Hearing Loss: Overcoming Resistance to Treatment

Father and son sitting on couch

The intriguing thing about hearing loss is that, statistically, if you have it, you more than likely won’t acknowledge it or seek out care for at least five to seven years—possibly longer.

The statistics:

  • 20 percent of the US population, or 48 million people, have some level of hearing loss.
  • Of those with hearing loss, only 20 percent will seek treatment.
  • Of those who do seek treatment, they’ll wait 5 to 7 years prior to getting a hearing test.
  • Of those that obtain a hearing test, they’ll delay, on average, 10 years after the established diagnosis before getting hearing aids.

As a consequence, on average, out of 100 people, 20 will have hearing loss. Out of those 20, only 4 will search for treatment. And those 4 people will wait 5 to 7 years before obtaining a test, after which they’ll wait an additional 10 years before buying a hearing aid.

That means, in this sample of 100 individuals, 16 people will go without better hearing indefinitely, while the 4 that do get help will have forfeited 15 years of better hearing and a better quality of life.

Resistance to Finding Help

If you work in the hearing care profession, these numbers are bothersome. You’ve most likely entered the profession to help people—and with contemporary technology you know you can—yet the vast majority of people won’t even try to enhance their hearing, or for that matter, even admit there’s an issue.

The question is, why do millions of people throughout the United States deny their hearing loss or avoid seeking help?

We’ve discovered the most common factors to be:

1. Hearing loss is progressive

Hearing loss as a rule develops in small increments over many years and isn’t perceptible at any one instant. For example, you’d notice a sudden 20-decibel hearing loss, but you wouldn’t necessarily notice a yearly loss of 1-2 decibels over 10 years.

2. Hearing loss is partial

High-frequency hearing loss (the most common kind) mainly impacts higher frequency sounds. That suggests you might be able to hear low-frequency sounds normally, generating the perception that your hearing is normal. The problem is, speech is high-frequency, so you may feel that the speaker is mumbling when, the truth is, hearing loss is to blame.

3. Hearing loss is invisible and painless

Hearing loss is subjective: it can’t be diagnosed by visual evaluation and it’s not ordinarily accompanied by any pain or uncomfortableness. The only method to appropriately measure hearing loss is with a professional hearing test (audiometry).

4. Hearing loss is not evaluated by the majority of family doctors

Only a small percentage of family physicians routinely screen for hearing loss. Your hearing loss will most likely not be noticeable in a tranquil office atmosphere, so your physician may have no reason at all to even suspect hearing loss—and they may not even be trained in its proper assessment.

5. Hearing loss is easily compensated for

If you have hearing loss, there are alternative ways to intensify sounds: you can turn-up the volume of the TV or require people to yell or repeat themselves. But not only does this strategy work poorly, it also shifts the stress of your hearing loss onto other people.

If individuals can surmount these hurdles, they still face the stigma of hearing loss (although it’s fading), the expense of hearing aids (although it’s dropping), and the perception that hearing aids simply don’t work (entirely erroneous).

With so many obstacles, it’s no wonder why so many individuals wait to deal with their hearing loss, if they decide to deal with it at all. But it doesn’t need to be that way…

Overcoming the Roadblocks to Healthier Hearing

Here’s how you can overcome the obstacles to better hearing and help others do the same:

  1. Know the odds – hearing loss is among the most prevalent health issues in the United States. 20 percent of the population has hearing loss, so it’s not unlikely that you may, as well.
  2. Accept your hearing loss – hearing loss is common, and so are hearing aids. Millions of people in the US use hearing aids and most are satisfied.
  3. Obtain a hearing exam – hearing loss is difficult to discern and easy to deny. The only way to know for certain is by obtaining a professional hearing test.
  4. Learn about hearing aidsmodern hearing aids have been proven to be effective, and with a multitude of models and styles, there’s a pair that’s right for you and your price range.

In regard to hearing aids, the Journal of the American Medical Association in a recent study assessed three prominent hearing aid models and concluded that “each [hearing aid] circuit provided significant benefit in quiet and noisy listening situations.”

The research reveals that hearing aids are highly effective, but what do hearing aid users have to say? According to the MarkeTrak consumer satisfaction survey, 78.6% were satisfied with their hearing aid performance.

Help Reverse the Statistics

Of those with hearing loss, only 20 percent will seek treatment, in spite of the fact that hearing aids are effective and the majority of people are satisfied with their hearing aids’ overall performance.

But what if the statistics were flipped, and 80 percent of those with hearing loss sought treatment? That would mean an additional 28 million people in the US could experience all of the physical, mental, and social benefits of better hearing.

Share this article and help reverse the trend.

University Professor Demonstrates Hearing Aids Improve Memory and Speech

Group thinking, memory

Have you ever taken a course, or attended a lecture, where the ideas were delivered so quickly or in so complex a fashion that you learned next to nothing? If yes, your working memory was probably overloaded over and above its capacity.

The limitations of working memory

All of us process information in three steps: 1) sensory information is received, where it is 2) either dismissed or temporarily retained in working memory, and last, 3) either disposed of or stored in long-term memory.

The problem is, there is a limit to the quantity of information your working memory can hold. Picture your working memory as an empty cup: you can fill it with water, but once full, additional water just pours out the side.

That’s why, if you’re talking to someone who’s preoccupied or on their cell phone, your words are simply flowing out of their already occupied working memory. So you have to repeat yourself, which they’ll be aware of only when they clear their cognitive cup, devoting the mental resources required to fully understand your message.

The impact of hearing loss on working memory

So what does working memory have to do with hearing loss? In relation to speech comprehension, almost everything.

If you have hearing loss, particularly high-frequency hearing loss (the most common), you likely have difficulties hearing the higher-pitched consonant sounds of speech. Because of this, it’s easy to misunderstand what is said or to miss words completely.

However that’s not all. Together with not hearing some spoken words, you’re also straining your working memory as you try to understand speech using complementary data like context and visual cues.

This continuous processing of incomplete information burdens your working memory beyond its capacity. And to make matters worse, as we grow older, the volume of our working memory declines, exacerbating the consequences.

Working memory and hearing aids

Hearing loss taxes working memory, brings about stress, and impedes communication. But what about hearing aids? Hearing aids are supposed to enhance hearing, so theoretically hearing aids should free up working memory and improve speech comprehension, right?

That’s precisely what Jamie Desjardins, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Speech-Language Pathology Program at The University of Texas at El Paso, was intending to find out.

DesJardins studied a group of men and women in their 50s and 60s with two-sided hearing loss who had never used hearing aids. They took a preliminary cognitive test that measured working memory, attention, and processing speed, prior to ever putting on a pair of hearing aids.

Then, after wearing hearing aids for two weeks, the group retook the test. What DesJardins found was that the group participants exhibited considerable improvement in their cognitive ability, with greater short-term recollection and quicker processing speed. The hearing aids had expanded their working memory, reduced the amount of information tied up in working memory, and helped them accelerate the speed at which they processed information.

The implications of the study are wide ranging. With elevated cognitive function, hearing aid users could observe improvement in nearly every area of their lives. Better speech comprehension and memory can improve conversations, strengthen relationships, elevate learning, and supercharge productivity at work.

This experiment is one that you can try out for yourself. Our hearing aid trial period will permit you to run your own no-risk experiment to find out if you can accomplish similar improvements in memory and speech comprehension.

Are you up for the task?

Custom Earplugs Vs. Disposables

Custom-Molded Silicone Earplug

If hearing loss is the invisible disability, then sound is the invisible hazard. Without even being alert to it, the sounds we expose ourselves to could be producing permanent hearing loss that accumulates irreversibly year after year.

Who’s at risk for hearing loss?

A normal conversation registers at a volume of about 60 decibels. City traffic registers at approximately 80, a rock concert at 100, a sporting event at 105, a power saw at 110, and a shotgun blast at an earsplitting 145.

Here’s the concern: recurring exposure to any sound above 85 decibels can result in irreversible hearing loss. That’s why hearing protection is especially vital for musicians, concert-goers, hunters, and construction workers.

But it’s not as straightforward as just staying clear of the sound. Most of us are unwilling to quit our jobs or go without attending concerts just to ensure that we can hear better when we grow old. The only solution is a compromise: safeguarding our hearing by decreasing the volume of the sounds we’re subjected to. Welcome to the world of earplugs.

Custom versus disposable earplugs

The purpose of any earplug is obvious: decrease the volume of sound. And although it’s true that any earplug can achieve this, it turns out that it’s not that easy, for two reasons:

  1. All sound is not created equal—The sounds of speech are much different than the sounds of background noise. You want to suppress more of the background noise than of speech or music.
  2. Sound is dynamic—specific frequencies necessitate different handling, and volume shouldn’t be decreased by too much or by too little.

So, for an earplug to be effective, it has to 1) limit the volume of sound, but not by too much or too little, and 2) manage assorted types of sounds, or frequencies, differently.

As you’ll see, custom earplugs achieve these two feats much better than foam earplugs and have the advantage in three critical areas: sound quality, comfort, and cost.

1. Sound Quality

Foam earplugs block all sound and all frequencies, generating what is known as the occlusion effect for the user, which is the perception of a “hollow” or “booming” echo-like sound in their own voice. Foam earplugs reduce all-around sound quality and create a confined sensation.

Custom earplugs, in contrast, come with special filters for an exact, even level of noise reduction (attenuation). The earplugs can be customized to reduce volume only by the necessary amount, and can filter specific kinds of sound more than others, preserving the fidelity of speech and music.

2. Comfort

Foam earplugs, to be effective, have to form a deep seal within the ear canal, producing a constant feeling of pressure, and this “plugged up” feeling is practically universal.

Custom earplugs, however, are cast to the curves of each patient’s ears by a hearing professional, producing a secure, natural fit without the feeling of constant pressure. Custom earplugs are also crafted with soft, medical-grade material that doesn’t shrink or change shape.

In addition, foam earplugs do not adjust well to variations in ear size and shape. Since custom earplugs are specially shaped for each patient, differences in ear size and shape present no problem at all.

3. Cost

Let’s perform some quick calculations, starting with foam earplugs.

Assume that you work in a profession that requires the every-day use of earplugs. Assuming an average cost of $0.19 per pair, with use on 5 days a week over 4 years, the total cost would be:

$0.19 X 5 days X 52 weeks X 4 years = $197.60 total cost.

(Also keep in mind the environmental cost: over four years you’d be discarding 1,040 pairs of earplugs!)

Let’s do a comparison of that $197 to the cost of a pair of custom earplugs.

A high quality pair of custom earplugs can last four years or more, but let’s just say four. Most custom earplugs cost under $100, so your overall cost after four years is less than half the cost of the disposable earplugs—and you’ll get better sound quality and comfort in return.

Not to mention that by wearing the same custom earplugs for four years, you’ll reduce the waste connected with throwing out over 1,000 pairs of foam earplugs.

Custom hearing protection and foam earplugs will both reduce volume and protect your hearing, but that’s where the similarities end. Custom earplugs have better sound quality, are more comfortable, and cost you and the environment, in the long term, much less.

A Simple Guide to Hearing Aids

Small digital hearing aid in hand

Hearing aid guides are not uncommon, but the majority are not exactly reader-friendly, either. Many are generally too long or complicated, adding more confusion instead of less.

My guess is that you’re a great deal less interested in the physiology of hearing or in the particulars of acoustical engineering and much more interested in finding the proper technology at an acceptable price. Your goal is to hear better, not to read a 20-page manual.

If that represents you, then you’ll benefit from this concise guide to hearing aids. We’ll review four brief sections, and when we’re finished, you’ll be well prepared to work with your hearing care professional to discover the technology that’s most suitable for you. Let’s get started.

How All Digital Hearing Aids Work

Choosing a hearing aid can feel overwhelming—there are several brands and seemingly never-ending considerations. But it’s really not as complicated as it seems. As you progress through this guide, keep in mind that all digital hearing aids function basically the same way, and include these four basic parts:

  1. The microphone picks up environmental sound and delivers it to the digital processor.
  2. The digital processor adjusts the sound signal according to the settings programmed by the hearing specialist. The modified sound signal is then transmitted to the amplifier.
  3. The amplifier increases the volume of the sound based on the programmed settings, amplifying only the frequencies the patient has trouble hearing (while suppressing background noise). This signal is next sent to the speaker.
  4. The speaker supplies the magnified sound to the ear, producing louder, clearer sound.

In addition, all hearing aids include a battery, volume and setting switches, and remote controls.

Hearing aids really only differ in two important ways: 1) style, and 2) advanced features. We’ll address these in the next two sections.

Hearing Aid Styles

You have your choice of three primary styles:

1. Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids hook over the top of the ear and sit behind the ear. The case is then fastened to an earmold in the ear canal by a piece of clear tubing. BTE hearing aids are convenient to handle and clean, typically have a longer battery life, and can manage severe hearing loss.

2. In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids occupy the exterior part of the ear with a custom-molded shell. ITE hearing aids are smaller than the behind-the-ear hearing aids but bigger than the in-the-canal styles. This makes ITE hearing aids easier to handle than the smaller styles but less noticeable than the BTE style.

3. In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids and completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids fit partly or entirely within the ear canal, making them nearly or entirely invisible. ITC and CIC hearing aids are custom molded to the curves of the ear, and some types can be used for several months at a time.

When picking out a style, weigh the tradeoffs among ease of use, battery life, and concealment. Your hearing care professional will help you prioritize your preferences and identify the most appropriate style.

Hearing Aid Advanced Features and Accessories

After you’ve chosen the most suitable style, you can figure out which of the following features you need—and which you don’t.

  • Directional microphones enable you to focus on the sounds and conversations directly in front of you while minimizing the interruption of loud background noise.
  • Telecoils, or T-coils, allow you to talk on the phone while reducing the static brought about by background noise.
  • Environmental noise control allows you to enhance hearing based upon your environment, for example in a tranquil room at home versus in a chaotic restaurant.
  • Direct input to sound sources such as televisions, radios, computers, and music players allow for clear sound without background noise.
  • Wireless connection to mobile phones transforms your hearing aids into high-quality wireless headsets. The hearing aid settings can be manipulated from your phone (or digital watch), and sound can be wirelessly streamed straight from the phone to the hearing aids.

Optional accessories include cleaning kits, storage cases, ultraviolet sanitizers, battery-changers, and more. Your hearing care professional can help you determine which hearing aid accessories you may need or want.

Choosing the Right Hearing Aids

Before making an investment in hearing aids, take these four steps:

  1. Find a reputable, local hearing care professional. Only professionals with adequate experience can evaluate your hearing accurately, which is crucial for when it comes time to program, fit, and calibrate your hearing aids.
  2. Focus on hearing aid styles and advanced features. Your choice of hearing aids will hinge on your preference of style and functionality. Explore these two factors with your hearing expert and your options will come to be manageable.
  3. Set a budget. Some would assert that your hearing is priceless, but that doesn’t imply you have an unlimited budget. With all of the hearing aid options available to you, you and your hearing specialist can uncover the right hearing aid at a reasonable price.
  4. Test drive your new hearing aids. inquire about trial periods and test out your new hearing aids. Work with your hearing specialist to establish sensible expectations and give your hearing aids an opportunity to show results. Your patience will be rewarded when you realize the difference better hearing will make in your life.

And that’s it. What appears to be a complicated process is in fact easily manageable, once you understand how to prioritize your needs and narrow your options. With the assistance of your local hearing care professional, you can discover the ideal technology at the right price—so you can start enjoying all of the advantages of better hearing.

What Makes Modern Digital Hearing Aids Better?

Digital Hearing Aid

Technology evolves quickly: in 2006, the typical 40-inch flat screen TV would have cost you over $1,500. Today, 10 years later, you can purchase a 40-inch flat screen TV for less than $230.

The same has happened with hearing aids, even though it’s more likely to escape our awareness. We notice that TVs become bigger, better, and less expensive, but we’re blind to the advancements in hearing aids because we’re not inundated with advertising and massive store exhibits.

Nonetheless, hearing aids, along with all other consumer electronics, have improved drastically over the last 10 years. If analog hearing aids are like the bulky 15-inch-tube-TVs of the past, modern digital hearing aids are like the lightweight 65-inch-Ultra-High-Definition TVs of the present.

Here’s what makes modern hearing aids significantly better, beginning with the technology that makes it all possible.

Digital Technology

Hearing aids, like all electronics, have benefited from the digital revolution. Hearing aids have come to be, in a sense, miniaturized computers, with all of the coding flexibility you’d expect from a contemporary computer.

The result is a gadget that is compact, lightweight, energy-efficient, and proficient at manipulating information—information being, in the case of a hearing aid, sound.

So how do modern hearing aids manipulate sound? Let’s use an analogy: visualize inbound sound as incoming mail and the digital hearing aid as a mailroom.

As mail is obtained, it’s identified, labeled, stored, and ultimately delivered to the appropriate recipients. In a similar manner, digital hearing aids can take incoming sound and can label certain frequencies to be delivered to the amplifier. Speech sounds, for example, can be tagged as essential and sent to the speaker for amplification. Likewise, background noise can be tagged as “undeliverable” and returned.

Analog hearing aids didn’t have this “mailroom” functionality. Incoming sound is delivered all at one time—like if the mail clerk were to give you everyone’s mail and you had to sort through the clutter yourself to find your own. Speech simply gets lost in the mix with background noise, and you have to work hard to dig it out.

Hearing Aid Advanced Features

Digital manipulation of information is the key element to everything a modern hearing aid can accomplish. Here are some of the advanced features associated with contemporary hearing aids that digital technology helps make possible:

  • Speech recognition – digital hearing aids can distinguish and enhance speech with digital processing and directional microphones.
  • Background noise suppression – background noise is a lower frequency sound, which the hearing aid can recognize and inhibit.
  • Clearer phone calls – telecoil technology amplifies the signal from your phone, producing clear sound without interference.
  • Wireless streaming – hearing aids equipped with Bluetooth technology can connect to devices wirelessly, so you can stream music, phone calls, and TV programs directly to your hearing aids.
  • Wireless control – compatible hearing aids can be operated with smart phones and digital watches, so you can effortlessly and discreetly adjust volume and settings.

Test Out Your New Digital Hearing Aids

As you have seen, digital hearing aids are powerful pieces of contemporary technology. That’s why almost all cases of hearing loss can now be effectively treated, and why the majority of people are pleased with the performance of their hearing aids.

If you’d like to test drive this new technology for yourself, give us a call and inquire about our hearing aid trial period.

How to Communicate Your Hearing Loss to Others

Family smiling

Hearing loss is known as the invisible disability for a reason. No one can view or experience your hearing loss, and no one can experience your frustration and stress. The only thing people can experience is their OWN frustration when they have to constantly repeat themselves.

Regrettably, individuals with hearing loss rarely get the benefit of the doubt. That’s why communicating your hearing loss to others is essential—both for attaining empathy and for participating in effective conversation.

Here are a few tips you can use to let others know about your hearing loss.

Full disclosure of your hearing loss

Informing others about your hearing loss may be awkward or distressing, but in doing so you’ll prevent many other awkward situations. Missing out on jokes and causing others to repeat themselves, for instance, can make for situations that are much more uncomfortable.

When disclosing your hearing loss, aim for complete disclosure. Don’t just say something like, “I can’t hear you, please speak up.” Instead, explain your hearing loss and recommend ways the other person can best speak with you. For instance, you might say something like, “I’m partially deaf in my left ear due to an infection I had years ago. If you could sit on my right side that would help a lot.”

Suggest how others can best communicate with you

Once you divulge your hearing loss, other people will be much less likely to become frustrated and more apt to make an effort to communicate clearly. To help in this respect, offer your communication companions some tips for better communication, such as:

  • Keep the distance between us short, and please don’t yell across the room or from another room.
  • Face-to-face communication is critical; visual signs and lip reading help me with speech comprehension.
  • Get my attention before speaking with me.
  • Speak slowly and clearly, but there is no need to shout.

Your friends, family members, and co-workers will appreciate the honesty and pointers, and you’ll avoid having to cope with communication obstacles after the fact.

Control your hearing environment

After fully disclosing your hearing loss and offering communication tips, the final consideration is the management of your environment. You’ll want to give yourself the best chance to hear and communicate clearly, and you can achieve this by removing disruptions and background noise.

Here are a few guidelines:

  • When eating out, pick out a quiet, serene restaurant and select a table away from the middle of the restaurant.
  • At social gatherings, it’s best if there is no background music or sound coming from a television or radio.
  • Find quiet areas for conversations.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk to the host beforehand about special arrangements.

Preparing in advance is your best option. Approaching the host prior to the party will give you your best shot at effective communication. And the same can be applied to work; reserve some time with your supervisor to review the preparations that give you the best chance to realize success. Your supervisor will likely appreciate the initiative.

Find professional help

When hearing loss starts to make social events more of a burden than a pleasure, it’s about time to search for professional assistance. Modern hearing aids have come a long way in terms of their ability to filter background noise and improve speech, and they may be just what you need to enjoy an active social life once again.

Life Hacks For Better Hearing

Woman cupping had around ear

Oxford Dictionaries defines life-hack as: “A strategy or technique adopted in order to manage one’s time and daily activities in a more efficient way.” Life hacks can help you save both money and time, and some are so easy you’ll ask yourself why you hadn’t previously thought of them.

Creative but straightforward life-hacks include turning your toaster oven sideways to make a grilled cheese sandwich, using the sticky portion of sticky notes to clean between the individual keys of a keyboard, and using duct tape to open jars.

Life-hacks can also relate to the human body: examples include scratching your ear to alleviate an itch in your throat, lying on your left side to soothe acid reflux, and pushing your tongue flat against the roof of your mouth to alleviate brain freeze from ice cream.

But what about our hearing? Are there any life-hacks we can make use of to allow us to hear better or easier? As it happens, there are quite a few—here are our selections for the top 7.

1. Test your hearing on the web

You can rapidly check for hearing loss using one of the several apps available online, or by completing the online hearing test on our website. If the results suggest hearing loss, you can subsequently set up a professional hearing test with your community hearing care provider.

2. Employ white noise for a better night’s sleep

Studies suggest that using white noise can help you to sleep better as it helps to build a bedtime habit, keeps the room quiet, and helps “power down” your lively brain.

3. Wear customized earplugs to prevent hearing loss

Prolonged and recurring exposure to any sound higher than 85 decibels can lead to irreparable hearing loss (rock concerts can reach over 100 decibels). Wearing custom made earplugs is a simple way to avoid hearing injury, and the most current earplugs can retain sound quality while reducing volume. Contact your local hearing care professional for more information.

4. Protect your hearing with the inverse square law

This law of physics could save your hearing. The inverse square law states that as you double the distance from the source of sound the intensity of the sound falls by 75 percent. So, in lieu of standing front row at a rock concert, increase your distance from the loudspeakers as much as you can (while preserving a good view).

5. Use the 60/60 rule when listening to music

If you listen to a portable music player with earbuds, maintain the volume at 60 percent of the maximum volume for not more than 60 minutes per day to prevent hearing loss.

6. Favor your right ear for speech

A study executed over the course of six years by scientists at UCLA and the University of Arizona found that the right ear is better designed for speech and the left ear for music. So the next time you’re having trouble hearing a conversation, turn your right ear toward the speaker.

7. Regulate your hearing environment

Using hearing aids is probably not thought of as a life-hack, but it is the only means to appropriately enhance hearing in the presence of hearing loss—and the things you can perform with modern-day hearing aids are truly amazing.

For example, a number of hearing aids are wireless and can be operated with mobile phones or digital watches. That means the user can discreetly modify volume and settings for each circumstance—in essence, the user can literally regulate the sound environment. We can’t come up with any other life-hack cooler or more helpful than that.

What did we forget? What are your favorite life-hacks (health-related or in general)?

Preparing For Your Hearing Test

Hearing Test

Congratulations on taking the first step toward better hearing by scheduling your hearing test. You’re already ahead of the game, as most people delay having their hearing tested for many years—in some instances decades.

But now that you’ve arranged your hearing test, you’ll want to see to it that you’re prepared for the appointment, especially if test results reveal that you could benefit from wearing hearing aids. Purchasing hearing aids can be challenging, but if you ask the right questions, your hearing care professional can help direct you to the ideal technology.

To achieve the best hearing you can, remember to ask these five questions at your upcoming hearing test.

1. What kind of hearing loss do I have?

Your hearing care professional will test your hearing using the most current technology, and the results of the test will be printed on a chart known as an audiogram. Make sure your hearing professional reviews the audiogram with you and clarifies:

  • The type and extent of your hearing loss. High-frequency hearing loss is most common, and is categorized as mild, moderate, severe, or profound.
  • How hearing aids can help, and if and why you’d require hearing aids for one or both ears. Hearing loss in both ears is most effectively treated with two hearing aids, and the audiogram will demonstrate the results for both ears.

2. Which hearing aid is most suitable for my needs?

Every patient’s hearing loss and listening requirements are unique. The more your hearing professional knows about your way of life, the better they can prescribe the suitable technology.

If you’re highly active, for example, you may want to consider the most up-to-date hearing aid technology with wireless capabilities. If you don’t want all of the special features, on the other hand, a more cost-effective alternative is likely a better fit.

3. What are my options for financing?

Next up is everyone’s least popular subject—price. Although you should bear in mind that the benefits of hearing aids far surpass the cost (the monthly expense in most instances being less than the cable TV bill), the price can still seem to be high.

Several financing possibilities are available that can help cover the expense, although not all options are available to each patient. Nevertheless, you should check with your hearing professional about some of these resources:

  • private insurance (uncommon but worth asking about)
  • Medicare and Medicaid
  • Veterans Administration benefits
  • charitable organizations
  • state programs
  • financing options (special healthcare credit arrangements)

4. How can I most effectively adapt to my new hearing aids?

After you’ve decided upon your preferred hearing aids and have had them expertly fit, you can go back home and instantly hear perfectly without any complications, right?

Not exactly. Like anything brand new, you’ll need some time to adapt. You’ll be listening to sounds you haven’t noticed in a long while, your voice may sound unusual, and the fit may feel awkward. This is perfectly normal and expected, and will take care of itself in a short amount of time. You simply have to be patient.

Make sure that your hearing professional provides guidelines on how to best adapt to your hearing aids, including how to operate them and how to learn the features.

5. How do I maintain my hearing aids?

Hearing aids are sophisticated and dependable devices that should operate reliably for many years. Still, they will require consistent cleaning and care. Ask your hearing professional about cleaning kits and practices, storage solutions, accessories, and battery management.

Also, it’s a good idea to have your hearing specialist professionally clean your hearing aids a couple of times a year.

As you prepare yourself for your hearing test, keep in mind that obtaining the best outcome requires:

  1. understanding your hearing loss
  2. coordinating your hearing loss and lifestyle to the right technology
  3. choosing an affordable solution based on your budget
  4. professionally fitting and programming your new hearing aids
  5. adapting to and taking care of your hearing aids

With the help of your community hearing care professional—and by asking the right questions—you can assure the best results and a life of healthier hearing.

How Hearing Aids Can Boost Brain Function

Graphic of brain

Photo credit: flickr Saad Faruque

Twentieth century neuroscience has discovered something really amazing: specifically that your brain can change itself well into your adult years. While in the early 1900s it was assumed that the brain ceased changing in adolescence, we now are aware that the brain responds to change throughout life.


To understand how your brain changes, consider this comparison: imagine your typical daily route to work. Now picture that the route is blocked and how you would behave. You wouldn’t simply give up, turn around, and go home; instead, you’d look for an substitute route. If that route turned out to be more efficient, or if the original route remained restricted, the new route would become the new routine.

Synonymous processes are happening in your brain when a “normal” function is obstructed. The brain reroutes its processing down new paths, and this re-routing process is described as neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity comes in handy for grasping new languages, new abilities like juggling, or new healthier habits. Over time, the physical changes to the brain correspond to the new behaviors and once-challenging tasks become automatic.

Unfortunately, while neuroplasticity can be beneficial, there’s another side that can be dangerous. While learning new skills and healthy habits can make a positive impact on our lives, learning bad habits can have the opposite effect.

Neuroplasticity and Loss of Hearing

Hearing loss is a good example of how neuroplasticity can backfire. As covered in The Hearing Review, researchers from the University of Colorado discovered that the portion of the brain dedicated to hearing can become reorganized and reassigned to separate functions, even with initial-stage hearing loss. This is believed to explain the association between hearing loss and cognitive decline.

With hearing loss, the parts of our brain responsible for other functions, like vision or touch, can solicit the under-utilized segments of the brain in charge of hearing. Because this reduces the brain’s available resources for processing sound, it impairs our capacity to understand language.

So, if you have hearing loss and find yourself saying “what was that?” frequently, it’s not simply because of the damage to your inner ear—it’s partially brought about by the structural changes to your brain.

How Hearing Aids Can Help

Similar to most things, there is a both a negative and a positive side to our brain’s ability to change. While neuroplasticity aggravates the effects of hearing loss, it also expands the performance of hearing aids. Your brain can shape new connections, regenerate tissue, and reroute neural paths. As a result, enhanced stimulation from hearing aids to the parts of the brain responsible for hearing will stimulate growth and development in this area.

In fact, a newly published long-term study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society determined that wearing hearing aids curbs cognitive decline in individuals with hearing loss. The study, titled Self-Reported Hearing Loss: Hearing Aids and Cognitive Decline in Elderly Adults: A 25-year Study, observed 3,670 adults age 65 and older over a 25 year time period. The study discovered that the rate of cognitive decline was higher in those with hearing loss compared to those with normal hearing. But the participants with hearing loss who used hearing aids showed no difference in the rate of cognitive decline when compared to those with normal hearing.

The appeal of this study is that it confirms what we already know about neuroplasticity: that the brain will reorganize itself according to its requirements and the stimulation it is provided with.

Keeping Your Brain Young

To summarize, research shows that the brain can change itself all throughout life, that hearing loss can hasten cognitive decline, and that utilizing hearing aids can prevent or lessen this decline.

But hearing aids can accomplish a lot more than that. As reported by brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, you can improve your brain function irrespective of age by partaking in challenging new activities, keeping socially active, and practicing mindfulness, among other methods.

Hearing aids can help here as well. Hearing loss has a tendency to make people withdraw socially and can have an isolating influence. But by using hearing aids, you can make sure that you stay socially active and continue to activate the sound processing and language regions of your brain.

What a Hearing Care Professional Can Do For You

Doctor with patient

There seems to be more misunderstanding when it involves hearing care than with many other medical specializations. We don’t need to ask, for instance, what a dentist or eye doctor can do for us. But when it comes to our hearing, we’re many times unsure as to what action we should take or who we should see.

So what exactly can a local hearing care professional do for you? Many things, actually—things that could end up making your life better and more convenient.

The following are 6 services you should be familiar with.

1. Examination of hearing and balance

Hearing professionals are specially trained in evaluating hearing and balance. If you think you have hearing loss, balance problems, or experience ringing or buzzing in the ears, the local hearing professional is the go-to expert.

By performing professional audiological assessments, hearing specialists can expertly diagnose the cause of your hearing loss or balance problems. And if your hearing loss is caused by an underlying medical ailment, hearing specialists can make the appropriate referrals.

In addition, If you have chronic ringing in the ears, known as tinnitus, many hearing specialists can provide targeted therapies.

2. Earwax extraction

In certain cases, what is believed to be hearing loss is simply excess earwax accumulation. While it’s not the most glamorous feature of the job, hearing specialists are trained in professional ear cleaning. If this is the reason for your hearing loss, you could start hearing better within a few minutes.

And always remember, it’s never safe to insert anything, including cotton swabs, into your ear canal at home. There are several other proper ways you can clean your ears, such as with homemade solutions or ideally by visiting the hearing specialist.

3. Custom hearing protection

Many people make the error of first visiting the hearing specialist after they develop hearing loss. Don’t commit the same mistake. If you’re working in a loud industry (for instance as a musician) or take part in loud activities (such as hunting), you should invest in custom made ear protection to protect against future hearing loss.

You could just pick up some foam earplugs at the convenience store, but they’re typically uncomfortable and produce an annoying muffled sound. Custom earplugs fit comfortably in your ear and conserve the sounds you want to hear while protecting against the sounds that result in damage.

4. Professional hearing tests (audiometry)

Hearing loss is hidden, pain-free, and frequently difficult to acknowledge or accept. The only method to attain an accurate diagnosis is with the aid of a professional hearing examination referred to as audiometry.

Using sophisticated equipment and procedures, the hearing specialist can precisely diagnose hearing loss. After carrying out the testing, the final results are printed on a diagram known as an audiogram. Like a fingerprint, everyone’s hearing loss is somewhat different, which will be visually symbolized on the audiogram.

If you can benefit from hearing aids, the audiogram will serve as the blueprint to programming and customizing the technology.

5. Hearing aid selection and adjustment

Hearing aids come in several styles, from several manufacturers, equipped with countless capabilities. Considering that everyone’s hearing loss and preferences are a little different, this variety is required—but it does make things slightly overwhelming when you need to make a choice.

That’s where hearing professionals can help. They’ll help you find the hearing aid that corresponds to your hearing loss while making sure that you don’t waste cash on functions you simply don’t care about or require.

As soon as you discover the right hearing aid, your hearing specialist will use your audiogram as the blueprint for personalization. That way, you’ll be certain that your hearing aid optimizes your hearing according to the sounds you specifically have difficulty hearing.

6. A lifetime of healthy hearing

The health of your hearing should be preserved as intensely as any other aspect of your health. We have primary care physicians, dentists, and optometrists that help safeguard several aspects of our health on a continuing basis.

Similarly, we ought to have a specific professional watching out for the health of our hearing. Your relationship with your hearing specialist shouldn’t end following your hearing test; it should be on-going. Hearing specialists provide a range of important life-long services, including hearing aid cleaning, upkeep, troubleshooting, and repair, together with advice and guidance on the latest technology.

So although your hearing will inevitably change over time, your hearing specialist should not. If you agree to locating a local professional who cares about helping people above everything else, you’ll enjoy the benefits of healthy hearing for life.