What's It Like: To get hearing aids

An estimated 36 million adults in the U.S. have some form of hearing loss, although sometimes it's hard for people to get past the stigma and admit they're suffering from hearing loss.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: December 9, 2012

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.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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