Before making this big investment, consider these tips so you can make an informed decision.
Purchasing a hearing aid can be challenging. It is an investment not only financially, but also in your communication ability and social well-being. For those reasons, making an educated decision when looking for the right hearing aid is critical. Below are some considerations to factor in for the best possible outcome.
Who can dispense a hearing aid?
Both audiologists and hearing instrument specialists can sell and fit hearing aids. Audiologists have either a master’s degree or a doctoral degree with a supervised professional internship, and their scope of practice includes diagnostic hearing evaluations, rehabilitation for hearing loss, and fitting and dispensing of hearing instruments. Though requirements vary from state to state, hearing instrument specialists have passed a state examination typically, both written and practical. Their scope of practice allows them to provide hearing evaluations for the purpose of fitting and dispensing hearing aids and to recommend appropriate hearing aids for the hearing loss. Regardless of who you see, it is beneficial to receive consultation prior to being fit with hearing aids.
What should you know?
We tend to think of our ears as two separate things because they are on opposite sides of our head, unlike eyes, which are usually regarded as an operational pair. The truth is, our brain uses signals from both ears to add together sounds and make sense of our environment. In almost all cases, when hearing loss is present in both ears, its important to put a hearing aid on both to benefit the most.
Bring a friend
Research has shown time and again that we remember only a small percentage of what we hear when learning new information. Having someone with you during your hearing evaluation and while learning about new hearing products will help you make the right decision.
Technology meets lifestyle
Hearing aids are like mini computers. They house an amazing amount of technology in a very small space, and like your laptop, the technology is constantly improving. Remember, an audiologist or hearing instrument specialist is an expert in hearing instruments, but you’re an expert in your lifestyle. It is important to be specific about what settings cause the most hearing difficulty in order to best program the hearing aid to meet your needs. Many features are available, but make sure they will actually benefit you in your daily listening environments. A good hearing aid fitting always begins with a strong collaboration between the patient and the fitter.
In most states, a 30-day trial period is required to ensure the hearing aid is providing the proper benefits.
Successful use of a hearing aid also requires proper follow-up. A flexible hearing product allows for changes to accommodate what the user needs.
Though follow-up and the flexibility to make adjustments when necessary are important parts of a hearing aid fitting, it is also important to understand that a fitting will involve an adjustment period. In most cases, it has taken years to lose your hearing, and with a hearing aid, we are restoring all that sound at once. Your brain is just as involved in your hearing as your ears are it’s important to give it time to process the new sounds you will hear.
April Burdett, Au.D., CCC-A is a Doctor of Audiology who currently serves as the Director of Training for a hearing aid manufacturer. She previously served as a pediatric hospital manager at Cook children’s Medical Center and an Assistant Audiology Professor at Lamar University. Burdett received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Nevada in Speech Language Pathology and Audiology and earned a Master of Science degree in communication disorders from the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.