How do I go about getting a hearing aid?
Medical clearance and a complete hearing evaluation are required to purchase a hearing aid in the state of Wisconsin. A physician evaluates the physical condition of the ear to rule out any medically correctable reasons for the hearing loss. A hearing test is then completed to determine the degree and nature of the hearing loss. The medical clearance and hearing test are valid for 6 months per the state of WI. After 6 months a new hearing test is needed.
Who will fit me with a hearing aid?
Hearing aids are dispensed by hearing professionals, either audiologists or hearing instrument specialists. Both are licensed by the state of Wisconsin. Audiologists complete either a Master’s degree or Doctorate degree in Audiology and are also certified by the American Speech and Hearing Association. At Milwaukee Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic our staff are licensed Audiologists.
I was told that I’m not a candidate for hearing aids because I only have hearing loss in one ear, or because I have “nerve” hearing loss. Will hearing aids work for me?
Many people have received misguided information regarding their hearing loss from family members or well-intending physicians unfamiliar with or who do not specialize in hearing loss. In actuality the vast majority of people with hearing loss can be helped with hearing aids. There have been tremendous advances in recent years and we can do a much better job of matching a product with what a patient needs. Most of the people who are fitted with hearing devices have a sensorineural hearing loss or “nerve” hearing loss because this type of hearing loss can not be fixed with medicine or surgery; so the only option is an amplification device.
I see many people wearing just one hearing aid, would I need two?
Usually hearing loss will affect both ears equally so it is a good idea to wear two hearing aids. Wearing two hearing aids provides better understanding of words in noisy situations and more clarity in difficult listening environments like outdoors or in large rooms. It also makes it easier to locate where a sound is coming from. If one ear is much better than the other, wearing one hearing aid may balance your hearing and provide better clarity.
What kind of hearing aid will I need? I don’t want a large aid.
There are many sizes and styles of hearing aids today. The type of hearing aid is determined by the amount of hearing loss, the person’s ability to handle the controls and batteries and the owner’s personal wishes. Most importantly, the size of the hearing aid is dependent upon the best technology to rehabilitate the hearing loss. It is important not to buy a hearing aid based on looks alone.
I’ve seen or heard of new smaller behind the ear devices that have a little invisible wire or tube that goes in your ear. Are those right for me?
These types of devices have recently become very popular for several reasons. They are smaller and almost invisible in the ear making them more cosmetically appealing. They don’t “block” your ear with a larger earmold so that you can use more of your natural hearing, and in doing so also don’t make you feel like you have your “head in a bucket”. However these devices are only suitable for people with a particular pattern of hearing loss. Until you have your hearing tested we won’t know if this type of device is appropriate for your hearing loss.
I’ve heard too many people tell me their hearing aids don’t work for them, so I don’t want to bother.
Not all hearing devices are created alike and not everyone’s hearing loss is the same. Depending on the person’s particular hearing loss and the hearing aid that the person has, their satisfaction may not be what you would desire. It is important that you don’t assume others experiences will mimic your own.
What type of technology do I need?
Technology has dramatically changed hearing aid dispensing. With the advance of computer technology and the reduction in microchip size more powerful, programmable hearing aids can fit in smaller packages. The different types of hearing aid technologies are:
Digital hearing aids are the newest form of technology and are the most flexible to program. The hearing aid monitors the listening environment and makes adjustments “automatically” to keep the ideal conditions for speech understanding available. Some models come with push buttons or volume controls to override this feature and allow the user more control. Due to the better quality of the circuits and more precise control over programming the products have the best sound quality. Most models come with directional microphones, telephone coils, direct audio input devices and are available in all sizes. There is a wide range of digital products. A basic digital device starts not much more in price than an analog aid. These devices are good for people who are mainly concerned with watching TV or talking one-on-one in a quiet room. However for most people who are more social and go to meetings, restaurants, church or shopping they need a higher end digital product that will do a better job at reducing extraneous noises and makes voices more comfortable and clear.
Programmable aids can be electronically “programmed” for different hearing losses. The hearing aid is programmed by the dispenser through computer technology and can feature such options as memory buttons for listening in different environments. Some have volume controls and/or remote controls to adjust the programmed features. Even though these can be "programmed", they still do not “digitally” process the sound so they do not sound as good as digital products.
Due to the improved quality and availability of digital products, most people have become unhappy with older analog products and we do not recommend them for most users. Programming controls are manipulated by dispenser screwdriver-set trimmers and do not allow for very precise changes. These aids had a greater tendency to whistle, and are not very good in groups or noisy situations. These aids also had a tendency to be larger due to the physical mechanics of the hearing aid.
Can I use my hearing aid with a telephone?
Some hearing aids have special circuits built in that will amplify the electrical signal from the telephone receiver. These circuits are especially beneficial to people who depend on the phone for their profession. The hearing aid will amplify the telephone signal and provide a louder message.
Do I have to wear my hearing aid all the time?
It order to get the full benefit from your hearing aids you should wear them as much as possible. Due to hearing loss you are not hearing sounds as they were meant to be, and by wearing the hearing aids you are essentially “re-training” your brain to process the sound appropriately. The more you wear the hearing aids the more comfortable you will become, so we recommend that you wear them all day.
Will insurance pay for my hearing aids?
Most insurance programs do not cover the costs of hearing aids. Medicare will not pay for hearing aids and, in some cases, the hearing tests necessary to determine hearing loss. It is always a good idea to check with your insurance provider as to the costs/coverage of these procedures.
Hearing aids are expensive; can I try a hearing aid before I buy it?
The state of Wisconsin has a law that allows residents the opportunity to try hearing aids for a period of time before committing to keeping them. These trials are usually not free but allow the user a chance to determine if hearing aids are useful. Here we offer a 30-day trial period. The purchaser must pay a deposit at the time of the order; the balance must be paid in full when the device is picked up. If you are not happy with the device after 30 days, it can be returned for a refund except for a $150 restocking fee per aid.
Do hearing aids have warranties?
The hearing aids that we dispense come with a minimum 2 year warranty on repairs and include a one time loss or damage coverage. Extended warranties may be available if you wish to purchase it. Check with your hearing aid dispenser regarding the specific warranties offered by your hearing aid manufacturer.
How long do hearing aids last?
Most hearing aids will operate with minimal problems for 5 to 7 years. This is dependent on the quality of the hearing aid, care of handling and the stability of the owner’s hearing loss. A person who wears their hearing aid daily, keeps it clean, has regular professional checks, and a stable hearing loss, will likely have a hearing aid that lasts longer than a person who is hard on their hearing aids and whose hearing changes substantially over a period of time. Once a hearing aid reaches 5 years of age, if it needs servicing, you should consider replacing it. Even when repaired it will not function as well as it did when it was new and you may be burdened with the need for more repairs.
Will a hearing aid prevent my hearing from getting worse?
Hearing loss is independent from hearing aid use. There are many factors that may impact a person’s hearing, such as aging, hereditary/genetic traits, noise exposure, ear disease or medications. It has been found that a person who begins wearing hearing aids at an early onset of hearing loss will adjust more easily to wearing hearing aids as the hearing loss increases.
Will I have a problem with wax and my hearing aid?
Most people will not have any increase in wax by wearing a hearing aid. If you normally have more than usual accumulations of wax, the hearing aid may need to be cleaned or your ear canals may need to be cleaned by a physician more frequently than the average person. However, with routine cleaning of the hearing aid, a hearing aid user can control wax impaction just as easily as a non-user.
Links to helpful websites:American Speech-Language-Hearing Association American Academy of Audiology National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Healthy Hearing Better Hearing Institute Center for Deaf and Hard Of Hearing