Kari Lane is a doctoral-level registered nurse. She has a familial, hereditary, sensorineural hearing loss.
This is an example of a typical experience a patient could expect once their initial appointment is made.
A patient will undergo a comprehensive audiological examination to determine the extent of their hearing loss and what types of amplification will be of assistance. You will also see an Ears, Nose, & Throat (ENT) specialist (physician) to help determine whether hearing aids would be effective at this point in time.
There are several amplification alternatives available to you, be sure to review all of them with the audiologist or hearing healthcare technician. The audiologist or hearing healthcare technician will review the costs of the hearing aids that are recommended. Be sure to be a good consumer so that you can verify which brands would be best for you, in your price range, and most effective.
Types of Hearing Aids
Paying for Hearing Aids and More
Hearing aids are typically not covered by private insurance, although veterans may receive coverage due to noise exposure during service. Be prepared to hear that hearing aids will cost you around $5000 for two (maybe more maybe less).
You will also need to follow-up with an audiologist or hearing healthcare technician several times a year for routine maintenance and hearing aid programming. In 2019, great strides were made in getting hearing aids covered. Now, several insurance companies and employers have started covering hearing aids for patients. Check with your insurance company to see what is covered on your plan.
Styles of Hearing Aids:
Behind-The-Ear (otherwise known as BTE): This type of hearing aid is worn behind and around the ear. This is also the most common type of hearing aid, and is used by people with damaged hearing in a variety of ages and by people with mildly bad hearing to profoundly bad hearing. A BTE will look like the upper left hearing aid in the picture above, but is not just limited to the one shown above. They can range from looking like a large normal looking hearing aid to a much smaller and more compact version like a Bluetooth headset. BTEs are generally known for going around the outside of your ear and filling in your ear canal, but the newer BTEs are much smaller and only a narrow tube being led from the BTE gets inserted into your ear canal.
In-The-Ear (also known as ITE): This type of hearing aid is worn inside of your ear. This hearing aid completely fills the inside of your outer ear and is specially molded to fit your ear. ITEs are not worn by children most times since the ITE will constantly need to be remolded while the child's ear grows and changes, so ITEs are mostly used by adults. The upper right hearing aid in the picture is an example of a ITE.
Canal: This type of hearing aid is worn in your ear canal, hence the name canal hearing aid. There are two styles, which consist of In-The-Canal(ITC) hearing aid and a Completely-In-Canal(CIC) hearing aid. An ITC is a hearing aid specially molded to fit your ear canal and is somewhat visible while a CIC is completely hidden in your ear canal.
Canal hearing aids are small and are not able to amplify as much as the other two hearing aids can, and therefore are recommended to people who have slight to moderate hearing loss. The bottom left hearing aid in the picture is an ITC and the bottom right hearing aid is a CIC.
You should learn more about the various types of hearing aids, how to use them, and how to care for them in order to make an informed decision.
You've Chosen Your Hearing Aids. Now What?
Once you have made the decision to purchase hearing aids you will make an appointment to have ear molds made. This is done by mixing a polymer and carefully filling your ear and ear canal with this solution which hardens (to an extent) and is then removed. This mold is used to make your hearing aid fit you personally.
Once the ear molds are sent into the hearing aid company, it takes approximately two weeks for the hearing aids to be made and then send back to your audiologist or hearing healthcare technician.
Once the hearing aids are in, you will be called back in for another appointment. The hearing aids will be fitted to you, made sure that you can hear well with them, and check the programming to be sure it is comfortable and also appropriate for your hearing loss.
In addition, the ear mold will be checked to be sure that it is not rubbing or uncomfortable. If your ear mold does irritate your ears later on, make another appointment to have them modified for comfort. Many times, you will not know right away if the ear mold is right or even if the programming is okay. It takes some time and some exposure to normal noises to make sure they are okay with you.
Now the adjustment time begins. Many recommend a gradual adjustment process, but if you can wear them all day every day for two weeks, the adjustment process goes more quickly. For many patients who have not heard much of the background noise in their environment for quite a while, adjustment can be difficult.
"I had gotten used to the idea that I didn't care if I heard you or not. I would just nod and say yes honey, I know what you mean," said Russell, jokingly.
How to care for your hearing aids.
Hearing aids require special care to ensure that they function properly. Your audiologist will show you how to care for and check them regularly. Ask how you can obtain a listening tube, a battery tester, a forced air blower, and a drying container.
More information on this topic can be found in our Audiology Information Series [PDF].
Perform listening checks: Listen to the hearing aid every day. Using a listening tube, you can listen to the hearing aids to be sure that they sound clear and not weak or scratchy. Your audiologist will teach you how to listen for intermittency and internal feedback.
Check batteries often. Batteries should last about 1 or 2 weeks. Using a battery tester, check that the batteries are at full strength so that the hearing aids are working at peak performance. Always keep spare batteries with you. Store them in a cool, dry place. Discard batteries one at a time. Batteries are toxic, so handle them carefully and dispose of them properly.
Clean the hearing aids regularly with a soft, dry cloth. Check for dirt and grime. Ear molds can be removed from the hearing aids and cleaned with a mild soap solution. Dry them carefully using a forced air blower (not a hair dryer!). Be sure they are dry before reattaching them to the hearing aids.
Minimize moisture in the hearing aids. This is important for proper function. A hearing aid drying container will help keep moisture from building up inside the hearing aids and will lengthen their life. Be sure to take the batteries out of the hearing aid before placing them in the storage containers.
Avoid feedback. Feedback is the whistling sound that can be heard from the hearing aid. It occurs when amplified sound comes out of the ear mold and reenters the microphone. You should not be hearing feedback if the hearing aid is securely seated in your ear. Hearing feedback may suggest that the ear mold is too small and needs to be replaced or that there is too much earwax in the ear canal.
Talk to your audiologist about what you should do when you start hearing feedback. Turning down the volume of the hearing aid will cut down on the feedback but will also not allow you to hear important sounds.
Regular audiology visits are important for hearing testing, to check the performance of the hearing aid, and to make necessary adjustments.
This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2014 Kari Lane