5 questions on hearing aids, answered by an audiologist

5 questions on hearing aids, answered by an audiologist

I am Dr. Carrie Meyer, Director of Clinical Programs. My areas of expertise are hearing loss, hearing aids, tinnitus, and balance disorders.   Reconnecting people with hearing loss to their families with hearing aids is one of the best parts of my job. 

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Hearing Solutions

Dr. Carrie Meyer

Doctor of Audiology

I have been a clinical audiologist for over 30 years. I have worked with patients from newborn to over 100 years of age. I have worked in conjunction with ENT surgeons the last 10 years, assessing candidacy for bone anchored hearing aids.

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Why do I need hearing aids?

Most adults with hearing loss can benefit from hearing aids.  Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss in adults.  This is hearing loss that occurs in the inner ear.  There is no medication or surgery for this type of hearing loss, so hearing aids are the best treatment for the majority of hearing loss. 

 

When patients ask me this question, they do not want a medical answer, they want a personal answer.  You need hearing aids because it is very likely you are not aware of how much impact your hearing loss is having on you and the people you love.  In adults, most hearing loss occurs very gradually and initially we compensate by lip reading, turning up the TV, asking for repetition.  But as the hearing loss progresses, many people withdraw from social activities they enjoy, and they stop taking on new challenges professionally because they fear embarrassing themselves.   This isolation can lead to depression.  In addition, as the Baby Boomer generation ages, even more research is available indicating that untreated hearing loss – that is people who don’t wear hearing aids – can lead to a higher risk for falls and dementia. 

 

In my audiology clinic, I spent every day battling with resistance to hearing aids.  My patients were always happy to wear updated, fashion forward glasses, but when presented with today’s small, sleek hearing aids – they would tell me they do not want to look old.  I love the quote attributed to Helen Keller:  Blindness separates us from things, deafness separates us from people.   Not wearing hearing aids impacts every relationship you have.

How can I choose the best hearing aids for me?

Hearing aid technology is better than it has ever been.  Hearing aids are very small, very discreet and loaded with advanced technology to improve hearing in noisy environments and connect you with your smart phone and other devices like your TV and computer.  Even hearing aids in the budget friendly price tiers have a wide variety of features.  Manufacturers are constantly improving their hearing aids – all major hearing aid companies have rechargeable hearing aids, direct blue tooth connection, and improved moisture resistance.  I recommend that people focus more on the health care professional fitting the hearing aid:  are they in a convenient location for you, do they offer opportunities to try the hearing aids before you purchase, is there a trial period after purchase, what service packages are offered?  Like a car or a computer, there may be a number of different products that could  work well for you, but the service and professional expertise of the provider will be the biggest factor in your success with hearing aids. 

Do I need a hearing aid for both ears?

Humans are built with two ears – signals from both ears are necessary to hear and understand speech and to locate where in our environment sound is coming from.  Just like our eyes – our ears work together to provide our brains with the most information about our environment.  Today’s hearing aids are designed to work as a pair.  Using a wireless signal, the hearing aids are programmed and linked to each other to improve noise reduction capabilities and create a signal that is as close to normal hearing as possible.    If you have hearing loss in both ears, you will have the best function with two hearing aids.

How long will my hearing aids last?

As a rule, hearing aids will last between 3 to 5 years.   This is dependent on several factors.  Behind the ear hearing aids tend to be more durable and long lasting than in the ear hearing aids because they do not sit directly in the ear canal along with ear wax and perspiration like smaller in the ear hearing aids.  Today’s hearing aids are designed to be more moisture and dust resistant and with the introduction of rechargeable hearing aids, which use a sealed battery compartment, hearing aids are even more robust.   Consistent maintenance and routine follow up visits with your hearing care provider will extend the life of any hearing aid. 

How often do I need to check or adjust the hearing aids?

If you are a new hearing aid user, expect several follow up visits after your initial hearing aid fitting.  It takes time to adjust to wearing hearing aids--working with your provider to address problems and complaints immediately will ensure you obtain the most benefit from your hearing aids.  Once you have your hearing aids adjusted to be comfortable for daily use, I recommend a check up at least twice a year.  This gives your hearing health care provider an opportunity to inspect your hearing aids and look for any issues that might need repair.  Hearing aids are digital and operate using software just like your computer or smart phone.   Hearing aid manufacturers provide software updates that may improve hearing aid function and performance.  Your hearing health care provider can update your hearing aid software in just a few minutes at your check up visit. 

 

 

Having a hearing loss is difficult for everyone.  We never want to see ourselves as impaired or unable to function.  The advances in hearing aid technology have made hearing aids more effective and easier to use than ever before.  They have transformed from large, obvious medical devices to small, high tech communication gear.  But no hearing aid works if you aren’t willing to wear it.  I encourage anyone with hearing loss to investigate what hearing aid options are available and how they can work for you.   You can’t know what you don’t know.   We do know that untreated hearing loss can have severe consequences for mental and physical health.  Take the next step and reconnect to the world of hearing and sound.  You won’t regret it. 

With you on your journey to better hearing.

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