Q. How do I know if I might have a hearing loss?
A. Ask yourself the following questions. If you answer "yes" to three or more of these questions, you could have a hearing problem and may need to have your hearing checked by an audiologist.
Q. What types of hearing loss is most common in adults?
A. Presbycusis is common in older adults. Presbycusis comes on gradually as a person ages and mostly affects people over 50. Doctors do not know why presbycusis happens, but it seems to run in families. Presbycusis is a hearing loss that affects higher frequencies and can give you the feeling that you can hear people talking but cannot understand what they are saying. It might sound like everyone is mumbling. Loud sounds may be difficult to tolerate and tinnitus is also common.
Tinnitus is a ringing, roaring, clicking, hissing, or buzzing sound in the ears frequently caused by presbycusis or exposure to loud noise and/or certain medications. Tinnitus can accompany any type of hearing loss.
Q. What kind of impact can hearing loss have on a person's life?
A. If you have a hearing loss, you may have trouble fully participating in everyday life. You may mistake words in a conversation, miss directions or warnings, or leave a ringing doorbell unanswered. Social isolation can cause depression and feelings of frustration or embarrassment about not understanding what is being said.
You may become suspicious of relatives or friends who you believe "mumble" or "don't speak up" on purpose.
Recent studies have suggested strong links between hearing loss and cognitive abilities. You have to be part of the conversation to maintain interest in what is going on around you. It is easy to appear confused, unresponsive, or uncooperative when you don't hear well.
Q. What do I do if I think I have hearing loss?
A. If you think that you have a hearing problem, schedule an appointment with your family doctor. In some cases, he or she can identify the problem and prescribe treatment.
Your doctor may refer you to an otolaryngologist—a doctor who specializes in ear, nose, and throat diseases. An otolaryngologist will try to find out why you have a hearing loss and offer treatment options. He or she will ask you for your medical history, ask if other family members have hearing problems, do a thorough exam, and prescribe any needed tests.
Your doctor may recommend that you also visit an audiologist. An audiologist is a healthcare professional who can identify the type and degree of hearing loss you have. The audiologist will help you determine the type of hearing aid appropriate for you, if medical treatment is not an option.
Q. How can a hearing aid help me hear better?
A. Hearing aids are designed to help you hear better in background noise and other difficult listening situations. They are programmed based on your degree and type of hearing loss. There are many different types of hearing aids. The one that is right for you is determined by your type and degree of hearing loss, your lifestyle, and your preference.
The most popular hearing aid at this time is the RIC or receiver in canal. It is similar to the "open fit" hearing aid but the receiver part of the hearing aid is placed in the ear while the rest of the hearing aid (microphone and amplifier) are behind the ear.
Probably 80% of my fittings are done with this style of hearing aid. It improves hearing speech in noise, reduces occlusion, and looks more discreet. They are especially helpful to patients who have normal low frequency hearing and only a high frequency hearing loss.
In addition, two hearing aids are always recommended unless someone has a dead ear or normal hearing in one ear. You hear better in background noise, understand speech with input to both sides of the brain, and can localize sound.
Q. How long should I wear my hearing aids each day?
A. As a first time wearer, you may hear sounds you haven't heard in years. Because of this we recommend that you slowly become acclimated to your hearing aids. Start by wearing them for a few hours a day and gradually increase the length of time each day. After a few weeks, you should be wearing them for about ten hours a day. If at any time you feel overwhelmed, tired, or anxious, you should remove the hearing aids for a while.
Q. How do I clean my hearing aids?
A. Each night when you remove your hearing aids, check them for wax, debris or water. If you find any of these, use a dry cloth to remove the debris.
Q. How do I know left from right?
A. Left hearing aids are indicated with a blue marking, and right hearing aids are indicated with a red marking.
Q. How long do batteries last?
A. The life of batteries depends on the size of the battery. Assuming you wear your hearing aids an average of 10 hours per day, a 13 size battery will last 10-14 days, a 312 size battery will last 5-7 days and a 10 size battery will last 3-5 days.