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All Posts in Category: Hearing Aids

The Care and Keeping of Hearing Aids

hearing aids repairsHearing loss is a common affliction, often caused by earwax buildup, head injury, ear infection, or ruptured eardrums. Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the cochlea due to illness, genetics, or exposure to loud noises. A damaged cochlea is unable to transmit signals to the brain properly. Many people who experience hearing loss wear hearing aids for treatment, but, as with any technology, hearing aids require regular maintenance and repair to ensure they work properly.

Hearing technology has come a long way in the past few years. With so many different types of hearing aids for adults to choose from, finding one that fits your lifestyle is easier than ever. Of course, there are general maintenance guidelines to prevent the necessity of hearing aids repairs. To prolong the life of your hearing aid, it should be turned off when not in use. All hearing aids should be protected from water and stored in a cool, dry location. Do not wear your hearing aid while swimming, bathing, showering, or when using spray hair products.

Regular cleaning can prevent the need for many common hearing aids repairs. Wax buildup can cause distorted sound or no sound at all. Changing wax filters, cleaning batteries and contacts, and brushing out the microphone opening are all easy fixes to keep your hearing aid working smoothly.

Because 60% of people with hearing loss are in educational settings or the work force, it is important that they are able to hear clearly. Diligently changing hearing aid batteries ensures that they will not experience sudden hearing loss or distorted sound due to dead or dying batteries.

When buying a hearing aid, you are making an investment in your hearing and quality of life. Keeping your hearing aid in good condition and making appropriate hearing aids repairs will ensure that you are able to keep doing all the activities you love. Don’t let your hearing loss slow you down.

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What to Expect When Shopping for a Hearing Aid

Buying a hearing aidWhile three out of every 10 people over age 60 have hearing loss, 65% of people with hearing loss are under the age of 65. Treating hearing loss is important to the patient’s state of mind as well as their ears. According to a recent study by Johns Hopkins University, people with untreated hearing loss are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia than people without hearing loss. Buying a hearing aid is one of the easiest ways to combat the effects of hearing loss.

If you want to look into buying a hearing aid, your first stop should be your doctor’s office for a medical exam. Your doctor can clear out ear wax in preparation for your hearing test, as well as checking for tumors and infections that may be causing your hearing loss.

Once you have received your physician exam, it is time to shop for hearing aids. Your audiologist or hearing aid specialist will first have you take a hearing screening test. While screening for hearing loss, he or she may have you listen to a variety of words and tones through headphones, repeat words spoken while reading the tester’s lips and when they are covered, or discerning speech while a loud recording plays in the background. Be sure to tell the tester if you spend a lot of time on the phone or in loud environments, such as restaurants, as they may not think to ask.

There are several different types of hearing aids for adults, and you will want to ask questions to make sure you choose the right one to fit your needs. Battery life and cost, warranties, and return policies are all things you should ask about. When you pick up your hearing aids, test them out in the store. Practice putting them in and taking them out, adjusting volume, changing batteries, and talking on the phone.

While you may be thrilled with your new hearing aid, be sure to schedule a follow-up appointment with the audiologist. While wearing your hearing aid, take note of any issues you may have in certain environments, and if it turns out to not be the right hearing aid after all, remember to return it for repairs or exchanges.

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Which Hearing Aid is Right for You?

hearing aids for adults

Hearing loss affects people of all ages and all walks of life, although men are more likely to report hearing loss than women. The causes of hearing loss are many and varied, and can include exposure to loud noise, impacted earwax, allergies, or head trauma. Some illnesses that affect hearing include otosclerosis and Meniere’s disease. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the cochlea is damaged by illness, loud noise, genetics, or other trauma and cannot transmit signals to the brain.

Fortunately, technology has made many advancements in hearing technology, so buying a hearing aid to fit your needs is much easier than in the past. Because of increases in digital technology, designing a new hearing aid from concept to manufacturing to market can cost between $85 million and $200 million. Currently, there are five different types of hearing aids for adults, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

The first type of hearing aid is the behind-the-ear aid that most people picture when talking about hearing loss. The earpiece is connected by clear tubing to a plastic case that rests behind the ear and contains most of the parts. Behind-the-ear hearing aids are a popular choice for seniors and children with hearing loss, as they are durable, easy to clean, and can accommodate a variety of earmold types.

If you are concerned about appearance or comfort, you may opt for a mini behind-the-ear hearing aid. Made in a similar fashion as a regular behind-the-ear aid, the mini is smaller, the tube is thinner, and offers a choice between a traditional earmold and an “open fit” ear piece, which is inserted into the ear.

In-the-ear hearing aids are made of a small shell that contains all of the hearing aid parts, and fits in the outer part of the ear. While they are smaller than behind-the-ear aids, in-the-ear hearing aids are larger than the last two types of hearing aids for adults, which may make them easier to handle and adjust.

The last two types of hearing aids for adults are in-the-canal (ITC) and completely-in-the-canal (CIC). Similar to in-the-ear, ITC and CIC hearing aids contain all of their parts in a tiny shell. The shell is then inserted either partially or completely into the ear canal, depending on type. ITC and CIC hearing aids can be difficult to handle due to their small size, so they may not be the best choice for everyone.

Buying a hearing aid can be a long process, similar to purchasing eyeglasses. Don’t worry if the first few you try on aren’t perfect. Everyone has differently-shaped ears, so no hearing aid will fit every person. Talking to your audiologist about your specific needs will help you narrow down the choices and find the right hearing aid for you.

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How do Hearing Instruments Help?

Eyes and ears are different, yet similar. In simple terms, the difference is what they interpret. The similarity is how they transmit and process the signals interpreted. Eyes are designed to receive visual signals that are shaped by light. The light signal is transmitted through the eyeball to the retina. There it is translated into an electrical signal and sent through the optic nerve to the brain stem and channeled to the brain. The brain is where the electrical signals are interpreted. We simply call this process “sight”.

The ear is different in that it receives (catches) sound waves. Sound waves are mechanical vibrations that enter the ear canal and vibrate the eardrum. The eardrum then transmits the vibrations through the middle ear by three tiny bones (the incus, malleus, and stapes) to the inner ear called the cochlea. The cochlea is vibrated, and about 50 thousand tiny hairs in a bed of fluid are stimulated generating electrical signals. These are transmitted through the acoustic nerve to the brain stem. From there, they are sent to the brain where the signals are interpreted.

The mediums for these two senses are images and sound, but the transmissions for both are changed to electrical energy that the brain interprets. The reason glasses or contacts work is that they change the signal the brain receives for clarity. The brain doesn’t care if it is your eyes or your eyes combined with glasses sending the signals. It just wants the correct signal. The same is true of your hearing. The brain doesn’t care if it is just your ears or your ears and a hearing instrument; it is looking for the necessary signal to bring clarity.

Another difference between your eyes and ears is the number of different environments they encounter. Your eyes deal with two main environments- light and dark. Your ears encounter thousands of different environments each day. Just sitting on your couch watching TV, your ears may pass through hundreds of changing sound environments without ever leaving the room. No matter the number of environments, if you give your eyes and ears the right signals, you get clarity. It’s really all about getting the correct signal to the brain.

What happens to many when they begin to have trouble with their vision or hearing is the degradation of the eyes or ears ability to send the correct signals to the brain. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but may go unnoticed because it occurs gradually rather than all at once. Unless you’ve suffered a sudden major hearing loss, your decreased abilities may become your assumed norm as the changes go on undetected.

To correct this, hearing instruments are programmed with your personal settings (Rx). This gives you back what you are missing just like glasses or contacts adjust the signals from your eyes to your individual needs. The biggest challenge for hearing instruments is noise and how it’s handled. That is why there are many different technologies available. The greater the amount of noise and the more environments you are in on a regular basis increase the technology required to help you.

The best hearing professionals follow the protocols of auditory rehabilitation. It should never be about buying something. It should be all about correcting your brain’s ability to understand speech. This should be done in steps so your brain can acclimate with each step toward what you need. This is similar to strengthening any other part of your body. If you haven’t exercised in a very long time, you can’t just immediately run 10 miles. You have to acclimate your body to running again by starting with shorter distances and gradually making increases. Additionally, verification of improvement and adjustments must be made regularly to reach the optimum goal for each patient. If your improvement plateaus, it may be possible to change technologies so you can continue reaching higher levels of speech understanding.

Hearing loss is a disability that for most can be successfully corrected and maintained for the rest of their lives. Delayed treatment can have adverse effects on your health physically and emotionally. Plus, some of your loss can become irreversible over time. Early detection and correction can save your ability to understand and enjoy life!

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Why are hearing aids so expensive?

Why do hearing aid costs seem so high, and how do I get the best buy?

There are several reasons hearing aid costs seem high. I will try to shed some light on the cost versus value for correcting your hearing. I will discuss 3 distinct areas to help bring some perspective.

1st. When Medicare was being formed, the American Medical Association partnered with Congress to developing the strategies and defining benefits for the Medicare system. Although your dentist, chiropractor, optometrist, and audiologist may have the title of Doctor in their field, the AMA and Congress eliminated these professions because they were not part of the AMA or physicians. So, as Americans, we can get some exotic surgeries, but not help for our eyes, ears, and teeth because they are not part of the AMA who controlled Congress. There are some attempting to add these benefits to Medicare, but at best it is a long way off because of current funding from the federal government. Unfortunately, the current environment is more about cutting than adding.

2nd. Research and Development or R&D for short is another reason hearing aid prices seem high. With the advent of the digital age in audiology, the manufacturing cost to design a new hearing aid from concept to market runs between $85 million and $200 million. There are really only six major manufacturers in the world. They operate under different name plates with digital chips and software production. The other manufactures are actually just assemblers. There used to be thousands of manufacturers across the world, but the cost of business and R&D became too much for most. The FDA requirements for approval of new technology are burdensome, time consuming by years, and extremely expensive. What that means for you and me is that technology is fantastic and growing, but for that to continue, the cost of development and approval has to be met or no one will invest in the R&D. This is a much larger subject than I can present here, but hopefully you get an idea on the expense side for the manufacturers.

3rd. Your professional and their practice. Hopefully, you have a professional working with you on your hearing health and not just a person or box store selling hearing aids. Hearing is not a commodity you just buy. That approach is usually unsuccessful at best and has been a major reason why only 20% of those needing to correct their hearing are doing so. That means 80% of the people who need help don’t seek it, and they and their love ones suffer the silent pain of hearing loss in their lives! Those 80% often don’t recognize the damage untreated hearing loss is causing them and those close to them.

There are two main reasons that it is extremely seldom that just buying a hearing aid without further care will work for the purchaser. First, it’s not just about the ears. It’s also about the brain and the signal you are sending it. Have you ever put someone else’s glasses on and tried to see clearly? How did that work for you? It was most likely blurry, right? Just like you need an individual prescription for your eyeglasses, you need your individual prescription for your ears. Plus, since hearing ability is often lost gradually and people don’t often take steps to correct it for many years, over time your brain forgets some of the signals that it used to receive from your ears. Getting it all back at once can be uncomfortable and unproductive because your brain can no longer process those signals. To make regaining your hearing ability more effective, rehabilitation is the next step. This usually takes 3 to 6 weeks of working with your hearing professional to gradually work up to your full prescription. It’s not just about hearing more sounds, that’s easy. It’s about processing the signals and your ability to understand speech in quiet and noise. That requires a quality professional trained in aural rehab to help you recover as much as possible.

The second reason just purchasing a hearing aid from a big box store isn’t a quality option is that most hearing professionals practice bundling services. That means the cost of the hearing instrument you selected, the professional fees for the exam, the fitting, fitting rehab follow-ups, and quarterly check-ups and wax management are factored in, and that determines the bundled price. Usually, a bundled price is based upon 5 years of service. This way, you have a hard figure of your total expenditure and can budget accordingly. The hearing professional assumes some risk, but doesn’t have to constantly bill for every service rendered.

Some practices are beginning to unbundle the prices to present a lower hearing aid price to appear more competitive. Lower prices sound great, but the ongoing care you will be losing can very negatively affect your success rate. When you just buy a hearing aid and only visit a hearing professional when you feel like something is wrong, you will often find excuses not to visit your professional for the fitting rehab follow-ups and quarterly check-ups you need to have the most beneficial results. We all do it. Life gets busy, and we put things off. But just like you can’t tell what your blood pressure is without a test, you can’t tell what your hearing and understanding level is without your hearing professional.

So, how can you reduce the cost of your hearing instruments and still get what you need? Ask your hearing professional for their recommendation. Listen to them and ask questions. They are there to help you. Current technology is doubling about every year, but that doesn’t mean you need the latest and greatest available. Usually, you can go back about two generations of technology and still meet your needs effectively. For manufacturers, once they cover their R&D cost the product cost greatly reduces when the next greatest thing becomes available. So ask about those options. If you have a need but don’t have the budget, something is better than nothing. Your brain needs the help, and the old saying “if you don’t use it, you will lose it” is true in hearing. So start where you can. If your hearing professional refuses to help you in your journey, LEAVE. It’s not where you start but how soon and progressing toward the final destination of hearing your best that matters

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