Help, I can't hear well!
Because some hearing problems can be medically corrected, first visit a physician who can refer you to an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose, and throat specialist). If you have ear pain, drainage, excess earwax, hearing loss in only one ear, sudden or rapidly progressive hearing loss, or dizziness, it is especially important that you see an otolaryngologist. Then, get a hearing assessment from an audiologist (a nonphysician health care professional). A screening test from a hearing aid dealer may not be adequate. Many otolaryngologists have an audiologist associate in their office who will assess your ability to hear pure tone sounds and to understand words. The results of these tests will show the degree of hearing loss and whether it is conductive or sensorineural and may give other medical information about your ears and your health.
Conductive Hearing Loss — A hearing loss is conductive when there is a problem with the ear canal, the eardrum and/or the three bones connected to the eardrum. Common reasons for this type of hearing loss are a plug of excess wax in the ear canal or fluid behind the eardrum. Medical treatment or surgery may be available for these and more complex forms of conductive hearing loss.
Sensorinural Hearing Loss — A hearing loss is sensorineural when it results from damage to the inner ear (cochlea) or auditory nerve, often as a result of the aging process and/or noise exposure. Sounds may be unclear and/or too soft. Sensitivity to loud sounds may occur. Medical or surgical intervention cannot correct most sensorineural hearing losses. However, hearing aids may help you reclaim some sounds that you are missing as a result of nerve deafness.
Hearing Aid FAQs
An otolaryngologist, audiologist, or an independent dispenser can dispense aids. Hearing aids should be custom fitted to your ear and hearing needs. Hearing aids purchased by mail-order typically cannot be custom fitted.
- Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids are placed over the ear and connected with tubing to custom-fitted earpieces.
- In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids fill the entire bowl of the ear and part of the ear canal.
- Smaller versions of ITEs are called half-shell and in-the-canal (ITC).
- The least visible aids are completely-in-the-canal (CIC).
You will also practice properly inserting and removing the hearing aids and batteries.
- Ask about charges for the hearing evaluation, dispensing fee(s), and future servicing and repair.
- Inquire about the trial period policy and what fees are refundable if you return the hearing aid(s) during the trial period.
- Ask about the warranty coverage for your hearing aids and the consumers’ protection program for hearing aid purchasers in your state.
- Start using your hearing aids in quiet surroundings, gradually building up to noisier environments.
- Note where and when that you find the hearing aids beneficial.
- Be patient and allow yourself to get used to the aids and the “new” sounds they allow you to hear.
- Keep a diary to help you remember your experiences.
- Report any concerns on a follow-up appointment.
An audiologist is someone who holds a degree and national certification in audiology. In many states, an audiologist must also be licensed. An audiologist’s interest is the identification of hearing loss, the measurement of that hearing loss’ severity and the rehabilitation of the person with hearing impairment. An audiologist is also involved in the identification of balance disorders.
An audiologist must have at least a Masters degree in audiology from a nationally accredited college or university. Following graduation, the new audiologist must participate in a Clinical Fellowship program. The new audiologist works under the supervision of an experienced, nationally certified audiologist for nine months to insure that he or she is capable of meeting professional standards and providing quality services. Following successful completion of the Clinical Fellowship program, the audiologist receives the Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech, Language and Hearing Association (ASHA).