Over 48 million Americans today have some type of hearing loss, and medical research continues to show that it is not the benign problem we might have once thought it was. Hearing loss can lead to a cascade of negative health outcomes, and can even be an early indicator of an underlying cardiovascular issue. More than ever, it is clear that attending to our hearing health by enlisting the care of a qualified hearing professional is an important part of maintaining our overall good health as we age.
As we begin to experience hearing loss to a problematic degree, some of us may be inclined to purchase inexpensive solutions online or at “big box” retailers. We may have seen ads online for devices marketed as “hunting aids” that amplify surrounding sound and be tempted to use them as a solution for hearing loss. While these options are most definitely less expensive than pursuing a set of hearing aids from a qualified hearing healthcare practitioner, that savings might not add up to much years from now, for a number of reasons.
A Hearing Checkup
A professional hearing healthcare provider measures your hearing loss in a hearing test that includes a physical exam and tympanometry to assure that your hearing loss will be best treated with hearing aids and not some other corrective measure. Wax build-ups, infections, and perforations of the eardrum, among other causes, can create hearing issues that might be corrected without hearing aids.
It’s important to make sure that your hearing loss is sensorineural, meaning it is caused by permanent damage to the cilia (tiny, hair-like cells) inside the cochlea in the inner ear, and not some other cause that can be cured. You don’t want to be wearing hearing aids when wax removal would do the job!
Getting your hearing tested regularly also allows your hearing healthcare professional to keep track of your hearing loss over time. Hearing loss that occurs faster than normal can be the result of blood flow restriction that could be occurring throughout the body, and in this sense your hearing loss could be the “canary in the coalmine” of your body. Recent studies have shown that accelerated hearing loss can predict a catastrophic cardiovascular event years in advance, so your hearing tests could literally save your life.
“Fitment” is the process of programming the digital signal processing (DSP) in modern hearing aids to match your hearing loss profile. This means that sound is being amplified where you need it and nowhere else, which helps prevent further hearing loss from occurring. Any device that simply amplifies outside sound, when you turn it up loud enough to help you hear, will be pummelling your ears at additional frequencies besides the ones you need help with, which means more hearing loss.
Fitment is an ongoing process that usually requires multiple visits to your hearing healthcare provider, though many current models of high-quality hearing aids allow fitment via smartphone apps over long distance. This is another reason that it’s important to get hearing aids from a provider with whom you can establish a relationship, rather than an “in and out” retailer, or one you never meet at all!
More Than Amplification
Many people may not realize just how far hearing aids have come. In addition to being fitted for your specific hearing loss profile, a good set of hearing aids will integrate with Bluetooth and other technologies for better phone call and teleconference experiences. Modern DSP in hearing aids can also accentuate speech over background noise, making it much easier to follow conversations in more chaotic environments. Many models can also improve sound localization, so you can tell whether what you’re hearing is coming from your left or right, in front or behind, and even accentuate the quieter aspects of speech so you can experience the full range of emotional content being communicated.
Warranty and Repair
A good set of hearing aids often comes with a manufacturer’s warranty extending a few years into the future. Hearing aids are a major purchase, and we’re here to help you select the best model for your specific hearing needs.
We will also be able to offer repairs and regular maintenance to keep your hearing aids working their best. Hearing aids live in a fairly harsh environment, in our ears, especially considering the delicate electronic components they utilize. Any conversation about purchasing hearing aids should include a discussion of the eventuality of repair and maintenance.