Wednesday, October 25 2017 5:28

Hearing Aids 101

Written by Sarah Nowling, Au.D., Pinnacle ENT

Ever find yourself lagging behind in conversations, saying, “Excuse me” or mishearing or missing the joke entirely? Consider getting your hearing tested. A visit to an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor (ENT) is a great place to start.

At the ENT office, the doctor will make sure your ears are healthy and free of wax. The audiologist will test your hearing and help you understand your hearing loss and what options you have.

You might have some questions about this visit, like these.


Is it going to hurt?

Not at all! A hearing test is painless. After the test, the audiologist will tell you about hearing aids and accessories to help improve your hearing if you need them.

It’s a good idea to bring a family member to this appointment. Being able to hear those closest to you is important! Family members understand the frustrations of hearing loss and will benefit from being part of the process.

And a family member should also accompany you to your first hearing aid appointment.


Will anyone notice it?

Forget the clunky, beige hearing aids of the past! Now they’re smaller and are meant to blend in—styles may be completely in the ear canal, in the ear, behind the ear and other inconspicuous options. And, if you have hearing loss in both ears, you’ll likely need to wear two.


Will it do any good?

Hearing aids amplify speech to maximize your hearing. While not always perfect, hearing aids are programed for your hearing loss. And, the computer in the hearing aid is designed to decrease background noise so you can focus on conversations. The hearing aid is constantly evaluating your environment to set an appropriate volume and manage the differences of multiple speakers to make it easier for you to hear, without you noticing.

Your audiologist will fine-tune your hearing aid to help you hear even better.


How do they work?

Hearing aids are designed to provide information your brain receives about the world around you. As information is transmitted to the brain, the brain actively processes what you hear. At first, ordinary sounds may sound very different. Over time, your brain relearns those sounds through the hearing aids, and you’ll get used to that.

A recent study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reports wearing the right hearing aids can also slow the onset of dementia.


What’s new with hearing aids?

A lot! Some hearing aids now have Bluetooth. Using Bluetooth and apps allows more control over your devices. With Bluetooth, your cell phone conversations and other media are streamed directly into your hearing aids. Hearing aids are also rechargeable, charging overnight and lasting all day. This eliminates anxiety about changing batteries. (Before rechargeable devices, batteries were changed every 7–10 days.)


How can I be sure?

Typically, trying out hearing aids for 30–45 days is long enough to decide if they’re helpful.

During the trial, try the devices in different settings. Report to the audiologist how you heard in different surroundings, so the devices can be fine-tuned. Follow up with your audiologist a week or two after getting your hearing aids and after the trial period. Continuing to talk with your audiologist over time and further fine-tuning your hearing aids will achieve the best hearing results.

Why didn’t I do this sooner?

Until you’ve tried hearing aids for yourself, you’ll never know what you’re missing.

Live a life well heard! See an ENT doctor and audiologist, and tell them about your hearing needs. Then enjoy hearing the world around you!

Editor’s Note: Some private health care plans cover the costs of hearing tests, evaluation, and partial or full coverage of hearing aids. At this time, Medicare does not cover hearing aids.

Sarah Nowling graduated from Salus University with a clinical doctorate of audiology (Au.D.) and is certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). She’s practiced audiology for four years and sees patients at Pinnacle ENT Spring House and Norristown locations.