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Hearing Loss & Hearing Aid Questions & Answers

Why should I correct a hearing loss?

Hearing is essential to your quality of life. Helen Keller said that loss of vision means losing contact with things, but loss of hearing means losing contact with people. A hearing loss influences the interaction between family and friends causing communication barriers between people who love and need one another. Anxiety, insecurity, isolation, and depression can affect those who do not hear well. Scientific studies indicate that the negative psychological changes due to untreated hearing loss can be reversed by the use of properly prescribed and properly fitted hearing aids. You will not only improve your own quality of life. By being able to communicate and participate in active conversation, you will also improve the quality of life of your loved ones, who will now be able and more willing to fully interact with you once again.

I'm 85 years old. Who knows how much longer I have. I don't know if I should spend the money.

This statement, although not a question, comes up in our office several times each week. Even though nobody knows how much longer each of us has in this world, it is truly saddening when someone has developed this mindset for themselves. What these people should be telling themselves instead is: "I'm 85 years old. I don't want to waste another day misunderstanding and struggling to hear the people around me. I want to enjoy my family and friends and fully interact with them once again, so that I can enjoy every day I still have to the fullest." Remember that, especially at this age, every year that goes by without hearing well is a socially wasted year which you and your loved ones can never get back.

I've heard the terms "Permanent Distortion" and "Phonemic Regression" numerous times. What exactly do they mean?

To most people, a "hearing problem" means just one thing: hearing loss, where the words simply become fainter. Well, it's not that simple. Distortion plays a significant role in hearing problems. It starts almost unnoticed. "Effs" begin to sound like "esses", "dees" like "tees", the word "cat" may be confused with "hat", etc. At first it doesn't seem to matter. You can still make out the words by hearing the context of the complete sentence. But little by little, before long, only half the words are clear...and many you may not even be able to make out at all. This is distortion. And the truth is, even if words are made loud enough with the correct hearing aids, inner ear distortion may continue to make them sound garbled. This is referred to as "Phonemic Regression". Although in most cases it takes many years, eventually this distortion may become permanent - ruining your ability to understand some words at all. Thus the term Permanent Distortion. That's why it's so important to see your hearing healthcare professional as soon as a hearing loss is noticed.

If it's so important to get help, why do people refuse help for hearing loss?

Denial, or minimizing a hearing loss, frequently occurs. People incorrectly associate it with aging and disability. They simply ask people to talk louder or repeat themselves. Some are apprehensive about the challenge of learning how to use and insert a sophisticated, miniature electronic device. Others may feel shame and embarrassment about wearing a hearing instrument, and will put it off until the distortion has grown so much that they can't understand some conversations at all. With today's micro-processor technology, it's truly tragic when some people wait too long to get help, and put it off until it's too late to be able to hear clearly - even with the best hearing aids available. When hearing impaired individuals accept the advantages of hearing aids, they are amazed at how much they were unknowingly missing in life.

I have worn hearing aids for many years and now notice that when I turn the volume up so I can hear, they constantly whistle and squeal. Why?

Hearing loss, like eyesight, gradually changes over time. As your hearing loss progressed over the years, you probably started turning up the volume a little more each year. This progression is so gradual that it is not noticed until the hearing aid starts whistling seemingly for no reason. You are probably 'overwhelming' the hearing aid by turning up the volume past its threshold. You probably also notice that when you turn the volume down to the point where the whistling stops, you do not hear as well as you used to. Once this point is reached, it is time to call your hearing healthcare professional for a hearing evaluation to find out the necessary steps to re-enter the world of better hearing.

Where should I go for hearing help?

A full range of testing, evaluation, and hearing aid fitting, as well as follow-up counseling and service, is available at the Herkimer Hearing Aid Center. If you do not live locally, your decision of where to go should be based on the following:
  1. Is the hearing healthcare provider's location close to you?
  2. Is the hearing healthcare provider BOARD CERTIFIED?
  3. Is the hearing healthcare provider professional? Is the office professional?
  4. Is thorough testing done to find the exact prescription for your particular hearing loss?
  5. Do you know of positive hearing aid experiences of your friends, or problems they had? (but do remember that not everyone can be helped the same way).
  6. Do they play games with you in their advertising? (click here to learn what to watch out for). If so, that's probably their 'business culture' so don't be surprised when they try to get the best of you once you are in their office.
  7. The warranty period and what the warranty covers (including loss & irreversible damage).
  8. Terms of the transaction, right of return, refund policy, and professional services that are included -- all of which should be in writing.

What can I expect from my hearing aids? What about background noise?

We will always give you realistic expectations. Hearing aids will not "cure" hearing loss any more than eyeglasses will "cure" vision deficiencies. However, hearing aids can provide many benefits, enable people to hear better, and assist in hearing sounds more clearly. Hearing well in background noise requires the use of quality hearing aids containing the correct or current prescription in both ears. One ear alone is physically unable to send enough information to the brain to be able to sort out the differences of several sounds coming in at the same time. So even though one hearing aid alone may help you hear better in quiet settings, don't expect to be able to understand people in background noise if you only wear one hearing aid when you need two. Also, your understanding ability in background noise is relative to the quality of your hearing aids, their ability to produce the sound with the clarity you need, and your remaining natural discrimination ability -- the level of your phonemic regression. Also remember that background noise is normal and is there even for people with normal hearing. One of the major differences is that people with normal hearing have been hearing background noise all along and have learned to filter it out. Practice and patience are the keys to success. Keep in mind that your hearing, like your vision, can and does change over time. Your hearing care provider can help you to monitor and adapt your hearing aids to these changes.

How long do hearing aid batteries last? When in use, hearing aid batteries typically last around two weeks. As a rule, the larger hearing aid batteries hold more capacity, so they will last longer. Also, the more power is needed to fulfill a prescription, the less the battery will last. The Herkimer Hearing Aid Center can give you an accurate estimate of battery life for your particular prescription.

Herkimer Hearing Aid Center