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Becoming Hearing Aid Savvy

Hearing is something we often take for granted, until we have concerns. The following are some of the commonly asked questions that come up when individuals are considering hearing aids.

I think I need hearing aids, but how do I know what I should buy?

Your lifestyle determines the technology that would be the best for you. Those who are in group settings for church, meetings or family gatherings will need to purchase aids with more advanced technology than someone who is usually in quiet environments and only occasionally attends small meetings or gatherings. The ability of the hearing aid to switch from surround sound to directional sound is what helps you understand better in the presence of noise.

What technology is available?

There are a variety of bells and whistles available inside hearing aids: omni-directional microphones, directional microphones, automated feedback squelch, multiple tuning channels, sound recover of high frequencies, controls that allow the sound from one ear to transfer to the other, to name a few. You may want wireless connectivity for your cell phone, PDA or wireless laptop and the TV. There are even waterproof and water-resistant hearing aids for the active individual.

What features should I look for in a hearing aid?

Directional microphones will greatly reduce (not eliminate) background noise. Car noise, fan noise and other steady state noises are reduced. Unwanted speech noise from other people in the room is more difficult to eliminate because that sound is the same pitch you are trying to hear. Because of size restraints, you can’t zoom into speech like the huge directional microphones used to eavesdrop on the pro golfers talking to their caddies!

Wind block technology focuses on the sound wind makes flowing over a microphone and suppresses it.

Automatic feedback squelch is one of the most wonderful technologies. It is now uncommon to have hearing aids that whistle!

Multiple tuning channels will help the audiologist fine tune the aids to sound more comfortable.

Sound recover is a feature designed to take the energy from the high frequencies that you cannot hear and push them to frequencies you do hear. This helps with clarity of speech. There are microphones that will transfer wanted sound on one side to both ears so that you can hear better while walking with your friends or driving a car.

Bluetooth connection allows you to hear speech on the telephone in both ears while the phone is in the room rather than holding it up to your ear! This helps with clarity on the phone.

How are hearing aids priced?

Hearing aid features require enormous engineering to create a technology that is small, physically stable/dependable and able to reduce noise and expand and compress the desired sound before it enters the ear canal. The base price of the hearing aid is increased to cover the audiologist’s time for fitting and adjusting the device five or six times, educating the patient on the use and the ongoing care of the hearing aid. The audiologist can teach you how to pair the hearing aids to a phone and TV and help with troubleshooting if a problem arises. Fitting and caring for the hearing aid wearer is labor intensive. The price includes years of care of the devices. The warranty covers loss and damage, so the price of replacement and repair shipping fees are a factor. Appointments are made to keep the hearing aids clean and functioning, despite being housed in a warm, moist and wax-producing ear canal. Additional office visits may focus on counseling the family on the emotional and stress-related issues that arise when living with a hearing-impaired individual. The hearing aid is just part of the package that comes with the purchase price. The audiologist becomes part of your family’s hearing team.

What do I take with me to the appointment with my audiologist?

Write a list of the situations in which you have difficulty hearing. Ask the people you are most often around to do the same. When you compare the lists, you may see a significant difference in perception. The audiologist will be able to point out more situations to you so that you will have a good picture of when you have difficulty hearing. Many times, the family and friends of the hearing-impaired person will have as much relief from a hearing aid being used as the person wearing the hearing aid! Take a copy of any previous hearing tests with you to the appointment. Ask to have a trial with the hearing aids. As you use the devices and go back for adjustments, you will be able to make an educated decision about how much hearing aids are able to improve the quality of your life. FBN

By Karon Lynn, Au.D.

Trinity Hearing Center is located at 1330 N. Rim Dr., Suite B in Flagstaff. For more information, visit TrinityHearing.net.

Karon Lynn is a doctor of audiology with 30 years of experience working with hearing impaired individuals. Dr. Lynn may be reached at 928-522-0500 or at audio@trinityhearing.net.

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