Frequently Asked Questions
Each individual with a hearing loss experiences unique challenges. We’ve posted several questions frequently received by our call centre along with answers. If your questions have not been addressed here, our hearing professionals would be happy to answer them during your visit.
How Do I Know If I Have Hearing Loss?
Asking others to repeat things often is one major sign of hearing loss. Other signs are having difficulty hearing if there’s background noise, requiring the television to be louder than what is wanted by others in the room, and difficulty hearing over the telephone.
Hearing loss in one ear results in difficulty finding the direction of sounds, and where they come from. Also, our Online Hearing Test could help evaluate whether a consultation at one of our clinics might benefit you with one of our Hearing Professionals.
When Should I Get My Hearing Tested?
Hearing loss impacts everyone differently and can occur at any age and for a variety of reasons. Age-related hearing loss occurs due to changes in the structure of your inner ear although changes can also occur in your middle ear. As such, the National Campaign for Better Hearing recommends a baseline hearing test at 60 years of age, although a baseline hearing test is recommended to serve as a reference point at any age.
After your initial baseline hearing test, if you are 60 years or older, you should have your hearing tested on an annual basis.
Your Ear And How It Works
The ear has three parts: outer, middle, and inner. The outer ear is your ear that you can see and also its 2.5 cm long ear canal that ends at the eardrum. The middle ear is an air filled space behind the eardrum and houses the three smallest bones of the body (hammer, anvil and stirrup). The stirrup bone ends at the inner ear.
The inner ear is a fluid-filled, snail-shaped organ called the “cochlea.” It is about the size of your pinkie fingernail, and it contains about 15,000 tiny filaments called “hair cells.” When sound hits the eardrum, the vibrations are sent through the middle ear bones, and these vibrations make tiny fluid motions inside the cochlea.
The hair cells change these fluid motions into electricity, which is the “language” your brain and nervous system runs on and understands. The electrical message from your inner ear or cochlea is sent up the auditory nerve to the brain where it is heard as “sound!”
Types Of Hearing Loss
The most common type of hearing loss (Presbycusis) is due to age. Presbycusis is a result of hair cell loss inside the cochlea or inner ear. It usually results in more hearing loss for treble than for bass sounds. In speech, the treble sounds are those like /s/, /f/, /th/, /ch/, /sh/, etc. If these are hard to hear, then words that rhyme will be hard to distinguish from each other, and the person is left guessing what might have been said. Think of the words “cat, fat, sat, hat, that.” All of them have the vowel “a,” but it is the high-pitched consonants at the beginning of the words that tell you what the words were.
Hearing loss can also be due to exposure to loud noise. In fact, noise is the second most common cause of hearing loss. It too results in hearing loss for treble sounds. Hearing loss can also result from certain medications, ear infections, diseases, head or ear trauma, congenital (birth or prenatal) or hereditary factors. Modern medicine cannot repair damaged hair cells. The only course of action is hearing aids and helpful loved ones.
Another type of hearing loss can result from problems with the middle ear, behind the eardrum. One of the more common examples of this is ear infections that result in earaches. As we all know, hard blowing of one’s nose can be felt in the middle ear behind the eardrum. This is because there is a connection from the throat to the middle ears. Throat infections can creep up into the middle ear through this connection and cause a middle ear infection. Childrens’ faces are shorter and the connection between the throat and middle ear is therefore more horizontal. This is why kids tend to get more ear infections than adults do.
Your hobbies, activities and even work environment can have specific auditory requirements for example, a librarian will want more amplification for soft sounds, whereas a construction worker will worry more about loud sounds not being made even louder.
Assistive listening devices today are all digital and are like miniature computers. Therefore, they are also very flexible in what they can be made to do in various different kinds of listening environments. The way they amplify in different environments can be saved as different listening programs.
One Versus Two Hearing Aids
If you have good hearing in one ear and hearing loss for the other ear, then of course one hearing aid is the best option. On the other hand, hearing loss usually occurs in both ears. Binaural (two-ear) hearing devices really help to restore a more “stereo” type of sound. They also help listeners hear better in background noise. It used to be that people with hearing loss in both ears were provided with one hearing aid. This would be similar to wearing one lens with vision problems in both eyes. We have two eyes in order to see depth. With one eye we actually see as flat as a post card. If you cover one eye you might still think you see depth, but that’s only your brain fooling you for the moment.
In all truth if you were tested for depth perception, you would not have much with one eye. We have two ears to tell the direction of sounds. It’s not as simple as saying that the right ear hears from the right and the left hears from the left. The truth of it all is much more beautiful and fascinating than that.
Consider that sound travels over 1000 km/hr. Now think about the width of one’s head separating the ears one from another. Now if you are facing some direction someone speaks to you from your right hand side, sound will reach your right ear a split second before it gets to your left ear. The sound will also be very slightly louder for your right ear compared to your left ear. It’s these tiny time and loudness differences between your ears that tell you what direction a sound is coming from. It’s a truly amazing fact about the wonderful sense of hearing! Needless to say, two ears are better than one.
Hearing Aid Technology
Types Of Hearing Aids
There are many styles of hearing aids. Factors that determine the style of the hearing aids that the individual client will use are the degree of the hearing loss, power and options requirements of the hearing aids in question, one’s manual dexterity abilities, and cosmetic concerns.
Digital Hearing Aid Technology
The term DIGITAL is used so often today, it can be confusing. When the term “digital” is used regarding hearing aids, it generally means the hearing aid is 100% digital. Today’s hearing aids are just that: in other words, they are indeed “little computers”. Digital hearing aids also can communicate with one’s telephone & television by means of Bluetooth “streaming.” This means you no longer have to try hearing the sound coming from the speaker of your telephone or television. Instead, the sound is fed by Bluetooth technology right into your hearing aids and into your ears!
Hearing aid choice is personal and you should be talking closely to a professional before you make any choices. While trying to choose the right hearing aid for you, learn the different styles of hearing aids, such as all in the ear, behind the ear, etc. There are many styles and sizes to choose from so the choice is up to you, you can go with a device that is tucked behind the ear or the device that fits right inside the canal, either way, and you will soon be able to hear a lot better.
The physical size and shape of your own ear canal will also make a difference as to what style of hearing aid will work best for you. If you have trouble using your fingers or grasping small objects then a smaller hearing aid will be harder to operate and remove from your ear. You may then be better off with a larger model. Find out which style suits you best.
What Kind Of Professional Handles Hearing Aids?
Make sure you are working with a professional before you dive into getting your tests and impressions done. You will find that your hearing aids will only be as good as the person that conducted your tests for you. There are two professionals who are involved in testing hearing and a fitting hearing aids: A Provincially registered 1) Audiologist or 2) Hearing Instrument Practitioner. Both of these hearing health care professionals are registered by the College of Speech and Hearing Health Professionals of BC, to test hearing and prescribe hearing aids.
An Audiologist has a Masters or Doctoral degree from a university. A Hearing Instrument Practitioner has a 2-3 year college diploma from a college. Think of an Audiologist as an Optometrist and an HIP as an Optician. Audiologists have a relatively wider scope of practice in that they can test and fit infants and can also do more specialized types of hearing tests. In the field of adult hearing health however, both of these professionals receive extensive training in the testing, fitting, counselling, and post fitting follow up of hearing aids.
What Is The Price Range?
You are buying more than just a speaker to put in your ear when buying a hearing aid. You are making an investment to improve your lifestyle and quality of your life. It is important to be able to understand friends, co-workers and family members.
Hearing aid prices vary from several hundred dollars up to a few thousand, and it all depends on the advancement of the technology used in each device. Affordable hearing aids as well as more expensive options come with different features. You can think of hearing aids as coming in levels of “gold, silver, or bronze.” If your listening needs are simple, it just might be that even the most basic hearing aid is enough for you. If your life is more active and you find yourself wanting to hear better in more active and noisy listening environments, then a more sophisticated level of hearing aids features will give you more benefit.
Most hearing aids today can self-adjust volume to each situation; that is, soft sounds will be amplified by a lot, while loud sounds will be amplified by very little. Of course, you also have the option to adjust the volume yourself. On some models, a touch of a button on the right hearing aid may increase the volume for both sides, and a touch to the left hearing aid will reduce the volume for both hearing aids. Then again, many bluetooth hearing aids come with handy remote controls, where the listener can discreetly adjust things by the push of a button.
Most hearing aids today come with directional microphones. This means that in noisy situations, the hearing aid automatically tries to focus on sounds coming from in front of you the listener. The idea is that the person you want to hear is facing you. Hearing aids today also come with digital noise reduction which tries to filter out the background noise, making it easier to hear in crowded situations.
Some hearing devices are not fully covered by all insurances so it is important to find a professional that can offer you a finance program to allow you to be able to hear now and pay for the device on a weekly or monthly basis.
Check with your insurance company and health professional to make sure you are choosing a device that is fully covered by insurance.
Service and Warranty
Almost every hearing aid comes with some sort of warranty but before finalizing your purchase you should consider asking a few of the following questions before laying your money down:
- How long is the warranty
- Can you buy a warranty extension
- Know what’s covered under the warranty
- Ask if you will get a replacement if you need to send your device in for hearing aid repair
- Is there a guarantee on returns
- Is there protection against hearing changes
- Is follow-up included in the warranty
- Is there a hotline used for patients
- Is there some sort of program for batteries
Having the right information can go a long way to ensuring you are receiving the correct equipment and know what to do should you need assistance.
It can take some adjustment time for you to get used to your new hearing aid and there are sometimes training programs available to help you out. These programs teach you how to listen once again and make the transition as smooth as possible.
Most companies will give you a return guarantee of at least 30 days when you buy a new device but that just depends on the company you went to for your hearing aid. Make sure you talk to the professionals before making your decision because sometimes the loss of the return is important and you may choose to select another hearing device or another manufacturer that can assure you of the guarantee.
It can take some adjustment time for you to get used to your new hearing aids. You will be shown how to use them, taught about their limitations, so that you can walk and listen with realistic expectations. Almost every hearing aid comes with some sort of warranty but before finalizing your purchase you should consider asking a few of the following questions before laying your money down:
How long is the warranty, can you buy a warranty extension, know what’s covered?
Will you get a replacement if you need to send your hearing aids to be repaired?
Is there some sort of program for batteries?
Can I get help, training, guidance and questions answered when I need this?