How is hearing loss discovered and diagnosed?

About one in six people experience some degree of hearing impairment over the course of their lives. Almost all people at advanced age are affected by significant hearing loss.

The effects may not be obvious…

Hearing loss affects people in different ways. Left undiagnosed or untreated, it can damage communications and erode relationships. Over time, hearing loss may degenerate from a strictly physical condition to a psychological one, which is just one of the reasons it is so important to seek a solution promptly. For most people with hearing loss, there is help. Proper diagnosis requires professional evaluation, physical inspection (examination) and diagnostic testing. Professional testing can determine the type and severity of the loss so that appropriate remedies can be offered.

The typical signs of hearing loss occur when one experiences increasing difficulty in listening situations, with understanding dialogue on television, at social gatherings, or in houses of worship. Asking people to repeat or perceiving others as mumbling are typical for those who experience hearing loss. If you or your loved one fall
into these patterns you can find help through your hearing care professional.

Why is it important to have physician supervision in hearing health care?

Hearing loss is not just the result of attending loud concerts or a factor of the aging process. Illness and infections can also play a part in damaging your hearing. A University of Wisconsin Medical School 2001 study revealed that hearing loss occurred in nearly 80% of those who may have suffered from a heart attack. They further determined that individuals who exercised at least once a week experienced a 32 percent reduction in the risk of suffering from hearing loss compared to those who did not work out.

Other health issues associated with either temporary or permanent hearing loss include the following:

  • Sluggish or poor blood flow to the ear
  • High blood pressure
  • Sickle Cell Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Chronic pain medication (ototoxicity)
  • Chemotherapy (ototoxicity)
  • Acute respiratory infection
  • Rhinosinusitis
  • Chronic or acute ear infections may also affect hearing and require medical treatment.

Having a physician’s medical oversight of your hearing healthcare is an essential part of quality in hearing health care.

Will my hearing loss increase if I wear a hearing aid?

The effects of time and age on hearing acuity will persist whether you wear a hearing aid or not; however, there are studies indicating that the rate of deterioration is slowed in an “aided”(treated) ear compared to an equivalent “unaided” (untreated) ear. The old adage “ If you don’t use it, you lose it!” applies here.

How long does a hearing aid last?

The vast majority of today’s hearing aids can be periodically reprogrammed by your hearing care professional. This allows for customized changes in hearing aid output over the life of the hearing aid to accommodate changes in the users hearing sensitivity. Like a new computer the technology evolves as well over time. Most hearing aids have a functional lifespan of 5 to 6 years before technologic advances and electronic fatigue demand replacement.

How often do I have to change the battery?

Battery life depends on power consumption. The typical hearing aid requires a battery change every 6 or 7 days. New hearing aid batteries are easier to handle than ever before.  Some hearing aids incorporate rechargeable batteries and there is even one unique hearing aid (Lyric) that incorporates a battery that lasts more than three months.

Does ear wax affect hearing aid performance?

Earwax may impair transmission of sound to the eardrum and therefore have a deleterious effect on hearing. The small normal earwax that most have in the ear canal does not adversely affect hearing but may get into the hearing aid receiver and affect performance. Most people who wear hearing aids require slightly more frequent ear inspection and cleaning to prevent these problems. This is another reason to have medical/professional supervision of your hearing care.

What is the best way to clean my ear?

Since most of us cannot see into our own ear canal it’s difficult to tell when we need ear cleaning. A little earwax is normal. When the wax accumulates to excess and causes a blockage we experience either hearing loss or sometimes irritation from moisture trapped in the canal (which causes skin inflammation). Regular checkups with your otologist/audiologist or scheduled home irrigation with over the counter ear cleaning kits can be effective. These kits are readily available at most pharmacies. Follow the directions on the kit. The one shortcoming of home ear cleaning is that you’ll have to go by how it feels since you won’t be able to inspect your own ear.
The alternative, of course would be to visit your physician for inspection and ear cleaning by gentle curettage, suctioning, or irrigation. Our Ocean Hearing Care physicians provide these services regularly for our patients/customers.

What does it mean if my ears are ringing?

Tinnitus is the medical term for the perception of ringing or noise in the ear. Tinnitus can result from inflammation in the outer ear, the middle ear, the inner ear, and even from the brain itself. It is reported that nearly 300 different drugs and medications may cause tinnitus. Although tinnitus usually accompanies some degree of hearing loss, it occasionally occurs in people with entirely normal hearing. Tinnitus comes in many forms: buzzing, ringing, hissing, sizzling, rumbling etc.
The treatment for tinnitus varies by cause. Many people can be helped medically and those who suffer may improve over time even without formal treatment. There are some serious medical conditions that may present as tinnitus so it is generally recommended that tinnitus sufferers seek an initial medical evaluation. Hearing aids may help tinnitus sufferers by amplifying the outside world and thereby diminishing the internal perception of the intrusive tinnitus. There is an online organization devoted to the management and study of tinnitus
called the American Tinnitus Association. They are an excellent resource for current research and treatment stategies.

What if the hearing aid irritates my ear?

The “Creator” did not design us to wear hearing aids. Most hearing aid users are completely comfortable wearing their hearing aids daily. Modern hearing aids are composed of newer, lighter, hypoallergenic materials that minimize irritation.  When irritation does occur it is important to discuss this with your hearing care professional. Occasionally leaving an aid out for 2 or 3 days solves the problem. If irritation persists, medicated eardrops may be required. Occasionally a modification, applied coating, or even a newly manufactured ear insert will solve the problem. There are many varieties of hearing aids and an experienced professional can almost always find a suitable solution if irritation should persist.

I care about appearance! Do I have to sacrifice cosmetics for function?

Worry not! Today’s hearing aid is not your father’s or grandfather’s hearing aid of yesteryear. The days of the large unsightly hearing aid are over. Modern hearing aids incorporate more features, more amplification power, and more sophisticated electronic circuitry into an incredibly small, lightweight, and discreet package. Even the over the ear style hearing aid models are difficult to detect and we have other styles that are discreetly positioned deep in the ear canal. In many cases only your hearing care provider and your physician may know you are wearing an aid. There is an old adage that applies here:
“The hearing loss is far more noticeable than the hearing aid!”

What do hearing aids cost?

As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. You may look at purchasing a hearing aid in terms of cost and value. The purchase price is determined by the hearing care center based on wholesale cost and level of support and service that the provider offers to the consumer.
There can be some variation in wholesale cost of the instrument by the manufacturer, which may allow some discounts from time to time. A competent and reputable provider, however will rarely compromise the necessary service and support. A responsible hearing care provider knows that success and satisfaction for the consumer requires accurate diagnostic assessment, individualized fitting and adjustment, and attentive education and follow-up. Unusually low cost in most cases correlates with decreased value to the consumer. Success in wearing hearing aids is often considered to be the sum of two 50 -50 components: 50% instrument quality and technology and an equally important 50% service and support. Either one of these components without the other, devalues the result considerably. The current retail prices of hearing aids vary depending on features requested and/or required by the clinical condition. Today’s hearing aids vary from economical base models costing $1200 to $1300 up to high feature sophisticated instruments costing nearly $3500 each.
Occasionally loaner hearing aids, or last year’s model closouts become available, which may allow for some discounts. If you are inclined to shop for bargains and frequent the “big box” stores be sure and compare all the factors and features noted above so you do not inadvertently sacrifice value for cost savings. If you do not require the absolute latest and absolute best in available technology, inquire about the availability of loaner or recycled hearing aids. The warranty may even be equivalent to a new aid in some cases. A competent hearing care provider will provide maximal value at a fair and reasonable cost. Ocean Hearing Care offers competitive pricing and will be happy to discuss options if standard pricing is not within reach.

Does my insurance cover the cost of hearing aids?

Sadly, medicare does not offer hearing aid benefits at this time. Most individual supplement policies are governed by medicare guidelines and therefore do not cover hearing aid related expense.
There is some good news however. Many group policies and some group retirement policies(e.g., teachers union, retired railroad workers, retired police and firefighters union, Screen Actors Guild, Directors and Screenwriters Guild) may offer varying levels of hearing aid benefit.
Qualified Veterans may have benefits through the Veterans Administration. Be sure and check with your carrier or union services administrator if you have group coverage. Ocean Hearing Care can help with determination of benefits and we will gladly assist in billing your insurance when benefits are available.

Why not wear just one hearing aid?

There are a number of reasons that primates and humans have evolved with two ears to accomplish bilateral representation of sound. Using both ears enables sound localization (directionality), facilitates speech understanding, and enables optimal hearing receptivity from both sides of the head. In cases where the hearing is normal in one ear and compromised in the other, only one hearing aid is required. However in most cases the hearing is symmetrically impaired and wearing bilateral (two) hearing aids provides better function and avoids sacrificing the aforementioned advantages of using both ears.

Why not buy a discounted aid at a big warehouse store?

It’s tempting to contemplate the purchase of a quality hearing aid at a deep volume discount from one of the ‘big box” stores.

There is generally a direct correlation between cost and value in the hearing aid industry. Value to the consumer is defined by successful fitting and satisfying daily functional usage. A successful fitting is a accomplished by astute diagnostic assessment, clinical examination, and optimal individualized instrument selection. These keys to successful fitting of a hearing aid are best accomplished by a highly qualified professional.

Caveat Emptor: Qualifications
As with medical care, it’s important to know who is providing your hearing care, assessing your hearing acuity, and selecting instruments to treat your hearing loss. It’s appropriate to inquire regarding the qualifications of your provider.
The “big box” stores frequently employ providers with entry level qualifications.

Caveat Emptor: Instrument Selection
The “big box”stores are known for volume discounts which are achieved by large volume incentive purchases frequently offered by the manufacturer on less popular models and discontinued closeouts. These are not necessarily bad values but instrument selection and technology offerings need to be considered in any hearing aid purchase.
Does your “big box” store offer the latest state of the art technology and a variety of models and styles from the most advanced and popular vendors?

Caveat Emptor: Diagnostic testing
Before any legitimate hearing aid fitting can be an accomplished, an appropriate diagnostic test battery should be performed by a qualified individual using standardized and currently calibrated diagnostic equipment..
Does your “big box” store provide these services and are their personnel qualified to provide this testing?

Caveat Emptor: Service, follow-up, and warranty
Considering daily use and the fragility of microelectronics one can appreciate that hearing aids occasionally require adjustment, maintenance, repair, and replacement. Most warranties are offered through the manufacturer but still require assessment and processing through the hearing care provider.
Does your “big box” store offer convenient hours, walk in availability, and “loaner aids” for temporary use if your aid is disabled?

When you purchase a hearing aid from Ocean Hearing Care you can rest assured that our personnel are highly qualified, and competent in diagnostic testing using the most advanced diagnostic equipment. Our selection of hearing aids and related accessories represents the most advanced products manufactured by industry leading companies from around the world. Our hearing care personnel are especially trained in the technical aspects of each product we represent and take special pride in providing individualized service to each valued hearing care customer. We strive to be readily available to accommodate our clients on an emergent basis when necessary, and to provide interim loaner instruments if needed. The physicians of Ocean Hearing Care are readily available to care for any physical ailments that may impact hearing aid use. We honor and support all manufacturers’ warranties and facilitate service and repairs for our valued customers.