A HEARING AID
by Laine Waggoner, MA, MS
an educated consumer and an active participant in your own hearing
rehabilitation - because this is one of the most important buying decisions you
will ever make.
YOU BUY A HEARING AID:
A MEDICAL EVALUATION, ideally,
by an M.D. specialist in diseases of the ear: an otologist, otolaryngologist
or ENT doctor.
To learn the cause of
your loss, what kind it is, how severe it is. Is it operable? Is it permanent?
Is it progressive?
causes of hearing loss: age, heredity, a buildup of earwax, infections, tumors,
diabetes, muscular dystrophy, exposure to noise and metabolic disorders such as
high cholesterol levels.
A HEARING (AUDIOLOGICAL) EVALUATION:
to find the best hearing aid for your particular loss.
hearing exam determines if there is a hearing impairment, how severe it is
and what treatment is necessary. It should tell you, based upon your special
needs and lifestyle, how your unique hearing loss will affect your
should be administered by either a state licensed audiologist with at least
a master’s degree or a hearing instrument specialist who has been
practicing for a number of years.
a copy of your audiogram and a clear explanation of the results. The more
you understand your unique hearing loss, the better you will be able to make
decisions based on the facts.
hesitate to ask questions. There are no dumb questions.
best insurance for optimal hearing aid usage is for you to have excellent
rapport: a partnership relationship- with
your hearing aid dispenser. Each hearing loss is unique. You cannot compare
yourself with another person’s success or failure at using hearing aids.
hearing aid can restore hearing or give you “perfect hearing” the way
eye glasses can correct poor vision.
hearing aid, by itself, completely screens out background noise.
aids must be used with assistive devices to understand speech in noisy
situations and at a distance. For such purposes, you must buy a hearing aid
with a T-switch (telephone coil). Or, you can remove your hearing aids and
use the device with headphones or ear buds. The latter can be adapted to fit
comfortably in your ear canal.
goal is improving your overall communication ability by combining hearing,
active listening, attention, concentration and visual cues along with
membership in a support group of other people with hearing loss.
ideal is to use two hearing aids for better understanding in noise, better
hearing balance and better communication with your brain.
it’s your pocketbook and your decision.
Who are the Hearing
Health Care Professionals?
have a master’s degree in audiology which trains them to diagnose pathology of
the ear, dispense hearing aids and provide advance rehabilitation. They should
be state licensed and have a CCC- Certificate of Clinical Competence from the
ASHA- American Speech, Language and Hearing Association. Many also belong to the
ADA- American Academy of Dispensing Audiologists.
Instrument Specialists (hearing aid dispensers)
should be state licensed and members of the IHS- International Hearing Society
and have BC- Board Certification status.
up on the pros and cons of the various types of hearing aids on the market.
your budget. Hearing aids can range from $500 to $5,000.
dispenser should be able to provide hearing aids in differing price ranges.
You may not need a “top-of-the-line” aid. Remember, usually, the smaller
the aid, the higher the cost.
buy via mail order or from someone who sells only one brand.
OF A GOOD DISPENSER:
interpersonal and communication skills.
carefully, focuses on your needs and builds a sense of trust.
empathetic, courteous, patient and appreciates your feelings.
your budget and lifestyle.
competence in hearing aid selection, fitting, adapting.
up-to-date on the newest advances in hearing aids and fitting.
well-fitted ear molds.
lengthy experience or if inexperienced, is under the close supervision of an
to ethical standards and behavior.
recommends aids which will benefit you.
not use “hard sell” techniques.
misleading advertising that claims to: restore hearing to normal, prevent
the progression of hearing loss or eliminate all background noise.
California, provides at least a 30-day trial period.
a written sales contract and basic facts about hearing aid use.
up-to-date testing and diagnostic equipment.
audiological screening in a sound-proof
the test results fully.
you a copy of your audiogram, even if the test is free.
accurate records of testings and service.
a variety of hearing aids on hand for your evaluation.
the differences in the performance of the different hearing aid types:
behind the ear, in the ear, in the canal, etc.
the pros of cons of the various types re: suitability for your hearing
loss, ease of handling, comfort.
the many options beyond a basic hearing aid, such as direct audio input,
bi-cross hearing aids, specialized ear molds and hearing aid, T-switches (or Tele-coils,
essential for use with group/assistive FM and infrared hearing assistive
devices-HADs). Explains how you may benefit from amplified telephones and
captioned TV and videotapes.
Pre-Fitting EDUCATION & Post-Fitting REHABILITATION
the medical waiver form you must sign if you have not been previously seen
by an otologist or other medical specialist.
how hearing aids work.
you order an aid: explains realistic in-use expectations.
you a hearing aid manual.
a written program for a new user to “break in” an aid.
you how to:
put on and take off the
aid, turn it on, set & adjust volume,
care for aid and ear mold,
change batteries, do simple trouble-shooting, be alert to problems
such as feedback, loss of power, etc.
use the phone, practice
with the T-switch, listen to radio/TV.
family members about the adjustment period.
periodic follow-up: weekly consultations for first-time users.
willing to work with you until a satisfactory fit is achieved.
routine hearing aid check-ups (tune-ups) and cleaning.
or refers you for aural rehabilitation in adjusting.
complaint procedures if you are not satisfied.
PRICING & GOOD SERVICE POLICIES
explains all costs: basic price plus any service charges, consultations,
repairs, tubing replacement, ear molds.
a written sales contract which includes the itemized price,
manufacturer’s name, model & serial
numbers, color, date manufactured, length of trial period (minimum 30 days
required by state law, some dispensers offer 60 days), dispenser’s name,
state registration number and its expiration date, warranty terms, a clear
guarantee that the aid is new, or, if used, it is sold at discount.
you a copy of the graph of the manufacturer’s hearing aid response data
on the aid delivered to you.
insurance policy options or refers to an insurance carrier.
what happens when an aid malfunctions: time to repair, typical costs,
availability of “loaner” aids.
continuous support: adjustments as needed, simple repairs, returns aid to
factory for major repairs, battery sales, ear mold remakes, and routine
servicing about twice a year.
OF HEARING AIDS: Read
Hearing Aid Types and Styles
ABOUT DIGITAL HEARING AIDS?
all digital aids use the same speech processing strategies.
do have the potential to improve overall speech perception. But users have
varied results with them, and newer technology is developed daily.
may help you hear somewhat better in noise than the more traditional
you are new to hearing aid use, you might want to try a less expensive aid
law requires a minimum 30 day trial of a new hearing aid. Try to
negotiate a 45-60 day trial period before concluding the sale.
Richard, Ed.. . Hearing Loss & Hearing Aids: A Bridge to Healing. 1998,
Sedona, AZ., Auricle Ink Publishers..
Patricia, Consumer’s Guide for Purchasing a Hearing Aid. SHHH Journal,
May/June 1991. Prepared with the SHHH Professional Advisory Board and individual
C.; Flexer, R., Wray, D.; Leavitt, R., Eds.. How the Student with
Hearing Loss Can Succeed in College. 1996. Washington, DC, Alexander Graham
Bell Assn. for the Deaf.
Mark. Digital Hearing Aids: another update.
Hearing Loss Journal (SHHH). July/August 1998.
Waggoner is the Director of HEAR (Hearing-loss
Education And Relationships), which conducts support
groups, facilitates seminars, and provides private coaching for individuals who
are experiencing hearing loss. Email:
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