Hearing Evaluation – What to Expect

Professional Assistance to Obtain Hearing Aids – Your Checklist to Success!

By Linda Bilodeau

I have grappled with hearing loss since 1978. Through it all, I’ve faced periods of denial, acceptance, curiosity, trust and hope. I have felt annoyed, angry and frightened to the point of panic attacks and encountered despair, loneliness and envy. Through my hearing loss journey, I have met understanding people, kind souls who helped a great deal, and others who thought I had nothing short of an invisible plague!

As a way of coming to terms with my hearing loss, I decided to put my feelings down on paper. My hope is to better understand myself and perhaps you’ll find a little something in my meanderings that will help you as well.

The Things You Learn

It was a difficult decision to order my first pair of hearing aids. Ten years had passed since my initial diagnosis of hearing loss and I sensed my hearing loss was in continued decline. I knew I had to do something but did not know what to expect. My first hearing aids in the 1980’s were a bit of a disappointment. Hearing aids then were designed to amplify low or high sounds only, not mid-range and the clarity of sound was nothing like what hearing aids offer today! A doorbell’s chime sounded deep as if it were coming down with a cold. The screech of a siren sounded like a mal-tuned fog horn. My friends sounded like they were speaking through a microphone. Yes, everything was louder, and I could hear a bit better, but the quality of the sound left much to be desired.

Thank goodness for innovation. All major hearing aid manufacturers, Siemens, Phonak, Oticon, ReSound, Widex, and Starkey have digital aids. Digital hearing aids provide better sound quality. Voices sound like human beings speaking and environmental sounds come across as one might expect thanks to current technology!

Custom digital hearing aids allow audiologists (or a qualified professional) to fine tune one’s hearing in accordance with their hearing loss. High-end digital hearing aids have built in bidirectional microphones, which focus on the source of the sound. Some manufacturers provide the ability to sync both hearing devices so that the user, depending on their level of hearing loss, can hear where sound is coming from. All modern aids have some ability to block out background noise and raise and lower volume. Some can connect wirelessly to cell phones, iPad and computers. Today, some hearing aids can also be paired with a Cochlear Implant. So a person can have one of each and function with one remote while ensuring hearing in both ears!

Make A List

With so many choices, it’s hard to know which devices to choose from. Refer to the master checklist on hearing loss found here so you know what to expect or ask for when you have your hearing assessed or proceed with some variation of assistive listening devices.

Connecting with others with hearing loss is important as well. Attending an HLAA Chapter meeting or reaching out to an HLAA member. Hearing Loss Association of America has state wide networking opportunities and loads of information on their website in addition to HLAA-Florida! As you research, make a list of what you’d like in a hearing aid and what you think might help you.

The Choice is Yours

Choosing an audiologist (or Hearing Loss Professional) isn’t an easy task. You want someone who is personable, caring and who will take the time to explain your tests and options. Someone who realizes there is no one size fits all option. Let’s face it, people experiencing hearing loss have varying degrees of needs, you wouldn’t want an audiologist or any professional slapping just any pair of aids into your ears. You want hearing aids that will work for you. And that varies from person to person.

Ensure they deal with most or all the major brands. Otherwise, you will not have a choice of an aid that might work better for you. You are making an investment for your future. To hear, to stay connected with the hearing world and reduce or eliminate the negatives tied to hearing loss isolation such as depression or dementia.

Outline, or jot down a bit about your hearing history. Is it easier for you to hear in quiet environments? Do you hear men’s voices better than women’s voices? Is talking on the phone difficult? Do you have to turn up the television? Do you need captioning services to watch television? Pay attention to yourself for a few days before the appointment and record what you are having difficulty hearing. This helps your audiologist and physician determine your needs.

What is the Cost?

Are hearing aids expensive? They may appear so, but one must factor in the real “cost”. A pair of custom made aids can run upwards of $3,900.00 each. Peripherals, microphones, television adapters, and phone clips can cost $400.00+ each. That’s why going to an independent audiologist dealing with all the major companies is important. The audiologist can demonstrate various products. For instance, if you fall into the severe or profound hearing loss category, you might require high end, custom-made aids. If your hearing loss is mild to moderate, or if you only have difficulty hearing in noisy environments, then you might be well served with less expensive aids.

Remember, your hearing aids will need additional programming, office visits and fine tuning in the years to come. You will pay for a product that should serve you for many years. Your professional should include the cost of the time required to fit you, program your aids and provide the ever so important follow up sessions. Not just one!

The Deals

Are there deals out there? Sure. But think before going to Costco and Sam’s Club or other big box store for hearing aids. These companies sell aids that are less expensive but you will receive older technology. So be certain you have all your facts prior to making your final choice. Before buying the aids, check on the number of allowable follow-up appointments and return and repair policy.

It is possible to purchase hearing aids from the internet for less, but again, think about adjustments and warranties and be careful of black market products. If it is a black market item, you will not be able to follow up for repairs or replacements and the hearing aid will is inclined not to work well enough to accommodate your hearing loss needs.

I purchased my aids from an audiologist in a package deal that came with unlimited visits to fine tune the aids. My aids are under warranty so when problems cropped up, the issues were handled swiftly and without my having to pay for repairs. I can easily schedule appointments with my audiologist, most problems are resolved within a day or two of the occurrence.

Put It All Together

Everyone suffering from hearing loss is in a unique situation. Making decisions about who to see and what aids to purchase can be difficult. But taking a bit of time to research audiologists and hearing aid manufacturers, to jot down the history of your problems, and your needs will only help you enter a better hearing world.