2011-04-08 / Columnists

Have You Heard?

Commentary By Shirley Pollak, Au.D

As a follow up to last month’s column, I would like to address some of the common misconceptions about hearing aids that I have frequently heard from my patients over these past 18 years.

Keep in mind, today’s hearing aids are very different and much improved over older technology, making them much more discreet and comfortable to wear.

The consequences of hiding hearing loss are better than wearing hearing aids.

What price are you paying for vanity? Untreated hearing loss is far more noticeable than hearing aids. If you miss a punch line to a joke, or respond inappropriately in conversation, people may have concerns about your mental acuity, your attention span or your ability to communicate effectively. The personal consequences of vanity can be life altering.

At a simplistic level, untreated hearing loss means giving up some of the pleasant sounds you used to enjoy. At a deeper level, vanity could severely impact on the quality of your life.

Only people with serious hearing loss need hearing aids.

The need for hearing amplification is dependent on your lifestyle, your need for refined hearing, and the degree of your hearing loss.

If you are a lawyer, teacher or a group psychotherapist, where very refined hearing is necessary to discern the nuances of human communication, then even a mild hearing loss can be intolerable. If you are a loner and seldom socialize, then perhaps you are someone who is tolerant of even a moderate hearing loss.

Hearing aids will make me look “older” and “handicapped.”

Looking older is clearly more affected by almost all other factors besides hearing aids. It is not the hearing aids that make one look older, it is what one may believe they imply. If hearing aids help you function like a normal hearing person, for all intents and purposes, the stigma is removed. Hearing aid manufacturers are well aware that cosmetics is an issue to many people, and that’s why today we have hearing aids that fit totally in the ear canal.

This CIC style of hearing aid has enough power and special features to satisfy most individuals with hearing impairment. The newer “receiver in the canal” models are also another option for many people, and are very, very discreet. But more importantly, keep in mind that “an untreated hearing loss is more obvious than a hearing aid.” Smiling and nodding your head when you don’t understand what’s being said, makes your condition more apparent than the largest hearing aid.

Hearing aids will make everything sound too loud.

Hearing aids are amplifiers. At one time, the way hearing aids were designed, it was necessary to turn up the power in order to hear soft speech (or other soft sounds). Then, normal conversation would indeed have been too loud.

With today’s hearing aids, however, the circuit works automatically, only providing the amount of amplification needed based on the level of the sound coming in to the hearing aids. In fact, most hearing aids today don’t require a volume control at all.

I am concerned about the integrity of hearing health professionals and the value of hearing aids.

Research at the Better Hearing Institute was conducted with thousands of people like you. It was found that hearing healthcare professionals receive customer satisfaction ratings of 92 percent. And 9 out of 10 people indicate that the quality of their life has improved with hearing aids.

When you schedule an appointment to see an audiologist about your hearing, you should expect to receive a comprehensive audiological evaluation, as well as a thorough discussion of the test results and their implications with respect to your communication ability.

Your audiologist should want to know about your lifestyle and the communication situations in which you find yourself.

I find it very helpful when a patient’s close friend or family member comes along for at least the initial consultation.

You should expect to be told about your specific choices for hearing aids. No one “must” be fit with the most expensive technology; that should be a choice on the part of the patient. There is almost never only one type of hearing aid that is appropriate for a particular patient, and therefore you should expect to be provided with some choice. I prefer to educate my patients about their hearing loss and their options for managing it, and come to a conclusion about hearing aids together.

If you have any questions about hearing loss or hearing aids, please call Dr. Shirley Pollak at Rockaway Audiology and Hearing Aid Center at 718-474-4744 for advice or a consultation.

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