Why get hearing aids?
An estimated 36 million adults in the U.S. have some form of hearing loss. Many people seek out hearing aids because their family members or friends have told them they think they might have hearing loss. Sometimes it's hard for people to get past the stigma and admit they're suffering from hearing loss.
Some of the first signs of hearing loss include difficulty hearing background noise and women and children's voices. Also, people suffering from hearing loss might have trouble hearing conversations over the phone.
What happens when you get fitted for hearing aids?
Before you buy your hearing aids, you will likely want to talk with someone about what options work best for you. If you go to an audiologist, you will undergo a comprehensive hearing test to find out how much and what kind of hearing loss you have.
To begin, an audiologist will look in your ear to see if you have a buildup of wax or fluid. Sometimes it's simply wax or fluid plugging your ear, which can be treated medically.
Next, you'll enter a test booth and put on headphones or insert earphones. The audiologist will run a hearing test to see how your ears hear through the outer, middle and inner ear. They will likely run a bone conduction test as well, which helps bypass the outer and middle ear and directly tests the inner ear.
After the test, the audiologist should be able to tell you whether you suffer from conductive hearing loss, which occurs because of a mechanical problem in the outer or middle ear; sensorineural hearing loss, which is permanent hearing loss; or a combination, known as mixed hearing loss.
If it's conductive hearing loss or mixed hearing loss, the audiologist might send you to an otolaryngologist, an ear, nose and throat specialist who can see if your hearing loss is treatable.
Most often, adults with hearing loss suffer the other kind of hearing loss, sensorineural, or permanent hearing loss, which might develop as a result of aging. If this is the case, the audiologist will talk with you about the severity of your hearing loss. Unfortunately, there isn't yet a cure. You would likely discuss different types of hearing aids and which would work best for your type of hearing loss and your lifestyle.
Hearing aids cost about $1,200 to $2,600 each and up to about $5,000 when bought together. Most generally, they're not covered by private insurance or Medicare. Some private insurers will cover the hearing test, and a few cover hearing aids.
Your hearing loss will determine what style of hearing aid works best for you. There are styles that go behind the ear or inside the ear and newer styles called open fit hearing aids that have a thin tube that goes in ear.
It will take you between a few weeks and a few months to acclimate to new hearing aids. It's important to wear them often so that your ears and brain can get used to them.
Does it hurt?
The test and fitting shouldn't hurt. During the test, the headphones might put a little pressure on your head, but other than that, the process should be painless.
What are the risk factors?
One of the main concerns many people have about hearing aids is how they handle loud noises. Most types of hearing aids have compression technology inside of them that doesn't allow loud enough to over carry and damage your ear.
Hearing loss can lead to depression and isolation. Getting hearing aids can sometimes help relieve some of those feelings.
What's the follow-up?
In Oklahoma, there's a 30-day trial period for hearing aids, and if you return your hearing aids, in most instances, you should be given 90 percent of your money back.
Your hearing aids should last between four years and seven years, depending on the style, quality and how well you care for them. The ear is a hostile environment with oil and water, so having to replace your hearing aids is somewhat inevitable. Some hearing aids come with two- to three-year warranties, and this can sometimes be extended.
It's important to direct any questions you have about hearing aids to your audiologist or hearing aid dealer.
Source: Audiologist Kandice Ahlberg, at the Integris Cochlear Implant Clinic; The Mayo Clinic; the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.