Avoid the Biggest Mistake in Treating Your Hearing Loss

Reviewed by Dr. Porter on October 24, 2018

Welcome to “Your Hearing Health” brought to you by Dr. Day-Moran, Au.D. at Harbor Audiology with offices in Gig Harbor, Tacoma and Silverdale, WA.

In this episode, we discuss, “Avoid the Biggest Mistake in Treating Your Hearing Loss.”

Avoid the Biggest Mistake in Treating Your Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is very common, and it gets worse as we get older. Age-related hearing loss can begin when you are in your 40s, and the severity of hearing loss, on average, doubles every 10 years. Most people begin having trouble with their hearing in their sixties, and by the age of 70 two-thirds of people have clinically significant hearing loss.

Loss of good hearing affects everything about how you live. As you lose your ability to participate in conversations, you withdraw from your friends and family. As you have less and less human contact, you aren’t as intellectually sharp as you used to be. You are at greater risk of pedestrian mishaps and traffic accidents, and your chances of supporting yourself, if you still need to work, quickly disappear.

There are two basic ways to deal with hearing loss. One is to have a complete hearing exam with a professional audiologist so you can be fitted with hearing aids that correct the precise hearing loss that is causing the hearing problem. And, over the past few years, a tremendous variety of direct-to-consumer personal sound amplification devices have come on the market.
These personal sound amplification devices are relatively inexpensive, and they are available without a prescription. But buying and using them is usually a serious mistake. In this article, we will tell you why.

Personal sound amplification devices rely on analog technology, while prescription hearing aids use digital technology.

Personal sound amplification devices operate on a very simple principle:
Make sound louder.

These devices treat all the sound the same way. Whether it’s a conversation, the roar of a football stadium, the song of a backyard bird, or gunfire, a personal sound amplification device will use analog technology to make sound louder.

Analog hearing aids

If your problem is that you can hear certain frequencies while you can’t hear others, the resulting amplification will just drown out the frequencies you have trouble hearing frequencies you can.

Some analog hearing aids have been programmed for different patterns in sound amplification for different environments, such as a quiet restaurant versus a football game versus a library versus a canyon in the Rocky Mountains. You may have to remove the hearing aid, press a button on its side, and put it back in your ear.

Digital hearing aids

A digital hearing aid can do anything an analog hearing aid can do with an important added feature:

Digital hearing aids convert sound into digital signals for an exact reproduction of sound.

The chip inside a digital hearing analyzes speech and environmental sounds to give you just the conversation you are trying to hear, not all the conversation in the background. Its ability to perform a complex analysis of sound eliminates whistle and background noise.

More importantly, these hearing aids can be programmed to compensate with the pattern of hearing loss the audiologist discovers during your hearing exam.

Making sound louder isn’t enough to make understanding conversation easier.

When you have age-related hearing loss, you lose the ability to hear certain frequencies, while you lose the ability to hear others. If you use a personal sound amplification device, it will make the hard to hear frequencies louder, but it will also make the frequencies you can hear louder. As a result, using the personal sound amplification device doesn’t make listening any easier.

If you have age-related hearing loss, you know that having to strain to listen is exhausting. With a personal sound amplification device, you may find it even harder to understand conversations than before. Professionally fitted hearing aids, on the other hand, amplify only the frequencies you have trouble hearing, so they make listening easier.

Personal sound amplification devices don’t help with background noise.

Just about anyone with age-related hearing loss finds it hard to focus on a single conversation in a noisy environment. Understanding the person standing next to you at a cocktail party or a reception or in a bar can be impossible.

The problem isn’t in your ears. It’s in your brain. Your brain knows that you aren’t picking up on the person you want to listen to. It compensates by processing all of the sound that comes into your ears, including background noise.

Professionally fitted hearing aids can be programmed for background noise reduction. Non-prescription, off-the-shelf, one-hearing-aid-for-everybody devices can’t.
Prescription hearing aids can be optimized for cellphone use, while personal sound amplification devices cannot.

Prescription hearing aids can be fitted with a tiny electronic coil that makes them Bluetooth-enabled. You can hear a phone conversation without holding the phone to your ear.
But the technology is not limited to telephone conversations.

With Bluetooth, your hearing aids can be connected to podcasts and music. You can control volume and the quality of sound, while the hearing aid amplifies the frequencies you can’t hear but leaves other frequencies unchanged.

There are even models in development that offer foreign language translation, fall detection, and fitness tracking. None of these features is available with the non-prescription personal sound amplification devices you can buy without a prescription online.

Prescription hearing aids have additional useful features.
Your audiologist can prescribe a hearing aid with a number of additional useful features, including:

  • Feedback control. This feature suppresses the screeching sound when your hearing aids get too close to a telephone, or your hearing aid has a loose mold.
  • Directional microphone. This feature amplifies a single conversation in a noisy environment. Sound coming from in front of you is amplified more than sound coming from behind you, giving you better hearing for a face-to-face conversation.
  • T-coil, also known as a telephone switch. All telephones in the US and Canada are hearing-aid compatible. This switch focuses on a single source of sound and turns off the microphone inside your hearing aid, so you don’t hear yourself talking. This action also blocks the whistling effect.
  • Direct audio input. Your hearing aid “plugs in” to your TV, your computer, or your iPod.]

There is one more reason it is always best to get your hearing aid from an audiologist instead of online.

Online tests may detect hearing loss. But they don’t detect disease processes besides aging that may be the real cause of your hearing loss.

Getting a hearing test with a professional audiologist can lead to the timely diagnosis of a hearing-related disease. It can make the difference between catching a condition in time and permanent hearing loss. Contact us now!

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