love might benefit from hearing aids?
-Family and friends have to repeat what they say.
-Frustration from not clearly understanding others.
-Trouble understanding speech on television at normal levels.
-Trouble understanding speech when background noise is present.
-Embarrassment from being unable to hear names when meeting new people.
Options to consider
Buying new hearing aids is an important decision with the potential to greatly enhance your quality of life. Keep in mind these considerations when exploring your options.
1. Chose a qualified hearing specialist there is a variety of hearing health professionals to choose from. Look for a hearing specialist with a strong professional qualifications, including education and experience, and a good reputation in the community. Remember that price is not the only question, when you see advertisements for hearing aids at a price that seems too good to be true, it probably is. Check with your Better Business Bureau before you buy.
2. Learn about your options Learn about hearing aid styles and technology features. There are at least 10 different styles and 10 or more features from directional microphones to automatic memories. Always ask questions and find out what styles and features best fit your hearing loss and lifestyle.
3. Undergo a thorough evaluation Make an appointment with a local audiologist. It is the first step toward identifying your hearing loss and finding a solution to address your specific hearing problem. There are several reputable hearing centers that offer free hearing evaluations. Be advised though that if your test shows that you could be helped with hearing aids don't be pressured into making a decision that day. Take the time to explore your option for your specific needs.
4. Identify your needs There are more choices in hearing devices than ever before, ranging from how they look and feel, to how they work. In order to get the most benefit, it's important to match your hearing needs to your lifestyle when choosing hearing aid style, features and controls.
5. Know the price Be sure you have a clear understanding of exactly what's included in the price of your hearing aids. Hearing aid prices can vary widely from as low as $600 to several thousands of dollars. You should get a written contract outlining the cost of the hearing instruments as well as the professional services included in the purchase. Items such as follow up visits for training, device adjustments, return and warranty policies should be spelled out to your satisfaction.
6. Ensure a proper fit Talk to your hearing professional if a customized ear mold is uncomfortable. The casts are usually quite accurate for replicating the shape of your ear, but in rare cases the process needs to be repeated. Since hearing aids are worn all day long, work with your professional to ensure proper fit, so you can get the full benefit of your hearing aids.
7. Follow up Adjusting to new hearing aids takes time. Tell your friends and family members that you are adjusting to a new technology. You may need to remind them that they do not have to speak loudly anymore. Remember you are retraining your brain how to hear.
Things to remember
1. Be realistic. Remember that your hearing loss has been gradual; over the years you have lost the ability to hear certain sounds in the speech spectrum and normal sounds of the environment, such as traffic and wind noise, the hum of machinery and other background noises.
2. Practice. When you begin to ware hearing aids, these sounds will be restored but your brain will need "practice" and re-educate in order to selectively focus on and filter sounds. Some sounds may even startle you at first. Know that your brain will re-acclimate to these sounds over time.
3. Be patient. It takes time to adapt to hearing aids. Wear them as much as possible at first to become more skilled at recognizing sound direction and learn which hearing aid settings work best for you in different situations.
4. Rest. The adjustment period may be tiresome. It's a lot like training a muscle that haven't been used in a while. The benefits will be well worth it after you've made the adjustment. Be sure to keep follow up appointments with hour hearing specialist, so he or she can adjust our hearing aids as necessary to make sure they are working as well as possible for you in every situation.
8. Know the return policy. Be sure to find out what the trail period is for your hearing aid. Find out whether or not there are there are fees associated with returning your hearing aids, and if you will have an opportunity to try a different model if the first model does not work well for you.
9. Understand your warranty. Your hearing aid specialist should provide you with a copy of the warranty and clearly explain what is and isn't covered. You may be able to purchase an extended warranty or loss/damage insurance that covers you after the warranty has expired.
10. Remember you can use hearing aids with other types of hearing amplifiers. Consider your options for hearing aid-compatible phones and other assistive listing systems. Your hearing specialist can answer any questions you may have, and show you how various hearing devices work together.
These are just a few of the things to consider when checking on and adapting to your hearing needs. I hope this information will be of use to you or others in your life. There is a large amount of information available to better inform you about the decision you want to make about correcting hearing loss and improving the quality of your life and the people around you. The Mayo Clinic has a great web site as well as the National Consul for Better Hearing. Talk to a friend or family member who have gone through the process this may help you learn from their experience.
Gary Johnson is the Senior Outreach Program Manager for the Better Business Bureau of North Dakota and Minnesota.