Hearing Aids & Hearing Loss FAQs
Can hearing loss lead to physical problems? psychological?
The only physical problem that I can think of that can be caused by hearing loss would be some sort of an accident. If you were unable to hear oncoming traffic or a warning signal like a smoke detector then serious injuries could be the result. Most of the problems associated with hearing loss are psychosocial. A large-scale study by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) found that people 50 and older with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report depression, anxiety, anger and frustration, emotional instability and paranoia, and were less likely to participate in organized social activities than those who wore hearing aids. The degree of depression and other emotional or mental health issues also increased with the severity of hearing loss (NCOA, 2007).
What do you think about the recent study linking hearing loss and dementia?
This is something that is definitely plausible. The study mentioned above was performed by Johns Hopkins and the National institute on Aging . The findings show that seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to have dementia. The researchers could not find any direct link as of yet, but there are some theories. One theory suggests that hearing loss affects the cognitive processing of the brain leaving it more vulnerable to dementia. Another theory is that hearing loss causes more depression and isolation and those are known risk factors for dementia (Johns Hopkins 2011).
What can people expect when they see an audiologist?
Let's discuss what an audiologist is before what people can expect when they see one. In almost 10 years of practice I have been asked if I installed home stereos, worked on sound boards for musicals or calibrate speakers for amusement parks. An audiologist is a health care professional that evaluates, diagnoses, treats and manages hearing and balance disorders in adults and children (American Academy of Audiology, 2011). Audiologists are licensed professionals that have at least a master's degree from an accredited institution in audiology. In most cases audiologists have a doctoral degree (Au.D) which was recently set to be the academic standard for new licensees. When people see an audiologist for hearing loss they can expect a thorough case history, evaluation of their hearing and counseling on the findings. If rehabilitation of the patient's hearing loss is recommended, a thorough hearing aid evaluation will be performed. The audiologist will then suggest the appropriate hearing aid for the patient's hearing loss and lifestyle.
What tips do you have for people who are considering buying a hearing aid?
Do your homework. One thing that I tell my patients is that we are not just here to fit hearing aids and help with hearing loss, we are here to educate. Patients are more than welcome to ask me or my colleagues during the hearing aid evaluation process to compare different levels of technologies and prices. I often find that people are too concerned about price and not enough about value. A hearing aid is an investment in your social life. Different people have different needs when it comes to selecting the appropriate hearing aid. If you select solely on price, you may be missing out on features and technology that will help you significantly. Your audiologist will serve as a guide in this process to help you select the most appropriate hearing aid style and level of technology.
Do you know of any help available to pay for a hearing aid?
Contrary to the belief of many of our patients, Medicare and adult Medicaid do not cover hearing aids. In fact, very few private health insurances cover hearing aids. As far as any other private or public services go, these are few and far between. The state has programs through Vocational Rehabilitation services to help people that are employed with their hearing difficulties at work. There is also another program through the state that will help you get one hearing aid if you have difficulty hearing on the telephone. The program is called: The North Carolina Telecommunications Equipment Distribution Program (NCTEDP). To qualify you have to show financial hardship and a significant hearing loss. Our office does not participate with this program. Outside of those, there may be some tertiary private programs available that I am not aware of. We currently offer financing through Care Credit.
When a person gets a hearing aid, how long does it take to adjust to wearing it?
Every patient wants getting hearing aids to be like getting glasses. They want to put them on and go with minimal adjustments and complaints. The thing that most people don't understand is that it's just not that easy. Adjusting to hearing aids is different because the issues that arise are completely subjective. Have you ever complained to your optometrist that you "see too much?" Because your brain has been deprived for so long (of hearing) patients will hear things that they haven't heard in a long time. These things may sound loud, tinny, sharp, echoic etc. This is the subjective side of hearing aids.
Adjusting to new hearing aids depends on a number of factors:
- If you have ever had hearing aids before. It's easier because you know what to expect.
- How much hearing loss is present?
- How long has it been present?
- Patient's drive and ambition to hear better.
- The support network around you to improve your well being.
There are other factors that contribute as well, but these are some of the main ones. The good news is that we as audiologists are trained to counsel and facilitate as seamless of a transition as possible so that you can adapt to your hearing aids quickly with minimal problems. Also, with today's technology, most hearing aids function automatically making it more comfortable and easier to adjust to new hearing aids.