The Hearing Aid Process
“Buying” hearing aids
In spite of trends toward “retailing” hearing devices, making an over-the-counter purchase of hearing aids is no wiser than buying a pair of expensive shoes online, or a pair of eyeglasses off the rack. Hearing aids may resemble consumer electronics, but are actually prescribed and tuned specifically for your needs. Most often, professionally fitted hearing aids including an examination by a doctoral-level audiologist end up costing no more than many over-the-counter alternatives. Your best investment in long-term satisfaction involves the following process:
- Hearing Test: The hearing test or evaluation involves testing the ear's sensitivity for different frequencies or pitches of sound, hearing for speech and the function of the middle ear. Afterward, an audiologist determines whether hearing aids are necessary. Hearing tests are valid up to 6 months for the purposes of obtaining hearing aids.
- Medical Clearance: The hearing test results are given to a primary care physician, who must provide a medical evaluation to ensure your hearing aids aren’t covering up an underlying medical condition. At Henry Ford, this is often completed by an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) physician on the same day the hearing test is performed. Medical clearance is valid up to six months for the purposes of obtaining hearing aids.
- Hearing Aid Selection: At this appointment, an audiologist will review the hearing test results. The audiologist will also discuss the different styles and technologies of hearing aids that are available and will make recommendations as to what will provide you with the most benefit. For patients who do not have insurance coverage for hearing aids, a non-refundable professional fee is to be paid at this appointment. This fee is then applied toward the total cost of the hearing aids, if the aids are then purchased through Henry Ford.
- Hearing Aid Orientation & Counseling: The hearing aids are delivered at this appointment, typically 2-3 weeks after the hearing aid selection appointment. At this appointment, the audiologist discusses use, care and maintenance of the hearing aids. Patients are welcome and encouraged to bring a family member or friend to understand how the hearing aids operate. It is at this appointment that the remaining balance on the hearing aids is due in full.
- Hearing Aid Recheck: During the 30-day trial period, patients meet with an audiologist to ensure they are adjusting well to their hearing aids.
One hearing aid vs. two hearing aids
Logically, just as you use both eyes to see clearly, you need two healthy ears to hear clearly. If you have hearing loss in both ears (bilateral hearing loss), then you are most likely a candidate for two hearing aids. While a hearing healthcare professional can best determine if you are a candidate for two hearing aids, the ultimate decision-maker concerning binaural instruments is the person who will wear them.
For most people, two hearing aids are better than one. According to the Better Hearing Institute, using aids in both ears provides:
- Better ability to tell the direction of sound. This is called localization. In a social gathering, for example, localization allows you to hear from which direction someone is speaking to you. Also, localization helps you determine from which direction traffic is coming or where your children or grandchildren are playing.
- Better sound identification. Often, with just one hearing aid, many noises and words sound alike. But with two hearing aids, as with two ears, sounds are more easily distinguishable.
- Better sound quality. When you listen to a stereo system, you use both speakers to get the smoothest, sharpest, most natural sound quality. The same can be said of hearing aids. By wearing two hearing aids, you increase your hearing range from 180-degrees reception with just one instrument, to 360 degrees. This greater range provides a better sense of balance and sound quality.
- Better understanding in group and noisy situations. By wearing two hearing aids rather than one, selective listening is more easily achieved. This means your brain can focus on the conversation you want to hear. Research shows that people wearing two hearing aids routinely understand speech and conversation significantly better than people wearing one hearing aid.
- Better understanding of speech.Speech intelligibility is improved in difficult listening situations when wearing two hearing aids.
- Feeling of balanced hearing. Two-eared hearing results in a feeling of balanced reception of sound, also known as the stereo effect, whereas monaural hearing creates an unusual feeling of sounds being heard in one ear.
- Less tiring hearing and more pleasant listening. More binaural hearing aid wearers report that listening and participating in conversations is more enjoyable with two instruments, instead of just one. This is because they do not have to strain to hear with the better ear.
- Lower risk of hearing deterioration. Research has shown that when only one hearing aid is worn, the unaided ear tends to lose its ability to understand speech. Wearing two hearing aids keeps both ears active and prevents further loss.
- Smoother tone quality. Wearing two hearing aids generally requires less volume than one. The need for less volume results in less distortion and better reproduction of amplified sounds.