How to Buy Hearing Aids for the First Time
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Do you think you might need a hearing aid? Do you know where to start? Here are some tips to make sure you get good information, find the right help and buy what will work for you.
- Contact Your Primary Care Provider or Audiologist:
Digital hearing aids, "Good, Better, Best." Today, most hearing aids are digital. Digital hearing aids provide high quality sound that was not previously possible. Ask the audiologist to explain the "good, better, best" options in technology as there are differences in sound quality, advanced features and fine-tuning.
Hearing aid styles. There are several styles of hearing aids. The best style for you depends on the type of hearing loss you have as well as your comfort and personal preferences.
Budget. Once you know the style of hearing aid that suits you best, compare benefits of "good, better, best," as they vary greatly. Hearing aids with latest technology and advanced features are most expensive. Even if you don't have a lot of money to spend you will still be able to find a quality hearing aid with enough features to meet your needs.
Warranties. When choosing a hearing aid, ask about the warranty. Does the warranty cover loss and damage as well as mechanical problems? Ask if the cost of office visits are included in the warranty.
One or two hearing aids. If you have hearing loss in only one ear, you will do well with only one hearing aid. However, as both ears tend to be affected by age and noise related hearing loss, wearing two hearing aids will actually help you to separate sound and know where sounds are coming from. Your audiologist will make a recommendation of one or two hearing aids after reviewing your test results.
Bring a companion or family member. If possible, bring someone with you to your appointments with the audiologist. You will be given a lot of new information during both your initial consult and during follow up visits when you actually receive the new hearing aids. A friend or family member can help you remember the details of how to use and care for your new hearing aids.
Set realistic expectations. Getting new hearing aids is the first step in the process of hearing better. It takes a while for your ear and brain to accurately learn how to interpret new sounds, especially when hearing loss has occurred over a long time.
- Primary Care Provider (PCP). Children under age 18 and adults who suspect they may have a medical problem should check with their primary care provider. Consult your PCP if you have an actively draining ear, pain or discomfort in the ear, progressive hearing loss within 90 days, ringing or noise in the ear (tinnitus), sudden onset of hearing loss in one ear or acute or chronic dizziness. Only 5% of adult hearing loss is medically or surgically correctable.
- Audiologist. If a medical problem is not suspected, schedule an appointment with a licensed audiologist. An audiologist has an advanced college degree or doctorate in audiology and is an expert in hearing testing and hearing aids. If the audiologist suspects you have a medical problem, they will refer you to your primary care physician or to an otolaryngologist, (a physician who specializes in medical treatment of the ears, nose, and throat.) The type and level of hearing loss you have directly impacts the type of hearing aid you receive. For this reason, it is important to have a thorough and accurate hearing evaluation.
American Academy of Audiology. Selecting Hearing Aids. Accessed March 2008. Available at: http://www.audiology.org/aboutaudiology/consumered/guides/selecting_hearing_aids.htm
American Academy of Audiology.Hearing Aid FAQs. Accessed March 2008. Available at: http://www.audiology.org/aboutaudiology/consumered/guides/hearingaids.htm
Better Hearing Institute. Getting the Most Out of Your Hearing Aids. Accessed March 2008. Available at:http://www.betterhearing.org/hearing_solutions/gettingTheMost.cfm
Author: Dr. Tomi Browne