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Need Hearing Aids? What you need to know and which features are best

Losing your ability to hear properly can affect your sense of health, and mood, in negative ways. Losing your hearing is usually a process that happens gradually and over time. This is where hearing aids come into the picture.

“Approximately 1 in 3 people in the U.S., between the ages of 65 and 74, suffer from hearing loss”

In fact, once you turn 75 that number has increased to nearly 1 in 2 people.

Hearing loss in seniors is quite common, as these statistics indicate. There are different types of hearing loss, but the most usual one is the age-related hearing loss.

Age-related hearing loss often occurs in both your ears, affecting them equally. Because this type of hearing happens gradually, you might not even notice, that your ability to hear properly is slowly fading.

Hearing aids are a great resource to help you improve your hearing and speech comprehension. They are designed to make sounds louder, which than makes it easier for you to hear well.

“More then 40 million people in the U.S. are living with some degree of hearing loss. However less than 25% of these have got hearing aids”

Before getting a pair of hearing aids, you need to see your physician. They will then conduct a series of test to determine your hearing severity. Based on this you might be advised to get hearing aids.

But which are the best and how do you decide between brands? More on that a little further down.

man getting his ears checked by doctor

But when does hearing loss result in hearing aids?

Well, usually the people around you will notice your inability to hear as you use to, even before you do. There are different levels to hearing loss, and it will probably progress over time. Suffering from hearing loss doesn’t just mean sounds aren’t loud enough. Oftentimes, it means different sounds aren’t clear enough either.

“Hearing loss is associated with higher risks of hospitalization and depression. Especially dementia.”

Hearing loss isn’t always so black and white. If you were to compare two people with identical hearing test results, and the same mild hearing loss, one might report significant difficulty in their everyday life while the other barely notice the hearing loss at all.

Whenever your hearing loss becomes a nuisance in your everyday life, you should consider seeing a doctor and getting hearing aids. They’ll send you to an audiologist, who will then determine the severity of your hearing loss.

What to look for when buying hearing aids

The average cost of a pair of hearing aids in the United States is about $4,700, which means that it’s quite expensive. However, the cost is only one obstacle. According to research done by Dr. Lin, an ear surgeon, professor, and director of the Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health at Johns Hopkins, people are embarrassed to wear hearing aids.

However, the thing about hearing aids is, that over the years they have become smaller and smaller. Most people wouldn’t even notice you wearing them unless you tell them. Other people just put off getting the hearing aids because of the hassles of going to multiple doctors as well as cost.

“In the U.S., you can't get hearing aids without testing and consultation with a doctor or audiologist”

The most important thing to look for when buying hearing aids is the comfort. They need to feel comfortable to wear and shouldn’t provide you with any pressure on, or in, your ears.

people eating together

Hearing aid styles

As it is with any other electronic devices, there are a lot of different types to choose from. There are invisible-in-the-ear-canal (IIC), Completely-In-Canal (CIC), In-the-canal (ITC), In-the-ear (ITE), receiver-in-canal (RIC), and behind-the-ear (BTE). These, in turn, come with different functions. Some are Bluetooth Hearing aids and some are rechargeable hearing aids.

As there are different styles, there are also different hearing aid brands. Usually, your hearing aids will come from one of the 6 leading companies. All of these hearing aid brands offer a variety of services and styles.

Does brand matter when there are only 6 to choose from?

As mentioned before, today, most of the world’s hearing aids are made by one of six companies: ReSound, Phonak, Signia, Oticon, Starkey, and Widex.

Typically, when you get a hearing aid, the particular devices are custom build for your ears. Before your hearing aid is “build” you will have to go in for a modeling session, so it will fit exactly into your ear. Technicians have to fit all the electronics into a tiny shell that will disappear completely inside your ear.

“If you are buying a digital hearing aid for less than $1000 you may want to question the quality of it”

Because hearing aids are custom built, the brand does matter!

All hearing aids aren’t alike, and the time at which they deteriorate range from anything between 7 to 10 years. The best measure to go by is consistency. You want to be able to hear consistently without any annoying sound effects like beeping or excess background noise.

Another factor to consider when choosing your hearing devices is your level of activity. The more active your life, the better the technology you should consider. You also need to be aware of your brands hearing aid maintenance. The ongoing cleaning routine differs from brand to brand. But whatever brand you have, it is something you need to do on a daily basis and establish a routine on.

It is a big decision to invest in hearing aids and something you should think about beforehand. Research the different brands and compare them to see what they offer.

What’s more important than the cost then?

All hearing aids not matter brand and price all have the same function which is to help your ears perform better and hear more.

Hearing aids are a very advanced and specialized technology. They contain very sensitive acoustic systems for detecting, amplifying, and reproducing the sound around you. However, not all hearing aids are created equally and there are major differences between different types and models.

“The features in your hearing aid are more important than the price”

The different hearing aid styles all offer different capabilities. This also means that the different styles are appropriate for different uses. This include:

  • Noise cancelation
  • Directional Microphones –This helps you hear sounds coming from different directions.
  • Rechargeable batteries
  • Telecoils – If you talk on the phone a lot, this can help to only pick up the sounds from the phone, thus eliminating environmental noises.
  • Bluetooth connections – This can make your hearing aid connect to your smartphone or tablet.
  • Variable programming – Some hearing aids can store and access multiple hearing profiles with different settings. This allows you to adjust your settings quickly and store favorite settings for different environments or uses
  • Dual Synchronization – This feature allows setting changes you make to one hearing aid to apply to both.

Because the new hearing aid technology has to have a lot of different features, to be able to function well in today’s society, they are fairly expensive. Nevertheless, the thing to understand is, that hearing aids will help you live a happier and more fulfilled life.

But what it all boils down to is the option that will make you happiest and suit your hearing needs the best. This is also the option that’s most smart and responsible.

How much does new hearing aids cost?

Unfortunately, there is no way around it. New hearing aids are quite pricey. They range from anything of $1000 and up to more than $5000 for each device depending on the level of technology.

The high price tag is often a barrier to getting the help and relief hearing aids can provide. Most insurance companies do not cover the cost. But, what you have to think about instead is the investment you are making. You are investing in a happier life. It is also important to understand that these are devices you’ll be wearing most of your waking hours, 24/7.

Factoring in all the above technology the modern hearing aids contain, it is no wonder they are quite pricey. They have to be up to date and aid you in your daily life while making sure your hearing amplifiers.   

man and kid sitting on bench at waterfront

Managing expectations and how to get use to hearing aids

Once you have decided to get hearing aids, it then becomes important for you to know what to expect. However, the most important factor to have in mind is that you will be able to hear better again.

Whenever you buy new technology you should always expect a certain time of adjustment. Not least getting used to the daily care and maintenance of the hearing aids. You’ll also need time to learn how to insert and remove them, as well as adjusting the volume control. Some new hearing aids have volume adjustments others are automatic.

“Research has shown that the adjustment period may last a few months after having acquired hearing aids. It takes time for the brain to re-learn sounds”

But there is also some of the more practical stuff to learn. These include learning how to open and close the battery door, changing the battery, getting accustomed to placing the hearing aids in a dry-aid kit for when they are not in use, and learning how to put the hearing aids on.

Additionally, I have also compiled a list of 9 expectations to have in mind. This way you’ll know exactly what to expect from your new hearing aids:

1) Expect a good comfortable fit

As mentioned before, hearing aids are custom-made, which makes the fit perfectly right for your ears. However, it might take some time getting used to wearing the hearing aids. You might also experience a little soreness or irritation at first. But this should resolve itself after a few days or a week or so, after which you’ll be able to wear them for several hours per day without any pain or discomfort.

2) Expect your voice to sound different

For many reasons, your voice will sound strange to you at first – like being in a barrel. This is a normal early perception and it is often called the ‘occlusion effect’. If you don’t adjust to this after a few days, discuss this with your audiologist. Many times, this feeling can be alleviated through changing the vent size in your hearing aids. Sometimes changing the amount of amplification you are getting for low-pitched tones can also remedy this.

3) Expect to be able to hear well, but not perfectly

Your hearing will be at its best in a quiet one-to-one situation and most small group settings. Your hearing aids will amplify sound so speech will become comfortably loud. You should be able to hear most of what is said without having to watch a person’s lips all the time. However, even people with normal hearing watch the person speaking in order to gain more information! Even when wearing the hearing aids, you should combine your vision and your hearing to maximize your benefits from the hearing aids.

4) Expect an optimal "distance for hearing"

The best distance for hearing with your aids will be dependent on the type of microphones that are in your hearing aids. Once you increase the distance from the source you want to listen to, it will get increasingly difficult to hear just as it’s the case for people without hearing aids.

couple enjoying a picnic in nature

5) Expect to have difficulty hearing in noisy situations

Background noise is a nuisance for everyone, even normal hearing people. As sophisticated as today’s technology is, hearing aids still cannot eliminate background noise totally. However, development improves constantly.  

6) Your hearing aids may squeal under some circumstances

Usually, the squealing will indicate the battery status. Sometimes hearing aids may also squeal if you press the phone too tightly to your ear. If you don’t have a volume control on your aids, they will squeal when you place them in your ears. Or until you get them placed comfortably.

7) Expect to buy batteries

Hearing aid battery service life varies based on the hearing aid circuit and the quality and type of battery. Sometimes they are also dependent on environmental conditions (temperature, humidity etc.). If you have rechargeable hearing aids you should expect to charge the batteries once a week or so.

8) Expect repairs

Hearing aids are incredibly sophisticated devices. Because they are put into your ear, you should expect that your ear canal, filled with moisture and earwax, will attack the foreign object. All repairs cannot be avoided, but the majority of repairs can be avoided with regular and careful maintenance!

9) Most importantly, expect to enjoy the sounds of life again!

And be patient!

Not everything is going to happen by the snapping of your fingers. It takes time. And if there is anything you are worried about, you can also contact the manufacturing company or talk to your doctor.

Also remember that even though you are wearing a hearing aid it does not mean that you cannot enjoy the same things that you have always enjoyed, like listening to music or a good audio book. There might have to be some adjustments in the way that you listen, like having a headphone that works well with a hearing aid. If you are interested in what headphones to wear with a hearing aid, read our article on the subject. 

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