7 things you should know about hearing aids
Hearing loss in seniors may increase their risk of developing dementia, say researchers at the Johns Hopkins and National Institute on Aging.
The connection between hearing loss and dementia is not completely understood, but scientists suspect years of straining to decipher sounds may burden the brain in a way that leaves seniors vulnerable to dementia.
The good news is that choosing to use hearing aids may be one way to slow the advance of dementia, researchers say.
But how exactly, do you choose the right type? And when do you know if you are a candidate for hearing aids?
Health enews checked in with Dr. Aijaz Alvi, an Advocate Health Care ear, nose and throat specialist, and audiologist, Dr. Krystine Mullins, based in Barrington and Elgin, Ill., for their advice about choosing hearing aids.
Here’s what he had to say:
How do I know if I really need a hearing aid?
If you are frequently asking people to repeat what they’ve said, prefer the television or radio louder than what other people prefer, or are having difficulty understanding conversations in a group, you should have your hearing checked. The best way to tell if you really need hearing aids is to get your hearing checked by an audiologist to determine the level of hearing loss and the type of hearing loss.
What are the most common types of hearing aids?
Behind the Ear (BTE) hearing aids, are the largest hearing aids with the components resting behind the ear connected by a plastic tube leading to an ear-mold. These typically offer more power and are less susceptible to moisture or wax damage.
In the Ear (ITE) hearing aids are custom made and fill the ear. The largest of the custom hearing aid styles, they offer the benefit of more power as well as having volume controls on the hearing aid.
In the Canal (ITC) hearing aids are smaller than ITEs, typically filling less than half of the ear. Because they are smaller, they require better dexterity to operate and offer fewer manual controls.
Completely in the Canal (CIC) hearing aids are the tiniest hearing aids made. They fit very deeply in the canal, making them more likely to require repair due to damage from ear wax and moisture in the ear canal. CICs can be difficult to remove and insert, and typically do not have manual controls because of their small size.
Receiver in the Canal (RIC) hearing aids have been increasingly popular in recent years. The speaker of the hearing aid rests in the ear canal but the microphone and processer sit in a tiny case behind the ear, connected to the ear piece by a thin wire. These hearing aids can often be fit to an open earpiece, allowing natural sound to enter the ear canal, which can help alleviate the “plugged up” feeling some hearing aid wearers experience.
How do I decide between the types and styles?
Deciding on the type of hearing aid that is best for you should be decided by you and your audiologist based on the type of hearing loss you have, listening needs and your lifestyle. Not one hearing aid is best for everyone.
How much should I expect to pay?
Hearing aids range anywhere from $1500-$3500 per ear. The price is based on the style and level of technology.
How often do they need to be replaced?
Hearing aids typically last five to seven years, though in some cases they may last much longer as long if they are maintained
properly. The miniature components in hearing aids tend to wear out over time, and even when repaired, do not have the same integrity as new components.
How improved will my hearing be?
Hearing aids do not restore hearing to “normal.” Hearing aids will not cure your hearing loss, but they provide benefit and improvement in communication. They can improve your hearing and listening abilities, and can greatly improve your quality of life.
What else should I know?
There are serious consequences for people who postpone treatment for hearing loss. Hearing loss should be treated like any other health problem. Many people wait too long to get hearing aids. It’s better to get treatment than to wait until the hearing loss gets worse. Adjusting to hearing aids takes time, and it may take many months to realize full benefit. Patience and realistic expectations are keys to success with amplification.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.