Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
Aging has its advantages, doesn’t it? You don’t have to take your shoes off to go through airport security. Retail merchants are eager to offer you a discount. You can sleep in and walk the dog whenever you want.
But, let’s be honest. There’s a downside to the aging process, too. Body parts don’t work as well as they used to — like your ears. In fact, the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates one in three people in the United States between the ages of 65 and 74 have presbycusis, also known as age-related hearing loss.
Fortunately, most cases of presbycusis can be treated with hearing aids. And, since research has proven that untreated hearing loss can put you at greater risk for developing a whole host of other problems, including social isolation, anxiety, depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s, wearing hearing aids can be one of the healthiest things you do.
The first step is to admit you’re having hearing problems and make an appointment with a hearing healthcare professional. Ask your family physician for a referral or search our Find A Professional directory to find a qualified professional in your community.
Before your appointment, educate yourself on a site like Healthy Hearing. Make a list of questions to take with you to your appointment. Make a list of your hearing priorities as well. Do you want phone calls with faraway family to be easier? Do you want to be able to hear the television or the nuances of your favorite music better? Do you use personal electronic devices frequently, such as a smartphone or computer? You can even try these easy online tools to help prepare for your appointment.
If possible, take a friend or family member with you to your appointment, and ask them to take notes. It’s always helpful to have a second set of ears when you’re navigating medical situations — especially when yours may not be working as well as they used to.
Be prepared for a hearing loss diagnosis
If the hearing professional determines you have a sensorineural hearing loss like presbycusis, hearing aids may be the recommended course of treatment. Although these medical devices won’t restore your hearing to normal, they will improve your listening, speech comprehension and overall communication.
Research shows that the sooner you begin treating hearing loss, the happier and healthier you’ll be. But before you make the purchase, here is a list of questions you’ll want to ask to make sure you’re buying the right type of hearing devices for your budget, lifestyle and degree of hearing loss.
What type of hearing aids do you recommend for my hearing loss?
Thanks to technology, hearing aid manufacturers offer many different styles, colors and features designed to fit varying degrees of hearing loss. Share the list of hearing priorities you brought along, and discuss your cosmetic preferences with the hearing healthcare professional. They will be able to help you determine, based on the degree of your hearing loss, a style and features that will fit your lifestyle.
How much do they cost?
Hearing aids range in price from $1,000 to $4,000 each, depending upon the type of technology they use. Most people with presbycusis will need two hearing aids, as this type of hearing loss is usually bilateral. Hearing aids aren’t usually covered by insurance, but don’t let this stop you from getting treatment. Ask about financing options or, if needed, community organizations that can help. If you are a veteran or employed, you may also qualify for assistance from the Veteran’s Administration (VA) or your state’s Vocational Rehabilitation program.
Is there a warranty?
Hearing aids typically include a warranty. Make sure you understand what components are covered on your hearing devices before the purchase. If you think you may need extended coverage, talk to your hearing healthcare professional about options.
When should I expect to replace them?
Most hearing aids last at least five years, if not longer. The lifespan will depend greatly on how well you take care of them, the features they have and the quality of the device itself. Your hearing healthcare professional may be able to give you a reliable estimate, based on others who have purchased devices similar to yours.
What kind of trial period do you offer?
Most hearing centers offer a trial period before they require final payment. This gives you time to experience the difference hearing aids can make in your day-to-day activities and ensure they meet your needs. Most hearing care professionals will also allow you to switch hearing aids if a change is needed during the trial period.
How often do I need to have them adjusted?
You’ll want to make sure your hearing devices keep up with any changes in your hearing, so ask how often you’ll need to come in for a check up. Most hearing healthcare professionals will recommend additional check ups at regular intervals. Before you leave the office, ask if the hearing center offers walk-in hours to handle unexpected problems such as discomfort or repairs.
What services are included?
Hearing aids aren’t the only thing you’re buying from qualified hearing healthcare professionals. Most hearing aid purchases include follow up visits, education, adjustments and in some cases, batteries. Every hearing center is different however, so make sure you understand what’s included at yours.
What accessories do I need?
Like any major investment, make sure you have the tools you need to keep your new hearing aids working their best. Ask your hearing healthcare professional about cleaning kits to remove wax and dust as well as a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture. If you lead an active lifestyle, you might also want to ask about sleeves to protect the devices from dust, sweat and other moisture.
In the many conversations we’ve had with hearing healthcare professionals, almost all say their patients tell them, “I wish I would have done this sooner.” The key to hearing your best is to acknowledge you’re not hearing well and see a qualified hearing healthcare professional for treatment – you and your loved ones will be glad you did!