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Hearing FAQ and Education
Many people have misconceptions about hearing aids and hearing loss. For example, some people whose family members wore hearing aids in the past have the impression that hearing aids are difficult to wear and maintain. Hearing aids have gotten much simpler to use; many are automatic so you don’t need to push buttons or change anything, just put it in your ear and forget about it until you take it out at night. Also, even though hearing aids are smaller now than they’ve ever been, they are also more durable and easier to clean and maintain, and some even come with rechargeability so you don’t have to fiddle with batteries. Modern hearing aids fit more easily into your day-to-day lifestyle than you might think.
To try to put aside some of these misconceptions. We’ve gathered information that we hope will answer your questions and address your concerns about hearing aids and hearing loss.
Hearing Aids FAQ
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The brain uses information from both ears to better understand speech, so it is important to use hearing aids in both ears. This is better for your ears (you can set the volume lower and still hear just as well if both ears are involved) and for your brain (which is likely to focus its efforts away from maintaining an ear that can’t hear as well if you don’t treat it with a hearing aid). The only time one hearing aid is recommended is when you only have hearing loss in one ear.
Rechargeable hearing aids will last 18–36 hours at a time and should be charged nightly. Disposable batteries will last anywhere from 5–14 days depending on the size of the hearing aid (the smaller the aid, the shorter the battery life) as well as the severity of your hearing loss and the number of hours a day you wear your aids.
Today’s hearing aids have advanced features that allow you to focus on the speech you want to hear, without being disturbed by background noise. This is one reason we recommend the highest quality hearing aids. The more advanced the hearing aid technology is, the better it will sound in complex environments like noisy restaurants. It is important to keep in mind that while hearing aids are a tremendous help for people with hearing loss, hearing aids do not restore your hearing to normal.
There are 3–4 different hearing aid performance levels available, with the more premium levels performing better in more complicated environments, such as with background noise, outdoor wind, or live music. The higher the performance level you choose, the more your hearing aids will cost.
Hearing aids can last for years, since we can reprogram the settings to match any changes to your hearing loss. When you look at the price of hearing aids, consider that well-fitting hearing aids will last you for years of wear. In general, we find that well-maintained hearing aids don’t have to be replaced for 5 years or longer, which is why it’s so important to take good care of your hearing aids. We do recommend replacing hearing aids once they start to wear out from daily use, which can be physical damage or can affect the electronic components. The advantage of replacing your hearing aids every few years is that, as technology improves, you’ll be able to take advantage of those improvements and experience better hearing.
Hearing aids will not restore your hearing to normal. They are a powerful tool but not a miracle cure. However, hearing aids can make your conversations easier and more enjoyable, which can improve your overall well-being and quality of life. And modern hearing aids are more powerful and advanced than ever before, leading to more comfortable experiences and better-sounding, more natural acoustics.
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Frequently, a spouse or loved one is the first to point out that you may have a hearing loss. Most hearing loss gets worse at a very gradual rate, so the person with hearing loss is often unaware or in denial of the problem at first. However, there are some common signs of hearing loss to be aware of:
- Difficulty hearing conversations in noisy places
- Ringing or other noises in your ears
- Turning the TV volume up to understand it better
- Frequently having to ask others to repeat themselves
- Thinking people mumble or speak too fast
- Difficulty understanding women or young children’s voices
- Trouble knowing where sounds are coming from
If you have a family member with hearing loss, whether they wear hearing aids or not, there are some communication strategies you can use to improve the ease of conversations:
- Get their attention before starting a conversation either by saying their name or tapping them on the shoulder.
- Face them when talking and don’t cover your mouth with your hands or other objects so they can see your lips and facial expressions.
- Speak at a normal volume but slow down your rate of speech.
- Reduce extraneous noise if you can. Turn the TV in the background off or down or move to a quieter area.
Once you turn 65, it’s a good idea to have your hearing checked, whether you have noticed changes in your hearing or not. 1 in 3 people over the age of 65 has some degree of hearing loss, and even if you’re not in that category yet, it can be helpful to establish a baseline in case your hearing changes over time.
Hearing Loss Myths
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Even mild hearing loss influences all aspects of everyday life, perhaps more than you realize, and those effects multiply the worse your hearing loss gets without treatment. Hearing loss can have negative consequences, such as social isolation, depression, increased risk of falling, fatigue, memory loss, and even cognitive decline. It is important to be proactive about managing your hearing loss with hearing aids in order to reduce the likelihood of these risks.
It is likely that everyone who knows you is already aware of your hearing loss because you have to ask them repeat themselves, or you are withdrawing from conversation completely. Your hearing aids will be less noticeable than your hearing loss is. We find that patients are often surprised by just how discreet modern hearing aids are. Some are virtually invisible. If you are concerned that hearing aids will make you look old know that hearing loss affects people of all ages, from babies through retirees. It’s easier to stay youthful and enjoy your life if you can hear the world around you, and hearing aids are a great way to do that.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of public awareness when it comes to help for hearing loss, even within the medical community. Unless your doctor performs a hearing screening on you, they are likely unaware of your hearing loss or they may not have the time to address it with you at a regular checkup. We recommend having your hearing tested by an audiologist as soon as you suspect you may have a hearing loss, even if your doctor hasn’t said anything about it.
Waiting too long to get hearing aids can negatively impact your speech understanding, and the longer you wait, the more likely that your speech understanding will get worse. If you aren’t able to hear certain sounds of speech for any extended period of time due to hearing loss, your brain is not getting auditory stimulation, and eventually your brain will stop investing resources in maintaining speech understanding of the sounds you can’t hear. The longer you go without having that auditory stimulation, the harder it will be for you later to interpret speech even with the use of hearing aids. In those cases, people may hear better with hearing aids but have a hard time understanding what people say even with the volume up. If you get hearing aids when you first notice hearing loss, then the hearing aids will provide that auditory stimulation to the brain and you’ll be more likely to maintain good speech discrimination.