Did You Hear Us? Part 2

In our last blog we shared that we fear we are beginning to lose some of our hearing at certain decibels and at certain distances from someone speaking.

It’s tough to admit this, even when you’re way past 50, but we each find ourselves turning up the volume more frequently, replaying parts of dialogue on TV shows—and trying to rationalize that it’s the person’s accent or that they were mumbling. And we find ourselves asking many we’re talking to, “What did you say? I didn’t catch the beginning of the conversation,” when we’re being polite. At other times, we simply find ourselves yelling, “Huh, what’d you say?” 

Logically, we ask, should be consider hearing aids? When is the right time to get tested? There are a multitude of concerns about hearing aids--the cost when we hoped to spend that on chocolate for the year or a pair of diamond studs, their ineffectiveness initially or over time, and  worries that they’ll be visible and make us look really really old. 

So we did what we always do. We found a skilled expert with whom we shared our concerns. In this case, we talked with Dr. Lyles-DeLeon, a board member of the District of Columbia, fellow of the American Academy of Audiology (AAA) and American Speech Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), and a licensed audiologist.

Here’s what she had to say: 

How much do hearing aids cost?

Hearing aids can range in cost from just shy of $1,000 to $4,000 depending on the level of technology required to restore the person’s best hearing. Manufacturing costs for hearing aids are no longer as simple as using a simple microphone, receiver and volume control. Hearing aids today have microchips that make them respond quicker than your brand new laptop. However, they have to be made much smaller than a laptop so they can fit into your ear and often discreetly. Rather than simply amplify sounds, they essentially work to restore the filter through which your brain judges sounds, not just loud ones before you hear them but how clearly you are able to understand what you are listening to. They also need to differentiate between speech and noise, and even between speech and music. Today’s models are stronger, cleaner sounding, and integrate with devices you use every day. 

Who do you go to for help?

As an audiologist, I am trained to diagnose the type of hearing loss you have, help you set realistic expectations for listening with hearing aids, determine which type of hearing aids best fit your needs and budget. I also provide custom programming and fitting of the aids and assess in follow-up visits your hearing aid experience since they sometimes need adjustment.  

How frequently do they need to be replaced?

The life of a hearing aid is typically four to five years. If we look at a pair of hearing aids which may cost as much as $5,000, that breaks the cost of your hearing down to $1,000 per year, or just under $2.74 per day. With proper care, they should last that long. However, if you purchase a hearing aid that barely meets your needs for listening, you will find you may have the need to upgrade sooner rather than later. Hearing function is a complex function that involves integration of information of sensory organs and cognitive interpretation. 

When is time to get a hearing aid? Here are five signs to guide you:

  1. You experience ringing in your ears;
  2. You miss parts of dialogue in conversations with friends or on TV shows, and repeatedly have to ask someone “What did they say?”
  3. You don’t realize someone is calling out to you until they are within close proximity;
  4. You receive complaints about how loud the volume is on your television or radio or how loudly you are talking;
  5. You miss phone calls or visits because you can’t hear your phone ring or doorbell.

Any tips to get over our embarrassment about wearing a hearing aid or aids?

In most cases, hearing aids can be made small enough so they are barely noticeable. Also factor in these three issues:

Your health. If embarrassment is preventing you from even stepping foot into an audiologist’s office, consider your health. Hearing loss can sometimes be linked to serious medical conditions like osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, or high cholesterol.

Your safety. Whether it’s being able to hear an alert signal in your home like a phone or door bell, or a car honk while driving, hearing loss impacts your awareness and ability to understand what is happening around you. In many cases, while you may be able to hear a loud siren or smoke detector, your hearing loss may cause you to be unaware of a potential emergency until it’s too late, leaving you with little time to react in a crisis.

Your independence. Being able to participate in the flow of information is essential to living an independent, productive life. Relationships at home and/or work often suffer due to rising frustrations of not being able to communicate effectively. This can lead to less communication attempts and feelings of isolation from partners and/or colleagues.


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