How to find the right hearing aid . . . for you
Most patients who come to our office either want to hear, or are responding to loved ones who tell them they can’t hear. What is less obvious is that hearing loss is a serious, significant health issue.
Untreated and poorly treated hearing loss has consequences. Cognitive decline, social isolation, and emotional health are related to hearing loss. Hearing loss treatment is a significant lever for maintaining mental and decision-making faculties as you age. Yet, many with hearing loss passively accept it as a natural part of aging. Or, when they decide to get hearing care, treat the decision far too casually.
Some treat a hearing aid purchase as a transaction along the lines of shopping for an appliance. But, a hearing aid is not a one-size-fits-all volume button. It’s not your ears that hear, but your brain. The ears convert auditory sound into the electrical impulses that your brain receives. Care has to be taken when you provide stimulus to your brain.
What to Look For in a Hearing Aid
There are three essential elements that make for a happy marriage between a person and a hearing aid. When a hearing aid is just not working for you, it’s because there is a problem or mismatch in one or more of these three areas.
First, no two people have the exact same hearing loss. Each brain is unique in how it processes auditory input. Hearing loss really includes two distinct but related aptitudes. The aptitude that gets the most attention is the lowest volume you can hear sound. But far more important for brain health is understanding speech. People also experience different listening environments. There are people who are around a lot of ambient sound. And some who lead much quieter lives.
Second, you need a hearing aid that fits your unique hearing profile. A hearing aid that works very well for a specific hearing loss profile can be a poor fit for another. Hearing aid manufacturers have different sound processing philosophies. To get the optimum benefit out of hearing aids, they should fit your hearing loss.
Third, the programming of the hearing aids should be on-target. This is a vital, and often overlooked, aspect of hearing healthcare. The amplification of the hearing aid should be exactly what you need at each frequency. No more. No less. This is what we call on-target. The only way to ensure that programming is on-target is the use of a specific test that measures how the aids are amplifying while you are wearing them. To enjoy the optimum benefit of your hearing aids, they need to be comfortable for you to listen through, allow you to understand speech, and be comfortable to wear.
Ongoing support is also important. Better hearing is not a one-day event. Hearing aids need routine maintenance. Also, as your brain acclimates to the stimulus from properly programmed hearing aids, the need for slight adjustments to the hearing aid programming is natural and common.
What to Look for in an Audiologist
You are entrusting your audiologist with so much more than just your hearing. Consider the care that you are putting into your audiologist’s hands. You need a thorough, comprehensive audiologic evaluation. You need counseling and expertise to select the device that is the best fit for the unique shape of your hearing loss and your listening lifestyle. And you want the hearing aids to continue to provide optimal benefit.
In order to get the most value out of your audiologic evaluation, you want a provider with a high level of clinical competence. Someone who has diverse and extensive experience fitting a wide variety of hearing loss profiles.
In order to get the most value out of your hearing aid fitting, you want a provider who works with a variety of manufacturers and keeps up-to-date with the latest technologies. You want candor in your relationship. You want to work with someone who asks the right questions and genuinely listens and responds to the answers.
In order to get the optimum benefit from your hearing aids, you want an audiologist who is committed to ensuring the programming stays on-target, and that you continue to enjoy the experience of using the aids.
Hearing loss is a serious, significant health issue. If you or a loved one are experiencing hearing loss, call my office at 208-746-7022.