Hearing loss is harmful to the physical and emotional well-being of sufferers. Untreated hearing loss plays a major role in the development of depression and is known to cause anxiety, difficulty at work, paranoia, impaired social relationships, withdrawal from daily activities and more.
Dealing with the frustration and emotional impact of a hearing loss diagnosis and then choosing a hearing aid may seem overwhelming. This step-by-step guide is designed to help you learn the process and provide the information needed to make an informed decision with your audiologist on the best hearing aid device for your needs.
Diagnosing hearing loss may start with your healthcare provider. During a physical exam, your provider will examine your ear for possible causes, such as signs of an infection or ear wax buildup. The provider will also check for any structural causes and perform general hearing screening tests, such as the tuning fork test.
If hearing loss is diagnosed, you may be referred to an audiologist who will perform more thorough testing. Audiologists are licensed healthcare professionals who evaluate, diagnose, treat and manage hearing loss and balance disorders. An audiologist will determine the type of your hearing loss and the degree, which helps in the process of choosing a hearing aid. Audiologists provide expertise in many areas, such as:
- Providing a baseline of hearing to help track future hearing loss
- Diagnosing the type and degree of hearing loss
- Tracking hearing loss and adjusting treatment plans accordingly
- Determining whether a person needs hearing aids
- Identifying the right hearing aid device for each individual patient based on their lifestyle
- Optimizing hearing aid fit
- Programming hearing aids
- Providing follow-up visits to maintain prime device performance (usually included with the cost of the hearing aids)
Why You Should Avoid OTC Hearing Aids
The FDA has created a new category for hearing devices called over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids. This category was created in an effort to make hearing aids more accessible and cost-effective in cases of self-perceived mild-to-moderate hearing loss. This class of products is also known as personal sound amplification devices (PSAPs), and are available without a prescription or a visit to any medical professional.
OTC hearing aids may seem like a good solution offering more availability, more marketing about hearing loss and the potential for cost savings. Although those aspects of OTC hearing aids may have a positive effect of getting more people to address their hearing loss, these non-prescription hearing aids themselves may ultimately have the opposite effect and cause further hearing loss damage.
If used incorrectly—a high risk with OTC hearing aids—the possibility exists for failure to improve hearing loss or improving it enough to satisfy the consumer. This product failure may prevent buyers from seeking hearing loss help from a professional and receiving proper treatment.
Though OTC hearing aids are cheaper than prescription devices, this only addresses the monetary aspect of hearing aid devices. Prescription state-of-the-art hearing aid technology accounts for much more than just “turning up the volume.” Prescription hearing aids take into account your lifestyle with features such as:
- Synchrony: hearing aids work together instead of separately
- Bluetooth wireless connectivity: hands-free, streaming directly to your devices, improved signal, remote control capability
- Near to undetectable size
- Improved speech quality
- Wind noise reduction (especially useful for sports enthusiasts)
- Rechargeable hearing aids
- Biometrics health tracking
Hearing Loss is Usually Progressive
Although hearing loss may start mildly, it is unlikely to stay that way. There is also very little scientific evidence to support the idea that people are able to accurately determine the degree of hearing loss they have. Although you may think you have mild hearing loss, it may be a much greater loss than you realize, increasing your risk of choosing the wrong OTC hearing aids device and not benefiting from its use.
OTC Hearing Aids Are Not for Everyone
Although OTC hearing aids may be one option for people with mild hearing loss, seeing an audiologist for an evaluation is still the best course of action for the majority of people. Correcting hearing loss does not work the same way as correction methods for impaired eyesight. Eyeglasses have a unique prescription to adjust for the impairment. They also allow you to see clearly immediately upon wearing them.
Hearing loss is not as straightforward as sight impairment. People end up waiting years to seek help for hearing loss because they are often unaware that they cannot hear. We know when we can’t see. We don’t know what we can’t hear. During this delay in treatment, hearing loss slowly declines. In addition, multiple trips to the audiologist are needed for reassessment and fine tuning of your hearing aids as your hearing needs change.
The Follow-up Appointment: Adjustments to Your Hearing Aids
Your audiology center can answer questions any time, adjust fit, programming, monitoring and more. Your hearing aids will be tailored to fit your life and improve your quality of life.
You will need to visit your hearing specialist periodically to be sure your hearing aids are functioning as they should and to make necessary adjustments based on your changing hearing needs. Some hearing aids also need to have batteries replaced by a professional.The process of choosing the right hearing aid should never be stressful. This decision will positively impact your quality of life. Our goal at Sonora Hearing Care is to provide you with the right devices to live your best life and the support you need. Contact us to speak with an audiology professional or to make an appointment. Let us help you change your hearing and life for the better.