Are you always asking your friends and family to repeat themselves? Nearly one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing loss and in those older than 75, almost half have difficulty hearing. But, many people don’t want to admit that they’re experiencing hearing loss and are hesitant to seek treatment. Hearing loss can make it harder for you to remember things and concentrate and it makes you more prone to depression and falling. So, why don’t more seniors wear hearing aids? Some reasons include not wanting to appear older, being hesitant to make changes, believing they don’t work, and the high costs of them. But like glasses, hearing aids aren’t as big of a deal as you may think and they can make your life so much more enjoyable.
If you’re thinking about getting a hearing aid, this guide will answer all of your questions about how they work, what to look for when buying a hearing aid, and different types of hearing aids.
How They Work
First, let us note that hearing aids won’t restore your normal hearing, but they will improve your hearing by magnifying the sound coming from the environment and entering your ear. When you lose your hearing, there has been damage to the small sensory cells in your ears which are called hair cells. With hearing aids the hair cells that aren’t damaged, detect the vibrations from the environment and convert them into neural signals that are passed to the brain. For people who’ve experienced more hearing loss, the hearing aid has to work harder to pick up on the difference. But, if the hair cells are too damaged, even a hearing aid won’t help.
Buying Hearing Aid
If you think you may need a hearing aid, start by consulting with your doctor who will probably refer you to an ear, nose, and throat specialist. If the specialist concludes that you need a hearing evaluation, it will be done by an audiologist who’s trained to measure hearing loss and can fit you for a hearing aid.
Hearing aids are expensive and Medicare doesn’t cover hearing exams, hearing aids, or exams for fitting hearing aids. But, some private insurances cover part or all of the cost of hearing aids and in most states, medical assistance covers hearing aids. If you’re a veteran, you may be able to get hearing aids at no cost through the Veterans Administration.
Before you go ahead and buy a hearing aid, it’s worth asking if you can try them out. Many hearing aid companies allow you to test them out during a trial period for a fee to see if they’re right for you. Because it’s an investment, make sure the hearing aid includes a warranty that covers parts and labor.
Types of Hearing Aids
You’ll be surprised at just how many styles of hearing aids there are on the market and they vary in cost, size, features, and the way they’re placed in your ear. The most common types are completely in the canal (CIC) or mini CIC, in the canal, in the ear, and behind the ear.
Completely in the Canal: These are molded to fit inside your ear canal and they’re best for mild to moderate hearing loss. They’re the smallest and least visible, but some drawbacks are that they can pick up on wind sounds, use small batteries, are prone to earwax clogging the speaker, and they don’t have extra features like volume control or a directional microphone.
In the Canal: These are custom-molded to fit partly in the ear canal and are best for mild to moderate hearing loss. They’re less visible than other styles and they have more features than the CICs, but they’re also difficult to adjust and they can clog up from ear wax.
In the Ear: Made in two styles, one that fills most the area of your outer ear and one that fills only the lower part of your outer ear, they are best for people with mild to severe hearing loss. They have more features than the smaller types of hearing aids, are easier to handle, and have a better battery life, but they are more visible than the smaller ones and they pick up on more wind noise.
Behind the Ear: These aids hook over the top of your ear and rest behind the ear. They work with a tube that connects the hearing aid to a custom earpiece that fits in your ear canal and they work for almost any type of hearing loss. They’re usually the largest, most visible type and they have more amplification than other styles.