Hearing Aids

What are the differences between good, better, and best in terms of price? Why is one hearing aid more expensive than another?

Additional features (such as smaller sizes, Bluetooth® audio streaming capability, and multiple sound-clarity options and program modes) tend to increase cost.

Different products are made for different listening lifestyles. Different devices will have more and less sophisticated technology inside of them which controls how the device responds to different listening environments. Some less expensive devices may have the same chip, but will still not have all of the features of the more advanced, expensive devices. The quality of the workmanship, and the services included in the maintenance of the device also affects the cost of the device.

How much do hearing aids cost?
Hearing aids typically cost between $1,500 and $5,000 each, with an average price of around $7,500 for a quality pair that uses the latest technology. Some companies may sell refurbished hearing aids at a lower price.
What should you consider when looking to buy hearing aids?
There are two primary considerations to make when you’re thinking about buying a hearing aid: finding a quality audiologist and deciding what kind of lifestyle you want to lead. It is not uncommon for individuals to become more outgoing once they have been fit with hearing aids, and certain systems allow for greater levels of activity than others. You should have an idea of how you’d like to use your technology when you visit an audiologist.

You will also need to know what services your audiologist’s office will extend to support your device. Does your provider include cleaning and checking your technology? Does your provider include cleaning and checking your ear canals for ear wax? Does your provider include comprehensive hearing evaluations in a sound-treated testing chamber? What is the training and background of your audiologist?

All of these issues are very important when considering purchasing hearing technology, as your device will require maintenance and your hearing can change over time. You need a comprehensive team in place to keep your technology working its best and to keep you hearing your best.

How long do hearing aids last?
As with any product, a hearing aid is guaranteed to work only as long as the manufacturer’s warranty lasts. Most hearing aid manufacturers offer warranties that cover defective components for one to three years. Few standard warranties cover normal wear and tear or lost/damaged hearing aids, although many companies offer extended warranties that guarantee repairs or replacements if something were to happen to the unit. Kept and cared for in optimal conditions, hearing aids should last most users four to six years, while seven or more years of reliable use is far less common.
Why is it better to get two hearing aids and not just one?

The ability to hear with both ears, also known as binaural hearing, is essential to humans’ ability to understand speech, maintain balance, and localize noises. Hearing helps with spatial awareness and understanding where your body is in relation to objects around you. Knowing where sounds are coming from helps us keep our balance and identify where sounds are coming from. Our auditory system was designed to process information from all directions, and hearing with only one ear makes that process less than half as effective as hearing with both ears.
What is a hearing aid?
A hearing aid is a small electronic device that you wear in or behind your ear. It makes some sounds louder so that a person with hearing loss can listen, communicate, and participate more fully in daily activities. A hearing aid can help people hear more in both quiet and noisy situations. However, only about one out of five people who would benefit from a hearing aid actually uses one.

A hearing aid has three basic parts: a microphone, amplifier, and speaker. The hearing aid receives sound through a microphone, which converts the sound waves to electrical signals and sends them to an amplifier. The amplifier increases the power of the signals and then sends them to the ear through a speaker.

How can hearing aids help?
Hearing aids are primarily useful in improving the hearing and speech comprehension of people who have hearing loss that results from damage to the small sensory cells in the inner ear, called hair cells. This type of hearing loss is called sensorineural hearing loss. The damage can occur as a result of disease, aging, or injury from noise or certain medicines.

A hearing aid magnifies sound vibrations entering the ear. Surviving hair cells detect the larger vibrations and convert them into neural signals that are passed along to the brain. The greater the damage to a person’s hair cells, the more severe the hearing loss, and the greater the hearing aid amplification needed to make up the difference. However, there are practical limits to the amount of amplification a hearing aid can provide. In addition, if the inner ear is too damaged, even large vibrations will not be converted into neural signals. In this situation, a hearing aid would be ineffective.

Which hearing aid will work best for me?
The hearing aid that will work best for you depends on the kind and severity of your hearing loss. If you have a hearing loss in both of your ears, two hearing aids are generally recommended because two aids provide a more natural signal to the brain. Hearing in both ears also will help you understand speech and locate where the sound is coming from.

You and your Audiologist should select a hearing aid that best suits your needs and lifestyle. Price is also a key consideration because hearing aids range from hundreds to several thousand dollars. Similar to other equipment purchases, style and features affect cost. However, don’t use price alone to determine the best hearing aid for you. Just because one hearing aid is more expensive than another does not necessarily mean that it will better suit your needs.

A hearing aid will not restore your normal hearing. With practice, however, a hearing aid will increase your awareness of sounds and their sources. You will want to wear your hearing aid regularly, so select one that is convenient and easy for you to use. Other features to consider include parts or services covered by the warranty, estimated schedule and costs for maintenance and repair, options and upgrade opportunities, and the hearing aid company’s reputation for quality and customer service.[.accordion]

Do all hearing aids work the same way?
All the technology we use at the Lafayette Hearing Center is digital hearing technology. Digital technology provides superior sound quality and performance in difficult listening situations.

You cannot tell much about the quality of a hearing aid just by looking at it. Many devices look similar to each other. While one device may be a very simple, basic device which amplifies sound but is not designed to function in a complex listening environment, another device may be very sophisticated with advanced sound processing that can distinguish voices from other room noise and amplify speech more than mechanical and other ongoing noise sources. All hearing aids have similar basic parts. The design and programming of the computer chip inside the device has a significant impact on how the device works.

Are there different styles of hearing aids?
There are three basic styles of hearing aids. The styles differ by size, their placement on or inside the ear, and the degree to which they amplify sound (see the following illustration).

  • Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids consist of a hard plastic case worn behind the ear and connected to a plastic earmold that fits inside the outer ear. The electronic parts are held in the case behind the ear. Sound travels from the hearing aid through the earmold and into the ear. BTE aids are used by people of all ages for mild to profound hearing loss. A new kind of BTE aid is an open-fit hearing aid. Small, open-fit aids fit behind the ear completely, with only a narrow tube inserted into the ear canal, enabling the canal to remain open. For this reason, open-fit hearing aids may be a good choice for people who experience a buildup of earwax, since this type of aid is less likely to be damaged by such substances. In addition, some people may prefer the open-fit hearing aid because their perception of their voice does not sound “plugged up.”
  • In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids fit completely inside the outer ear and are used for mild to severe hearing loss. The case holding the electronic components is made of hard plastic. Some ITE aids may have certain added features installed, such as a telecoil. A telecoil is a small magnetic coil that allows users to receive sound through the circuitry of the hearing aid, rather than through its microphone. This makes it easier to hear conversations over the telephone. A telecoil also helps people hear in public facilities that have installed special sound systems, called induction loop systems. Induction loop systems can be found in many churches, schools, airports, and auditoriums. ITE aids usually are not worn by young children because the casings need to be replaced often as the ear grows
  • Canal hearing aids fit into the ear canal and are available in two styles. The in-the-canal (ITC) hearing aid is made to fit the size and shape of a person’s ear canal. A completely-in-canal (CIC) hearing aid is nearly hidden in the ear canal. Both types are used for mild to moderately severe hearing loss. Because they are small, canal aids may be difficult for a person to adjust and remove. In addition, canal aids have less space available for batteries and additional devices, such as a telecoil. They usually are not recommended for young children or for people with severe to profound hearing loss because their reduced size limits their power and volume.

Hearing Aid Maintenance

What type of maintenance should I perform on my hearing aids to make them last?

Hearing aids should be cared for on a regular basis by keeping storage conditions optimal and cleaning them regularly. Aside from regular clean and checks by your audiologist, your hearing aids should be cleaned using a soft cleaning brush and disinfecting spray on a soft, lint-free cloth every day. A dehumidifying storage unit is recommended for safe keeping when they’re not in use, and will help prevent moisture damage. The dehumidifying unit will remove humidity and dry out sticky wax, making it easier to clean off of your hearing technology as well.
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Sleeping with hearing aids in place is usually a matter of comfort. While it may help some individuals hear their morning alarms a little better, there’s also a possibility that the units may fall out during sleep. Additionally, the pressure of your ear on the pillow can put pressure on the device on your ear and create some very sore, tender spots in and around your ear. These can be very painful.

The other question is whether sleeping while your devices are activated is a good use of battery life. A majority of people with hearing loss can still hear alerting alarms from a fire alarm or loud alarm clock, because while you may have lost the ability to hear soft sounds without assistance, loud sounds will frequently still be loud to you. If you find you cannot hear your alarm clock, there are relatively inexpensive alarm clocks available designed for people with hearing problems that may be a better solution than sleeping in your hearing aids.

Can hearing aids get wet?
While many devices are built with the conditions of the ear canal in mind, units are typically not labeled as anything more than “moisture resistant.” This means that the units are not waterproof and probably won’t be protected against submersion (swimming, showering, or dropping them into water), but they will be protected from light moisture exposure.
What should I do if my hearing aids get wet?
Switch off your hearing aid immediately, remove the battery from the device, and dry the battery and hearing aid meticulously with a cloth. If you own a dehumidifier, place your devices in the dehumidifier and turn it on for about 24 hours, or three to four drying cycles. If you don’t own a dehumidifier, you should bring your devices to your audiologist and ask them to run it through their dehumidifying system and check the function of the devices to ensure they are still working properly.
How do I clean my hearing aids?
Ask your audiologist to walk you through how to clean your devices, as each type of device will have components that are unique to that style of hearing aid. To clean the devices on your own, you’ll need a brush tool that can clean the small contours where dirt, dust, and earwax become trapped. The hearing aid should be cleaned daily with a moist cleansing wipe. If the microphone or earmold areas are blocked, use the brush to clear them.
Are hearing aids comfortable?
Yes! Many people who wear hearing technology say they forget they even have them on. You should be able to wear your devices all day without difficulty or discomfort. If you have custom-made hearing technology, your devices are molded specifically to the contours of your ear, meaning they should fit cleanly and comfortably. If irritation or discomfort becomes an issue, talk to your audiologist about these issues.
How can I care for my hearing aid?
Proper maintenance and care will extend the life of your hearing aid. Make it a habit to:

  • Keep hearing aids away from heat and moisture.
  • Clean hearing aids as instructed. Earwax and ear drainage can damage a hearing aid.
  • Avoid using hairspray or other hair care products while wearing hearing aids.
  • Turn off hearing aids when they are not in use.
  • Replace dead batteries immediately.
  • Keep replacement batteries and small aids away from children and pets.

Hearing Care

How often should I be wearing my hearing aids?
You should wear your hearing aids for as long as you feel they are necessary each day, or for as long as they are comfortable. Most battery life expectations are based on wearing your devices for 12 to 16 hours each day.
Why do I have a problem with background noise?
Hearing aids with digital signal processing help to differentiate between speech and noise, and they turn down the volume of what they identify as noise rather than speech. But no technology is perfect, and none will completely remove the problems associated with trying to listen in background noise. In these cases, strategic positioning in listening situations can help alleviate background noise. Most hearing aid microphones are geared toward listening to sounds that are in your field of view. Positioning yourself to communicate with people face-to-face is one method you can use to help block out background noise.
Can hearing aids make my hearing worse?
Hearing aids that aren’t fit to your unique hearing needs can do more harm than good. Most hearing aids focus on helping the user hear better by amplifying specific frequencies that are problem areas for that particular user. Amplifying a wider range of frequencies than necessary can cause more damage by overstimulating the healthy hair cells in the inner ear. By amplifying more sound than necessary, the risks are similar to listening to music too loudly. A proper hearing loss diagnosis and an accurate hearing aid fitting by a quality audiologist are important in maintaining your current hearing health and improving your hearing deficits.
What is the best way to clean/remove wax from my ears?
Earwax removal kits are available for purchase at most pharmacies, and they are effective at removing excess wax. Typically, they consist of a solution that sits in the ear canal for several minutes to loosen cerumen, which can dissolve and evaporate from the ear. If you produce a lot of earwax, you may need regular appointments with your audiologist or another medical professional to help you manage the ear wax.
Is it bad to use cotton swabs in your ears?
Cotton swabs can cause damage if they’re pushed too far into the canal or pushed against the sensitive eardrum. Depending upon the consistency of your earwax, they can also clog the canal, making it difficult to hear with your devices. Other cleaning methods are recommended.
How often should I get my hearing evaluated?
Yearly hearing checks are recommended for anyone beyond the age of 45, and intermittently from childhood throughout adulthood. If you feel your hearing has changed for any reason, or if it has been more than three years since your last screening, schedule a hearing check with your local audiologist.
What is the best way to manage itchy ears?
Itchy ears are common for first-time hearing aid users and users who have just purchased a new hearing system. If itching continues for more than a few days, and you have no skin allergies, talk to your audiologist and ask for help.

For custom earmolds, itching may be caused by moisture and bacteria on the shell, in which case a hearing aid dryer with a UV light will help kill the bacteria and alleviate the problem. Talk to your audiologist about your options for relief. He or she will have experience and can help you.

How can I adjust to my hearing aid?
Hearing aids take time and patience to use successfully. Wearing your aids regularly will help you adjust to them.

Become familiar with your hearing aid’s features. With your Audiologist present, practice putting in and taking out the aid, cleaning it, identifying right and left aids, and replacing the batteries. Ask how to test it in listening environments where you have problems with hearing. Learn to adjust the aid’s volume and to program it for sounds that are too loud or too soft. Work with your Audiologist until you are comfortable and satisfied.

You may experience some of the following problems as you adjust to wearing your new aid.

  • My hearing aid feels uncomfortable. Some individuals may find a hearing aid to be slightly uncomfortable at first. Ask your Audiologist how long you should wear your hearing aid while you are adjusting to it.
  • My voice sounds too loud. The “plugged-up” sensation that causes a hearing aid user’s voice to sound louder inside the head is called the occlusion effect, and it is very common for new hearing aid users. Check with your Audiologist to see if a correction is possible. Most individuals get used to this effect over time.
  • I get feedback from my hearing aid. A whistling sound can be caused by a hearing aid that does not fit or work well or is clogged by earwax or fluid. See your Audiologist for adjustments.
  • I hear background noise. A hearing aid does not completely separate the sounds you want to hear from the ones you do not want to hear. Sometimes, however, the hearing aid may need to be adjusted. Talk with your Audiologist.
  • I hear a buzzing sound when I use my cell phone. Some people who wear hearing aids or have implanted hearing devices experience problems with the radio frequency interference caused by digital cell phones. Both hearing aids and cell phones are improving, however, so these problems are occurring less often. When you are being fitted for a new hearing aid, take your cell phone with you to see if it will work well with the aid.


How do I know if I need a hearing aid?
If you think you might have hearing loss and could benefit from a hearing aid, visit your physician, who may refer you to an otolaryngologist or hearing care professional. An otolaryngologist is a physician who specializes in ear, nose, and throat disorders and will investigate the cause of the hearing loss. A hearing care professional is a hearing health professional who identifies and measures hearing loss and will perform a hearing test to assess the type and degree of loss.

Tinnitus

Why do my ears ring?
You may have tinnitus. Tinnitus is a medical condition characterized by persistent ringing in one or both ears that can only be heard by the affected individual. It has also been described as whistling, hissing, buzzing, or pulsing in the ear. These sounds may come and go, but for most tinnitus sufferers, the symptoms produce a constant, maddening drone..

Learn more about the causes and treatment options for tinnitus.