What do Arnold Palmer, Ronald Reagan, Phyllis Diller and Al Unser have in common? Each has suffered from and overcome hearing loss to lead a full, productive and successful life. A majority of Americans, however, for one reason or another, do not take the necessary steps to overcome their disability. More than one out of every ten people suffer from hearing loss. Most of those people can now be helped — medically, surgically or simply through the use of hearing aids — but tragically, many are reluctant to take the first step.
Selected Quotes from the Hearing Impaired"To eliminate correctable hearing loss, we need to be more aggressive both as a society and in the health professions. Technology is coming very close to the place where inexpensive and effective hearing aids will be within the reach of all Americans who need them. We need to encourage people who would benefit from hearing aids to get them. I am delighted by the way they have helped me. Just before I received my hearing aids, I attended one of those Washington receptions at the Hotel Willard. I had come to feel uncomfortable at receptions, and this one was typically difficult. I had the distinct feeling that I was missing more than I was receiving. The next morning, I got my hearing aids and that evening I hosted our annual Christmas party, where there was as much background noise as at the Willard the night before. Once again I was in touch with most of what was being said around me. From that day forward, I carried my head high in crowded rooms."
C. Everett Koop, M.D Former U. S. Surgeon General Koop: The Memoirs of America's Family DoctorI've been deaf in my left ear since childhood, and my hearing at higher frequencies began deteriorating about 20 years ago. I have had very satisfactory experiences with my hearing aid dealer. I have been working with the same dealer for about 15 years. The people there have been totally honest with me about the products they sell. They helped determine what was best for me, which has helped me to function better.
Charles McCrae AttorneyMy hearing aid has had a great impact upon my life both professionally and personally. I'm involved in a lot of meetings. Before I had my hearing aid, I missed a lot and had to always ask people to repeat themselves. As a result, I had a lot of stress. Today, I'm so much more aware of what's going on simply because of my hearing aid. Personally, the hearing aid has helped me be more involved with my kids. The experience with my hearing aid dispenser was very positive. The dispenser was able to fit the hearing aid to compensate for my specific hearing needs in terms of frequency and volume. He listened to me and worked to make the right adjustments.
Charles Warner Executive Director of Older Adult Rehabilitation Services and Member of the Community Care Program Advisory Committee of the Illinois Department on Aging
One result of spending a lifetime around race cars was a noise-induced hearing loss. My hearing loss could have been a big liability for me, but instead I sought help from a hearing instrument specialist who fitted me with hearing aids. Wearing the hearing aids changed my life for the better and helped me overcome what, for many people, can be a serious disability.
Bobby Unser Professional Race Car Driver Indy 500 ChampionIn 1983, while I was seriously ill and lying unconscious in the hospital, my hearing aid dispenser would come on a regular basis just to make sure my hearing aids were working properly. Along with my wife and doctors, he sure took care of me. As far as I'm concerned, they went way above and beyond the call of duty. Even today, when I have a problem, I know I can count on him.
J. D. Porter RetireeI've had at least a 50 percent hearing loss due to an inner-ear nerve problem since I left the army in 1963. Without a hearing aid, I probably would be unable to run my business. I saw an audiologist only once when my hearing loss was first diagnosed. Since then, I have dealt only with my hearing aid dispenser. He is extremely honest and reliable, and he bends over backwards to make sure the products he sells work and fit properly.
Hank Gordon AttorneyI discovered while I was a student teacher that I suffered a 20 to 25 percent hearing loss from nerve deafness in my right ear. The loss was most severe in high frequencies, which made it especially hard to hear my students' voices. I had trouble finding the people in my classroom who were talking to me. Now, I wear a hearing aid which enables me to pinpoint who's saying what and what's being said. My hearing aid dispenser was extremely knowledgeable and thorough in determining just what instrument was needed to improve my hearing. He answered many tough questions regarding the different units that are available and their applications.
James Shutack Teacher
What do I do?
The first time you are shopping for a hearing aid you might wonder where to begin. Unlike most of your purchases, you can’t just walk into a store and pick one out. You are buying an expensive piece of electronic equipment that someone has to adjust to your specific hearing needs. Because most hearing aids are custom-molded and custom-adjusted to your needs, you can’t easily "try one on for size." No in-store demonstration will show you what your experience will be in actually using a particular aid. A "discount" price just for the aid does not include the necessary services for testing, fitting, and after care.Selecting a Hearing Instrument
Hearing instruments come in many types, designs, and styles. Some provide a variety of special features such as programmability, telephone pickups, adjustable tone controls, and microprocessors for noise filtration. Therefore, hearing instrument prices vary greatly, depending on the type of instrument, the number of special features, and the services provided by your specialist.Price should not be the primary concern, except for the limitations of your budget, when selecting hearing instruments. The objective is to select hearing instruments that will meet your needs by providing the most effective assistance for your hearing impairment. Extensive laboratory and field research has scientifically proven that people benefit most from wearing a hearing instrument in each ear. This is commonly referred to as a binaural fitting. Benefits of binaural hearing include an improved overall sound quality, clearer speech perception in normal listening environments, increased understanding in groups and noisy background situations, more relaxed hearing, no longer straining to use the best ear, and a feeling of more balanced hearing. Members of the Oklahoma Hearing Aid Association have the experience and expertise needed to assist you in selecting the hearing instrument that will provide optimal amplification for your individual hearing loss. The proper selection of a hearing instrument encompasses not only a person's hearing loss, but other factors, as well. Occupation, lifestyle, environment and physical limitations (because of the dexterity needed to adjust the hearing instrument's volume, change batteries, etc.) must be considered before proper selection of the hearing instrument can take place. Expert, personal assistance is required in the evaluation of your hearing, the selection and fitting of the hearing instrument and the follow-up services needed for the successful use of your hearing system. This can only be accomplished through a professional relationship between you and your hearing aid dispenser. Hearing instruments today come in different styles and different circuit-types for improved hearing for individual hearing needs.
Digital and microprocessor technology is a part of the newer hearing aid designs. The cost of hearing aids reflects differences in size, advanced technology and professional services. As a result, the range of prices will vary from a few hundred to $3000 or more for each aid. Allow your hearing aid dispenser to advise you of your options. They will combine their expertise of fitting hearing instruments with your personal needs for hearing.
Types of AidsThere is no single hearing instrument that is suitable for all types of hearing loss. The type you need depends on your individual hearing loss and the nature of that loss. The Completely-In-the-Canal (CIC) type of hearing aid fits deeply within the ear canal and is barely visible. Though small, this instrument is very powerful and fits a variety of hearing loss needs. The Canal Model fits within the canal portion of the ear and is barely visible in the bowl of the ear.
Why People Don't Acquire Hearing AidsThere are three basic reasons why people do not acquire hearing aids: the individual does not recognize the problem, lack of information on the benefits and costs, and vanity. In many cases, the individual suffering from hearing loss does not recognize the problem. If the loss has been gradual and progressive, the individual may adjust to the loss just as gradually and believe that his or her hearing remains normal. If the loss were more sudden and severe, the individual would be able to detect a distinct difference between what he or she thought was normal and his or her current hearing ability.
According to Dr. Sam Trychin in his article, "Why People Don't Acquire and/or Wear Hearing Aids From a Psychologist's Point of View," Shhh,May/June 1990, costs and lack of information (both on hearing aids themselves and on how to pay for the examination and the apparatus), are two very important factors as to why so many people forgo this simple experience with hearing aids, or were even told by a medical professional that a hearing aid won't help their certain situation. Others may simply not be able to afford them. In both cases, relevant information would help to educate those with hearing impairments that not only can help be obtained, but in some communities there are organizations that will assist with finding financial assistance.
The biggest stumbling block for most people, however, is their vanity. Wearing a hearing aid conjures up all sorts of negative images in people's minds. From admitting that they're not perfect to feeling old or infirm, people often let appearances keep them from hearing and enjoying their lives.Excuses
People don’t get hearing aids for many reasons. You might be the person making any of the following statements about why you haven’t had your hearing tested. Or you might have a parent or spouse who says these things:
"I can hear just fine." You may think this because the problem came about gradually. You may have adjusted to the decline in your hearing and believe you are still hearing normally. Others around you, though, may believe differently!
"People just don’t talk as clearly as they should." It’s probably your hearing, not their talking. It’s common for people, like President Clinton, to find it hard to hear speech in noisy places but still have normal hearing under other circumstances.
"My friend got a hearing aid and she can’t stand it." Everyone’s experiences and needs are different. Friends may have put their hearing aids in the drawer because they didn’t et a good fit, received a poor quality product, or did not get proper counseling about how to use a hearing aid.
"I can’t afford them." Many people have concerns about the cost of the testing and the aid, the lack of insurance reimbursement, and maintenance costs. Hearing aids can be a major expenditure, but many users find the costs well worth the improvement in quality of life.
"They are so complicated." Today’s hearing aids are technologically advanced products, like minicomputers in your ears. But once they are set correctly to your needs, you don’t have to fiddle with them. They adjust automatically to different situations.
"All they do is make noisy places noisier or screech." Newer designs do a much better job in increasing amplification when you need it, while not increasing background noise or annoying "feedback."
"I won’t be able to talk on the phone." Most aids now come with special features to make telephone and cell phone conversations comfortable.
"I don’t want to look old." Needing a hearing aid may be an unwelcome reminder to you of your aging process. But, many new aids are virtually invisible.
"What will other people think?" A hearing aid won’t restore youth or normal hearing. Getting an aid does mean you are smart enough to do something about the damage to the sensory cells in your ears so you can function better.
Questions About Hearing Aids
Q: What types of hearing aids are available today?
A: There are four basic types of hearing aids available today. They are described generically as in-the-canal, in-the-ear, behind-the-ear and body aids.
Q: How do consumers choose the right type of hearing aid?
A: The degree of hearing loss is a major factor in deciding what type of hearing aid best suits a person's need. Personal preference and lifestyle are also factors that should be considered. Hearing aid dispensers are the professionals who should guide hearing aid selection.
Q: How does a hearing aid work?
A: The microphone in the aid picks up the sound in the environment, changes it to electrical energy that goes to a set of amplifiers and other modifying and adjusting circuits. The modified electrical signal is then sent to a miniature speaker (called a receiver) and delivered to the ear. The newest aids are smart enough to amplify certain sounds or frequencies that are tailored to each hearing loss.
Q. What kind of research is taking place to improve hearing aids?
A. Engineers and scientists are designing components to deliver sound to the ear that replaces lost or distorted cues which contribute to the understanding of speech. Changes in directionality of microphones, the nature of the amplifier and fidelity of the sound in noise remain the main focus of most research.
Q. How do hearing aids perform with background noise?
A. Background noise is present in everyone's life. Unconsciously the brain filters out most background noise. During hearing loss, the brain becomes lazy in this process because all sounds are reduced or inaudible. When an individual begins using the hearing aid all sounds are once again heard and it is necessary to retrain the brain in selective listening skills. It is critical that the hearing aid consumer participate in follow-up and counseling sessions during this period of adjustment.
Questions about obtaining a Hearing Aid
Q. Where can a consumer obtain a hearing aid?
A. Hearing aids can be purchased from several different sources including professional practices and retail establishments owned and/or operated by hearing aid dispensers, Audiologists, Otolaryngologists or ear, nose and throat specialists (ENTs).
Q. How much do hearing aids cost?
A. The cost of hearing aids varies depending on the type of hearing aid, the number of special features and the professional services provided. As a result, the range of prices will vary from a few hundred to $3,000 or more for each aid.
Q. Why does the price of a hearing aid vary by dispenser?
A. As with all competing industries, brisk competition among hearing aid dispensers provides consumers with a wide variety of pricing and service options.
Q. Are any of the hearing aid services covered under Medicare?
A. No. Congress has not included hearing aids and related testing as reimbursable.