Untreated hearing loss can lead to decreased cognitive abilities as well as emotional distress. This means those with hearing loss actually have the potential to age their brains and ears faster by putting off the use of hearing aids. Untreated hearing loss may affect productivity and compensation in the workplace, as well as impact relationships.
Hearing aids can be intimidating, but those who are hard of hearing can combat fear by taking control of their health. Armed with the content provided here, one can make an informed decision tailored to the needs of one’s finances, loved ones, and mental and physical health.
Benefits of treating hearing loss
Several studies point to the fact that your hearing can affect your mental health. Hearing loss can have an effect on how well you function in day-to-day living.
Getting the details on an assignment at work or taking notes during a school lecture can prove to be challenging if it’s hard to process words. These conditions can improve once you treat your hearing loss.
A Johns Hopkins University study published in 2011 examined the possible connection between hearing loss and dementia by analyzing data collected in a longitudinal study. It tracked the overall cognitive abilities (concentration, memory, planning skills, etc.) of nearly 2,000 adults over age 65. After six years, those with hearing loss were 24 percent more likely to exhibit diminished cognitive abilities than those with normal hearing.
The Hearing Loss Association of America states that people in the workplace with the mildest hearing losses show little or no drop in income compared to those with normal hearing; however, as hearing loss increases, compensation often decreases.
The Seniors Research Group conducted a study in 1999 researching the link between hearing loss and depression. Its survey of 2,300 hard-of-hearing adults aged 50 and above revealed that those who did not treat their hearing loss were more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and paranoia, and were less likely to seek out social activities.
Hearing loss can affect many aspects of life, and this becomes apparent in social contexts. Asking someone to repeat what he or she said two or three times may be a recipe for feeling self-conscious. People with hearing loss that struggle to listen in noisy environments, like parties and concerts, may find themselves isolated, despite being in a room filled with people.
A 2014 study by the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders found that hearing-impaired individuals under the age of 70 were more likely to experience moderate to severe depression compared to people who did not experience hearing loss. Another study released during the same year shows that senior citizens who experienced hearing loss were likely to become less extroverted.
There is substantial evidence showing that hearing loss can also play a role in dementia, as a 2011 Johns Hopkins study shows that even a mild case of hearing loss can increase your risk of getting the illness.
One of the best ways to nourish your mental health and find a comfortable social setting is to introduce yourself to people who share your perspective. There are several hearing loss meetups in the United States, many of which are hosted at destinations with hearing-friendly services.
Not only can branching out be a fun way to potentially meet people with similar interests, but it can also introduce a valid support system, which can make it easier to wear your hearing aids without feeling self-conscious.
What are the consequences of not treating hearing loss?
If you don’t have a hearing aid, yelling “What?!” a few more times across the room than the average person is one of the more innocuous downsides to hearing loss. The National Institutes of Health conducted a five-year study on the connection between hearing loss and depression, and they found that hearing impairment is significantly related to depression—especially in women.
Those with excellent hearing reported the least amount of depression, and the percentage of people with depression only increased as the severity of hearing loss increased. Older women with moderate hearing impairment showed the highest risk for depression.
Other issues often accompanying depression, such as anxiety, paranoia, and social isolation, could also develop if hearing loss is left untreated. James Firman, CEO of The National Council on Aging, acknowledges the severe effects of hearing loss, calling “untreated hearing loss in older persons a harmless condition” a myth.
With social isolation and subsequent depression being especially prevalent among older people, hearing loss could lead to further social isolation, which in turn leads to deeper depression, and then to anxiety and paranoia, which reinforce social isolation. The result is a vicious cycle revolving around depression.
Here’s the good news: hearing impairment is a relatively easy fix compared to other triggers. Another study published in Audiology has shown that older people with moderate to severe hearing loss who use hearing aids were more likely to participate in social activities compared to non-users.
We’ve organized their published data into a simple graph to show not only the improvement hearing-aid users experienced but also how their family members felt after they adopted hearing aids. All areas showed significant improvement after the user started wearing hearing aids.
Audicus investigated the hearing aid adoption problem to see why people hesitated to wear hearing aids. Thankfully, we have viable solutions for the two biggest reasons why hearing aids aren’t exactly the current “it” accessory: cost and stigma. We have proven that hearing aids don’t have to be as expensive as they’re offered on the market, and technological advances have allowed us to offer hearing aids so discreet that almost no one can see them.
What are hearing aids?
In its most basic form, a hearing aid is a device that amplifies the frequencies that you have trouble hearing. Most devices nowadays are digital, consisting of a microphone, digital signal processors, amplifiers, and speakers.
Hearing technology has undergone a radical rate of evolution in recent years. The introduction of digital signal processing technology has allowed chips to process multiple millions of calculations per second, resulting in unparalleled sound quality.
The durability has improved dramatically, and comfort, as well as aesthetics, have been thoroughly addressed. Modern devices have shrunk so much in size that they are barely noticeable. Some hearing aid models are even considered “invisible.”
What types of hearing aids are there, and which is the best fit?
Hearing technology ranges from basic amplifiers to advanced digital hearing aids. Hearing aids come in various styles including: behind-the-ear (BTE), receiver-in-canal (RIC), and completely-in-canal (CIC). To determine the best device for you, keep in mind several factors: degree of hearing loss, ear canal size, and your own dexterity.
Amplifiers are non-medical devices that amplify sound. Though they do contain a microphone, speaker, and an amplifier. They are not customized for an individual’s hearing profile. They are not ideal for someone who has hearing loss but are ideal for those who want slight amplification, such as hunters.
CIC hearing aids sit entirely inside the ear canal and are the most discreet of all hearing aids. They address mild to moderate hearing loss. For more severe to profound loss, behind-the-ear hearing aids will be the best option.
BTE: Behind-the-Ear (Open Fit)
Behind-the-ear hearing aids with an open fit address mild to severe hearing loss. These hearing aids sit behind the ear. Sound travels into the ear canal through a thin, clear tube.
BTE hearing aids are the most popular style of hearing aid and remain discreet due to their small size. Users can typically choose from a variety of colors to match their skin tone or hair color.
Receiver-in-canal hearing aids are similar to the open fit BTEs, but are more powerful, addressing even profound hearing loss. RIC hearing aids function via a wire going through the tube, which connects to a speaker (receiver) in the ear canal.
Digital vs. analog hearing aids
A far cry from 17th-century ear trumpets, digital hearing aids were first introduced in 1987. They quickly substituted analog devices, and they dominate today’s hearing aid market.
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), more than 20 different digital hearing aid manufacturers have established their presence in the United States. While newer isn’t always better, a closer look shows that digital hearing aids beat out the analogs in both form and function.
What’s the difference between analog and digital hearing aids?
Analog hearing aids and digital hearing aids are distinctly different. Analog basically takes sounds and makes them louder, just as cupping your hand behind your ear amplifies sound. Some analog hearing aids include a programmable microchip, but the functions are relatively basic.
Digital hearing aids take in sound waves (in themselves, analog signals, for the tech folks out there), translate them into digital format, process, filter, distort, amplify and ultimately deliver a sound signal into your ear canal that is custom-tailored to your needs. In order to perform all these wonders, digital hearing aids contain a Digital Signal Processor (DSP) chip.
To better understand digital versus analog, consider the difference between analog vinyl records and digital CDs. Vinyl records require fairly simple methods for playback, and a simple turntable and needle will do the trick. CDs take a little more hardware, as the digital information has to be processed and reproduced.
While there is a greater amount to do, CDs provide clearer, high-fidelity sound. Some people prefer the warm crackle of a vinyl record, but that fuzz simply won’t do when it comes to your hearing!
Digital hearing aids are excellent multitaskers
These tiny tools can simultaneously perform a variety of sound processing tasks. In one important function, the hearing aid quickly distinguishes between speech sounds and noise.
As such, the hearing aid amplifies speech while reducing noise. As analog hearing aids amplify sounds less discriminately, a lot of noise can get in the way of a good conversation.
Digital hearing aids are designed for you
Digital hearing aids can be programmed with software to suit your unique hearing needs. Programmable analog hearing aids are available, but digital technology can provide a far greater degree of fine-tuning. Better programming means better sound processing in multiple sound environments—from a quiet library to a noisy restaurant.
Cut down on feedback with digital hearing aids
Feedback reduction is one of the greatest advantages to digital hearing aids. In the same way that digital hearing aids can distinguish between sound and speech, these nifty little devices can anticipate and reduce feedback. Digital technology allows the hearing aid to minimize or completely cancel out any detected feedback, so you can avoid onerous whistling sounds.
Smaller and sleeker digital hearing aids
As digital processing power continues to evolve exponentially, laptops, cell phones, and digital hearing aids are all getting smaller as well. To see just how sleek these hearing aids can look, check out Audicus’ collection of hearing aids.
Drawbacks to digital hearing aids?
While pretty much every source will attest to the superiority of digital devices, everyone also has the same complaint: the high price. But as a top-notch provider of digital hearing aids, Audicus brings you high function at a low cost through its novel delivery method.
What are induction coils?
Forget the iPad—your hearing aid may be all you need to plug in. Hearing aids have come a long way since the ear trumpet, and one of the best little accessories you can now have is the telecoil.
Also known as a t-coil, this compact wire coil allows your hearing aid to link up with hearing loops, sound systems, or telephones, allowing your hearing aid to become a mini speaker right in your ear. Here is a basic guide to this handy hearing aid fixture, the telecoil.
A basic design for hearing aids
A telecoil is a small wire wrapped around a metal core. The simple, but important, the design provides a simple, but important, function. A telecoil essentially functions as a wireless antenna inside your ear. These tiny wires pick up magnetic signals, which are emitted by hearing aid compatible (HAC) telephones and sound systems.
Hearing aid telecoils: an antenna in your ears
Telecoils work very much like technology you already use. To better visualize the function of a telecoil, let’s use the analogy of a radio antenna. Radio towers emit sound waves to antennas within a particular area. This is why you might access a radio station in your own town, but not in the neighboring town.
The radio tower has essentially created a circuit, and you join that circuit by raising your antenna and tuning into the system. Telecoils function similarly: a hearing aid compatible sound system sends out sound waves like a radio station, and your telecoil allows you to tune in.
Telecoils, hearing aids, and telephones
Bringing a regular hearing aid close to a telephone receiver may cause an obnoxious squealing or whistling noise, also known as feedback. The result of this proximity is similar to the feedback that results when two-stage microphones come too close together.
The telecoil helps correct this by allowing you to shut off your hearing aid microphone, while still picking up the electromagnetic sound waves from the phone. This will typically cut down, if not completely eliminate, feedback.
Where else can a telecoil be used?
In addition to telephones, telecoils can be used with a number of different sound systems. Movie theatres, music halls, places of worship, and sports auditoriums often have assisted listening systems that can transmit sound right to your telecoil. Places that support telecoils are usually designated with the following symbol.
Keep in mind, though, that a bit of interference/background noise (usually a humming sound) can result from certain sources of magnetic signals, like fluorescent lights and television screens. However, modern telecoil technology can largely mitigate these interferences.
Hearing aid choices: to telecoil or not to telecoil?
More than 60 percent of hearing aids come with telecoils. Nonetheless, the right hearing aid for you is always a completely personal choice. Telecoil or not, Audicus has a great selection to help you find your ideal fit. Comparing the different hearing aid types against your needs is a great way to find your hearing aid match.
Hearing aids and quality of life
Using hearing aids can help to improve your mental health and overall quality of life. A recent study by the Hospital Universitario San Ignacio in Colombia found that the quality of life for individuals aged 60 and up was better for those with hearing loss that used hearing aids, compared to those who had hearing disorders and did not use hearing aids.
Another study from the Institute of Psychogerontology in Germany found that hearing-impaired individuals who used hearing aids experienced an increase in everyday productivity compared to those who had hearing loss and did not use hearing aids. Individuals who used their hearing aids when doing diverse tasks reported feeling more satisfied with their device.
Hearing aids for different tasks
Many may think that it’s okay to only use a hearing aid when it’s absolutely necessary, but getting in the habit of using it for several tasks can make you appreciate how useful it is.
There is also a variety of hearing aids suited for different tasks. Visually-guided hearing aids amplify sounds from areas in your field of vision. Hearing aid microsystems are miniature, non-invasive devices that only need to be removed for recharging or replacement.
Why are hearing aids so expensive?
Hearing aid prices are exorbitant and continue to increase. In the last decade, the price of an average BTE hearing aid has more than doubled, while the prices of other electronic devices, like laptops and televisions, have significantly decreased.
Manufacturers have allocated substantial resources to making hearing aids smaller and more powerful, and have added features like Bluetooth, wireless integration, remote controls, and 20+ channels. However, other electronics have also improved aesthetically and functionally.
This is especially concerning in light of how much hearing aids cost to produce: around $200. How significantly do these new bells and whistles impact the actual quality of the hearing aids?
If you’re on a low income and need a hearing aid, or want to help a low-income individual get a hearing aid, consider contacting Hearing Charities of America. Audicus is currently collecting used hearing aids to refurbish and supply to those in need. Simply send us the hearing aids, and we will pass them along to our friends at Hearing Charities of America who will refurbish and outfit them for low-income individuals.
Hearing aid cost breakdown
Many argue that devices nowadays are over-engineered for the average user. Think about it this way: a Rolls Royce can get from point A to point B, but is extravagant due to its extra features. A Honda can also travel from A to B in a safe and comfortable manner. When it comes to the hearing aid market, people don’t often have the choice to opt for the Honda and are forced to buy the Rolls Royce. Fortunately, for those with hearing loss, the number of affordable online options has increased in recent years.
Purchasing a hearing aid can feel very overwhelming. What is the difference between each vendor? What does pricing include?
Hearing aids are a pricey purchase, so it’s important to explore different options.
The local audiologist
With a local audiologist, customers pay a fee for bundled services. These services include hearing tests, hearing aids, fitting, reprogramming, warranty, insurance, and follow-up visits.
Typically, this costs about $1,500 – $4,000 per device, which means the price of two hearing aids ranges from $3,000 to $8,000. There is usually a trial period with a refund guarantee. Some private practices may have a restocking fee ($100 – $200), so it is wise to ask about this upon the initial visit.
Wholesale stores & audiology chains
Hearing aids from a wholesale or ‘big box’ store will be cheaper than those from a clinic, generally costing around $1000 – $2,000 per device. This fee generally covers a hearing test, programming, follow-up appointments, hearing aid cleanings, loss and damage coverage, and 10 batteries per hearing aid. These stores typically offer a 60 – 90 day trial period.
Audiology franchises are another option providing similar services for prices between $1,000 and $3,000 per hearing aid. Some audiology franchises may also charge a restocking fee, so inquire about this.
The Internet is a fantastic new option for hearing health. Hearing aids offered online generally cost between $400 – $900 per hearing aid, and the technology offered by reputable sites is on par with the technology offered at a traditional clinic.
Costs are unbundled in the online space, meaning customers pay for customized hearing aids, but not for additional services like follow-up visits or a hearing test. By removing overhead costs, like a storefront and clinic, as well as establishing exclusive relationships with manufacturers, online companies are able to offer hearing aids at significantly lower prices.
Online companies have audiologists on staff to program the hearing aids based on a hearing test, the same as what would be done in a local clinic. In addition, the hearing aids are customized using differently sized end pieces, so they do not require custom earmolds.
How to order hearing aids online
Visit www.Audicus.com to start your order!
Hearing aid maintenance
It pays to care for hearing aids properly to extend their life as much as possible. As hearing aids are in use for much of the day, they are exposed to all types of environments, as well as substances on the skin’s surface.
Following these steps will ensure that the hearing aid remains in good, working condition during its five-year lifespan.
Do away with dirt
Hearing aid speakers and receivers can become blocked with particles of dirt. When handling the hearing aid, make sure fingers and hands are clean of any dirt or food residue. If skin is particularly oily, handle the hearing aids with a tissue whenever possible.
Watch the wax
The amount of earwax varies from person to person, and it’s important to know how to manage earwax. Be sure to clean the dome/ear mold and/or tube regularly to keep the pathway clear.
Mind the moisture
Since hearing aids depend on electricity to function, it is important to keep them away from moisture. Remove hearing aids when taking a shower, bathing, swimming, or doing water sports.
To get the best battery life, deactivate the hearing aid when it is not in use, such as overnight. There is no need to completely remove the battery; simply open the battery door and leave the battery inside.
When the hearing aid is not in use, it is very important to store it in a safe location, away from children and pets. It’s a good idea to keep hearing aids in a case, away from dirt, moisture, or damage.
Follow up frequently
Hearing aids need check-ups, too. Make sure to assess hearing aid function from time to time and note any feedback—high-pitched, whistling sounds—coming from the hearing aid while it is in use.