If you’re reading this post, you’re probably thinking about getting hearing aids. You’re doing what almost everyone does today before they buy a vacuum or TV, or book a vacation or try a new restaurant — you’re doing online research.
You are smart. Consumers today have an abundance of information and reviews at their fingertips. There’s little reason today not to research a product or service before you purchase, particularly if it’s a bigger investment. And there is no getting around the fact that hearing aids and better hearing are an investment. An investment that can significantly better your life.
This article isn’t about the different makes, models or features of hearing aids. We’re going to talk about where to get hearing aids and the pros and cons of each.
There are two main options; either from a local hearing professional or from an internet retailer. Let’s compare the two.
The pros of buying hearing aids online
No doubt, buying products online is easy and convenient, and hearing aids are no exception. Ordering from the comfort of your home or office — and having it delivered to you without needing to go anywhere — is pretty much the benefit that online shopping was founded on.
Of course, returning items can quickly negate that benefit if you need to repackage it and take it to a post office or shipping facility. And certain things just beg to be “tried on” first, increasing the likelihood they’ll need to be returned if you don’t. That’s why 30% of all products ordered online are returned, vs. only 9% of products purchased in a store.1
Hearing aid prices
Cost can also be a benefit of buying online. While it’s not the case with every item (especially if there are shipping fees involved), it is when purchasing hearing aids online. In fact, cost is probably the biggest incentive for buying hearing aids on the internet.
Unfortunately, convenience and cost are where the benefits of buying hearing aids from an online retailer end. And even those two aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
Convenience is offset by the fact that — to get a hearing aid programmed for your hearing loss — you’ll want a proper evaluation and will need to send in an audiogram, which you can only get by leaving your house and going to a hearing professional. Then there’s that 30% online return rate discussed above. Meaning there’s at least a 1 in 3 chance you’ll want or need to return it. (Probably more for hearing aids bought online due to the “try on” factor.)
Plus, if you need any adjustments made to your hearing aids to optimise comfort and performance, you first need to repackage and ship them to the retailer. Then, it can take weeks to receive the instruments back from an online service.
As for cost, while you’ll most likely find hearing aid prices are less online, most people conclude that what they get in return is not worth the savings. To explain that, let’s move into the benefits of buying hearing aids from a local hearing professional — also known as “the things you don’t get when you buy online.”
The pros of buying hearing aids from a hearing professional
Yes, a hearing aid is a tangible product that you can ship in a box and, in theory, start using after “some assembly required.” But it’s also a high-tech medical device that works best when matched to an individual’s unique physical and lifestyle characteristics, programmed and fine-tuned to their specific hearing needs, and then followed up with and supported by an expert in hearing care.
Just as you wouldn’t be satisfied buying a suit or wedding dress without measurements, consultation and tailoring, nor would you prescribe yourself and know the right dosage of medication needed to treat your specific arthritis, high blood pressure, anxiety, or diabetes, getting a one-size-fits-all hearing aid without consultation from an expert is most likely going to disappoint or not work the way you need it to.
When you buy hearing aids from a hearing professional, you get much more than just a product that makes things louder.
You also get the expert consultation, treatment knowledge and experience, and personalised fitting, support and care that a sensory function as important as hearing deserves — before, during and after you buy your hearing aids.
Before: Testing & Consultation
- Thorough hearing tests — You’ll have an ear examination and clinical tests in a soundproof environment to diagnose and verify what your hearing needs are.
- Audiological evaluation — Your hearing thresholds will be charted on an audiogram, and you’ll be given specific tests to measure listening comfort and understanding in noise.
- Intake interview — You and your provider will discuss details about your day-to-day hearing needs (including the type of work you do, how active you are, what activities you enjoy doing, your style preferences, etc.). You’ll also go your unique hearing challenges, to help you understand how to optimise your overall communication, not just your hearing.
During: Products & Fitting
- Product selection — Based on your test results, interview, and even unique ear-specific characteristics, your provider will show you solution options that fit your needs in the best way possible.
- Product test drive — While in the office, you may be able to try out and test different styles and technology options so you can hear what impact hearing aids will make.
- Expert fitting — Once a product and style are selected, your provider will program and fine-tune your hearing aids to your specific needs and sound preferences. Each ear is like a fingerprint; every person is different and requires an exact fit to maximize success.
- Solution demonstration — Your provider will show you how to use and care for your hearing aids, and answer any questions you have, so you are comfortable with them and can keep them in tip-top shape.
- Treatment consultation — Your provider will walk you through expectations and next steps, and give you additional resources or tools, so that you feel comfortable as you regain your hearing senses.
After: Follow-Up & Support
- Trial period and follow-up visits — Wearing hearing aids takes some time getting used to and sometimes requires minor adjustments and fine tuning — all covered under your trial period to maximise comfort and ensure success.
- After-care needs — Your provider will be a one-stop shop for warranty and payment plans, tune-ups and maintenance, batteries and other accessories or part replacements. This is like having your mechanic close to you. If anything goes wrong, they can fix the problem quickly.
- Better hearing partner — Your hearing needs change over time, so count on your provider as a go-to resource for all things hearing, including answers to hearing loss questions, personalised treatment plan updates, new technology demos and more.
Read more about Starkey Hearing Aids on their website
At first I pushed the realisation away, refusing to believe that my hearing was deteriorating.
It started eight years ago, gradually. First, watching TV became a struggle. I’d turn up the volume until, in time, my poor husband (younger than I!) was deafened.
At the theatre, I’d strain to hear — sometimes struggling to follow an unfamiliar play because I would miss parts of the dialogue.
At a party, where the background noise was loud, I just nodded and pretended to hear. I felt too embarrassed to keep saying ‘I’m sorry?’ or ‘Say again?’. Who knows what mistakes I might have made.
Back at home, whenever I missed something, my husband said I would stubbornly point out that he has a very soft voice.
Yes, it’s called denial. It was tough to acknowledge my hearing loss because, like many people. I associated the problem with being old — and I didn’t feel old at all.
I had an image of myself as a young, confident, 60-something woman with a successful career and responsibilities. I still felt (or should I say ‘feel’) glamorous, and a hearing aid didn’t fit this image.
So for years I went on making excuses and pretending I didn’t need help.
But, as a journalist, it’s my job to engage with people, and to listen. What’s more, I have to promote my books — which means speaking in public, and answering questions.
Phone calls need to be made, but I started to find it hard to hear what colleagues were saying.
But instead of acknowledging the issue, I started to keep phone conversations to a minimum and used email instead.
At last I saw the irony. As the Daily Mail’s advice columnist, I read problem letters every day.
I’m employed to give advice and encourage my readers to take action and find solutions.
Yet here I was, with a condition which affected all aspects of my life, refusing to come clean and admit to myself that I needed help.
There’s an old Latin saying which asks: ‘Who guards the guards themselves?’ In my case it should be re-framed as: ‘Who gives advice to the advice columnist?’
When she finally took a hearing test two and a half years ago, Bel discovered the hearing loss was more severe than she imagined
One day in 2011, I was standing outside our farmhouse near Bath with my husband. It was a very beautiful day. ‘Listen to that!’ he said. ‘I think it’s a buzzard’.
But I could hear nothing. No glorious wild sound of a bird of prey, calling high in the blue sky, disturbed my muffled ears.
When I confessed, my husband looked slightly shocked. It was then I realised I had to put this right.
At the time, grandchildren were expected (in fact, my first two were born in 2012) and I would want to hear their little voices, wouldn’t I?
Telling myself that wearing a hearing aid would be no different from wearing contact lenses, I at last vowed to act.
Hearing loss is sometimes joked about, but it’s a serious issue. A recent U.S. study connected impaired hearing to the onset of depression.
James Firman, president of the National Council on Aging, pointed out that ‘people with hearing loss, especially those who don’t use hearing aids, find it more difficult to communicate with other people, whether in family situations, social gatherings or at work’.
It could be a short step from having that problem to feeling very isolated.
After all, if you avoid people because you are embarrassed or shamed not to be able to hear them, they may (in time) turn away from you too.
My first action was to visit the GP and be referred to my local NHS hearing centre.
I was immensely pleased to have made the first step, but unfortunately it was to lead nowhere.
It took ages — more than a month — for an appointment to arrive in the post, and the date they gave was about six weeks ahead.
But then, the day before my appointment, the centre phoned to say they would have to postpone due to unexpected staff shortages, so could we make another one? Already, we were looking a couple of months ahead.
So I was back to square one — which was nowhere. Frustrated, but fatalistic, I let things slide once again.
Believe me, I don’t blame the NHS for the blip. Nevertheless, it’s been pointed out that NHS rationing of hearing aids is likely to be fuelling the epidemic of Alzheimer’s disease.
The warning follows research showing that the risk of dementia rockets as hearing fades.
The most deaf are five times more likely to develop the disease, and even mild hearing loss seems to have an effect.
Charities and medical staff have said that doctors must stop thinking of hearing loss as being inconsequential and start treating it – and that it’s imperative that the NHS stops rationing hearing aids.
Shockingly, it emerged last October that cash-strapped health boards have stopped offering the devices to those with mild hearing loss for the first time since the NHS was formed — advising patients to lip read instead.
Other patients have been given only one hearing aid, despite needing two. Overall, just one third of the six million Britons who could benefit from hearing aids have them.
My decision to take care of myself was sensible — and serendipity intervened. I was driving through Bath when I saw a modest sign on a shop. It said ‘Hidden Hearing’ — and I thought ruefully, ‘Yes, my poor old hearing is pretty hidden!’
The next day I saw an advertisement in a magazine for the same High Street chain of hearing centres, so rang and made an appointment within the week. Just like that.
This was two and a half years ago — a very long time after I first started to turn up the TV volume.
The test revealed that my hearing loss was more severe than I’d imagined, which left me shocked.
I have since learned that because hearing loss is so gradual, a person with symptoms often doesn’t realise the severity and doesn’t realise what sounds they are missing.
My audiologist spent time taking me through the different options available and I eventually settled on a pair of Orticon Intiga.
At first I rather reeled at the cost — which was £4,000.
On the other hand, I was buying a pair of exquisitely tiny computers that would tuck behind my ears, coloured to match my hair, with the part that went inside my ears pretty well invisible.
You can’t put a price on your senses. Hearing is fundamental to living, so I told myself it was a purchase worth making, especially if I considered it in terms of so much per day for at least six years.
At first I forgot to use them. I suppose I was still resisting the idea, since the thought of putting something inside your ear isn’t natural.
In fact, I’ve worn contact lenses since I was 20 and it’s actually infinitely easier to get used to a hearing aid.
Initially, though, I found the batteries fiddly and worried I was going to break the delicate little appliances.
However with some perseverance I managed to adapt and now the benefits are incredible. No more muffled living.
I vividly remember walking into my garden and hearing bird song for the first time. It was wonderful.
I now wear the hearing aids every day, and I tell people about them all the time because it’s so important to be open and counter any stigma.
I was surprised to find male acquaintances display vanity, telling me it was easier for me because the hearing aids couldn’t be seen whereas with short hair….
My advice? Grow slightly longer hair around the ears if it bothers you that much but honestly, does it really matter?
We all need to look after ourselves and be honest about what we need to do to improve our quality of life.
I haven’t just made my hearing better, I’ve improved my social life (since parties are less of a strain), family and working life.
Who wouldn’t want to hear a grandchild’s sweet little mumbling? Or every note of a favourite song?
A life without sound can be lonely. Hearing loss shouldn’t be looked at as an age-related condition because (as my hearing specialist told me) young people can have the problem too.
Even though I’m entirely satisfied with the hearing aids I invested in nearly three years ago, at the moment I’m just trialling an upgrade, the Oticon Opn, which is even more state of the art.
For example, the other night in the theatre I used a small hand control to improve the clarity of the actors.
What a revelation it was — first, to hear the sound change and second to have the power to control the technology.
I’d urge anyone who is worried about their hearing to seek help straight away. Whether you take the NHS path or seek out a High Street provider is a choice; what matters is to take action.
The longer you wait the more your hearing deteriorates and the harder it is adapt to technology.
And just think of all the lovely conversation and glorious birdsong you might be missing.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3786091/I-vain-wear-hearing-aids-desperately-needed-hearing-deteriorated-Mail-s-advice-columnist-felt-cut-world.html
Treating Hearing Loss – What Does It Say About You?
Are you brushing off a hearing problem because you’re afraid it might say the wrong thing about you? Well think again. Research shows that people with hearing loss who use hearing aids enjoy a better overall quality of life. In fact, you just may be surprised and inspired by these five things that treating hearing loss says about you.
You’re a go-getter
Research has found that people with hearing loss who use hearing aids are more likely to tackle problems actively. Addressing hearing loss shows self-assurance and a willingness to deal with issues head-on. Most hearing aid users in the workforce even say it has helped their performance on the job.
You value your relationships.
Healthy relationships rest largely on good communication. Treating hearing loss lets close family and friends know that you want to stay connected and involved in your relationships with them. Most people who currently wear hearing aids say it not only helps their overall ability to communicate effectively in most situations, but it also has a positive effect on their relationships. And they’re more likely to have a strong social network.
You like to be active.
If you enjoy an active lifestyle, you’re not going to let untreated hearing loss stop you. Treating hearing loss means you have every intention of keeping up the pace of a fulfilling life. In fact, people with hearing difficulty who use hearing aids get more pleasure in doing things and are even more likely to exercise and meet up with friends to socialise, research by the Better Hearing Institute (BHI) shows.
You love living life.
The more exuberance you have for life, the less likely it is you’ll let untreated hearing loss get in your way. When you address hearing loss, you let the world know you love living life, and you’re going to live it with gusto. Research even shows that people with hearing loss who use hearing aids are more likely to be optimistic and feel engaged in life.
You’re tech savvy and make the most of what modern life has to offer.
Sleek and cutting-edge, today’s wireless hearing aids are a front-runner in personal consumer electronics. At its best, technology offers solutions, enriches life, and makes us more efficient. Today’s modern hearing aids do all three. When you invest in your hearing health by using state-of-the-art hearing aids, you make it clear that you’re a present-day thought leader ready to reap the rewards that modern technology has to offer. It also means you’re up-to-date on the tremendous advances in hearing aid technology.
See more at: http://www.betterhearing.org/news/5-inspiring-things-treating-hearing-loss-says-about-you
Our sense of hearing is vital in connecting us to the world around us. Our hearing enables us to communicate with family and friends, to engage in hobbies and activities, to make effective contributions in the workplace, to alert us to danger. The list goes on.
Despite the crucial role hearing plays in our daily lives, society largely overlooks hearing healthcare. People tend to believe they hear ‘ok’, but how do you know what you haven’t heard? How do you know what you’re missing if you don’t check?
We wrongly believe that deterioration in hearing is an age-related problem, predominantly affecting those of retirement age. Wrong. Only about 1/3 of people with hearing loss are of retirement age. The rest are of school or working age.
Social stigma is a massive barrier to hearing care. Self-perception, ageism and vanity all play a part in preventing a positive attitude to hearing.
Individuals who notice a deterioration in their hearing are often too embarrassed to admit this to friends and family. They try to conceal their difficulty, often by withdrawing, rather than seeking help. This is a dangerous path to follow which can lead to feelings of isolation, anxiety and depression. In other cases people are simply unaware of the everyday sounds they are missing. It is family, friends or work colleagues who notice but feel unable to bring this up in conversation. In both scenarios the difficulty stays hidden, silent and unaddressed.
It’s strange when you think about it. If you had toothache you would shout and go straight to the dentist. If you noticed your eyesight deteriorating, the chances are you would seek help via your GP or your local optician fairly quickly. If you thought a friend looked unwell you would probably ask how they were feeling and encourage them to open up. You would talk about it and once we start to talk and share problems we start to look for solutions and ways to get us back on track.
Our hearing health should be no different. Fantastic advances in technology mean that 95% of hearing loss cases can be treated. Wax can be removed easily, tinnitus can be managed effectively. Hearing aids are now stylish and discreet. They can link wirelessly to your TV, your landline, your IPhone, putting you back in control and allowing you to enjoy life to the full.
Why miss out? Why let those you love miss out? Start talking about hearing with your friends and family. Help to break down that social stigma and if you want some advice and support from an expert come and talk to us.