Hearing loss is common. It is not an illness or disease; it is however, second only to arthritis as a health problem for people over the age of sixty-five. About twenty-eight million people, one in ten, Americans experience impaired hearing.
Assess Your Own Hearing Problem
How to start? The first thing is not to take any advice or recommendations from anyone else: your spouse, children, neighbors or anybody. Get up one morning and begin to keep track (maybe make notes) of what’s going on with sounds in your life. If someone says “please” and you hear “cheese” remember that (write it down). If someone says “door” and you hear “more” pay attention to that, don’t ignore it or block it out or blame the speaker, just recognize that it happened. Don’t argue with anybody or pay attention to their “you need a hearing aid speech”. Observe your days with regard to sound, what is the number on the TV volume control when you watch it by yourself – what is the number when someone else in the house is controlling it? When you go out do you hear the birds? What about your air conditioner, your fish tank, the sound of your feet on the rug, running water? Pick out things that make sounds and noises that you know and make note of what you’re hearing or not hearing; music, rain, wind, traffic, etc. If someone asks did you hear the phone, door bell, whatever, answer them honestly and make note of it. After a while you will begin to see what’s going on with the sounds in your life. You may be mixing up S’s and T’s and D’s and C’s, having difficulties hearing all the consonants, having difficulty hearing your grandchildren, notice that low pitch sounds are louder than high pitch sounds. These observations are important when you are ready to move forward for hearing help.
Go To Your Doctor
Not a hearing dispenser, to your doctor, your GP or an ENT. Visit a physician before buying any kind of listening device. By skipping a formal medical evaluation, you may fail to diagnose a serious problem, such as an infection, ear tumor, or excessive wax buildup. Furthermore, a formal evaluation will provide a piece of information often taken for granted: whether or not a hearing aid will help you with your hearing loss. You can do this during your regular doctor’s visit; take your time, you’re not going to die of hearing loss. Hearing loss tends to stay the same or get worse over long periods of time. Your hearing will not get worse because you’re not wearing hearing aids. The issue is the sounds of life that you are missing without getting hearing help. If you experience any sudden hearing loss see your doctor quickly.
Now that you have your own assessment of your hearing loss, and your doctor’s assessment and recommendation, you are better prepared than ninety percent of people who seek hearing help. Remember hearing is one of your senses, and it’s your right to decide what you like. If you don’t like the taste or smell of something you avoid it. If you touch something and it hurts you don’t touch it again. Your goal, besides better hearing, is better hearing that you are comfortable with.
Define Your Hearing Objectives
The first step is to determine your primary objective. No hearing instrument can completely solve one problem never mind all hearing problems. Select what hearing problem you would like to improve most; whether it’s hearing the TV, conversations with your spouse, hearing at work, at church, at family gatherings – this will give you a starting point, your primary objective. All other problems become secondary objectives that you should also prioritize.
Now that you have clear goals, you don’t have to feel pressured into making these types of decisions while you shop. You can now control the process of purchasing the best possible solution for you at the lowest possible price, not because of what somebody else tells you but because you know what you want. Now we need to consider what type of hearing device will best fulfill your objective(s).
Types of Hearing Devices
1. Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs). ALDs are designed to improve hearing in specific listening situations. They are designed to emphasize ONE signal. That signal might be a faraway voice (e.g., a lecturer in an auditorium), listening to TV, trying to converse in a restaurant, use a telephone or hear your alarm clock. The most common ALDs are wired devices; one example is the pocket talker. A pocket talker looks like a transistor radio and is designed for close listening situations. Normally, a pocket talker comes with a plug-type microphone. Ad from one web site:
Can’t Hear In Restaurants, Automobiles . . .
. . . Or Other Places With Background Noise?
The Portable Amplifier That Helps You In Difficult Listening Situations
The price is $149 plus $12 Shipping and Handling.
ALDs can also be found in Radio Shack, Sharper Image 聽力 and some hearing aid stores.
Similar in purpose but more flexible are wireless systems. They work much like a radio station; one part (the transmitter) accepts sound input and transmits the signal through the air; the other part (the receiver) receives the signal usually with headphones. Because these systems are wireless they provide more flexibility than the Pocket Talker. TV Ears is an example of an infrared wireless ALD; the transmitter is plugged into the audio out connector on the TV and headphones which contain the receiver can be used up to 50 feet away with line of sight. The headsets have a volume control. Systems start at $130.00.
Other ALDs include amplified phones, alarm clocks that also vibrate your bed, wireless door bells and more. For any one specific hearing problem there probably is an ALD solution.
2. Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids. My definition of an over the counter hearing device is any amplifier that has the physical characteristics of a hearing aid in size and shape but requires no hearing test, office visits, or custom fittings. You can purchase them directly on the internet or by mail order. They are designed to fit most and to provide peak amplification for voice range frequencies, the frequencies we have the most difficulty hearing as we age. What started as a choice of a very few just ten years ago has grown dramatically. These devices are manufactured with regular hearing aid components. The price range I see for analog units on the internet is $180 to $350, Digital $380 to $480+ and new Open Fit Hearing aids $499 to $1895+. All have a money back guarantee. I’ve seen the guarantee period from thirty-days up to ninety-days. Some will charge a restock fee and most will not refund the shipping and handling fee.
3. Dispensed Hearing Aids. My definition of a dispensed hearing aid is an amplifying instrument that is built to amplify sounds according to a hearing test and is custom molded to your ear canal, with both of these services conducted in person by a licensed hearing dispenser. When you purchase dispensed hearing aids you are also purchasing the services and follow on support of the licensed dispenser. The cost per unit varies from $700 for a basic unit to over $3000+ for a very sophisticated unit.