Patient Experience: Hearing Aids

  • July 21, 2020
Patient Experience: Hearing Aids

As a Hearing Instrument Specialist, I have learned that there are key components that determine the level of success for each person’s experience when investing in new hearing aid technology. The most important component is being an educated patient and understanding that investing in hearing aids is an investment into your quality of life for years to come.

As a provider, my experiences with patients from all walks of life have shown me the differences between a person who is educated about his/her hearing loss and treatment options versus a person who was never given an explanation of why they are experiencing certain symptoms of living with hearing loss. Typically, the person that was not given a comprehensive evaluation and explanation of his/her hearing loss and treatment options will often purchase hearing aids to appease a family member or coworker, but has no idea about the patient journey life cycle that comes with new hearing aids.

As a patient, you want to make sure your provider is personally engaged with you, understanding, and honest. Everyone can think of several things they would rather spend their money on than hearing aids. My goal is to make sure my patients are ready to make the investment into their hearing aids and are ready for the process that comes with it. The goal of hearing aids is to get you as close to normal hearing as we can. People with normal hearing have two ears all day, every day. They hear environmental noise, music, speech, etc. constantly. Research shows that people who wear both hearing aids consistently will do much better in difficult listening situations (noisy restaurants, theaters, etc.) than people who only wear their hearing aids when they “need to”. There are not many devices that you can purchase that you will get as much use of and benefit from than hearing aids. Thus, because hearing aids are such an important investment, you want to make sure your provider is up to date on the latest technology and explains all of your options to you. An informed patient will make better decisions regarding their hearing healthcare.

Now comes the experience of being fit with your new hearing aids. This is another component where having an experienced provider is key. Hearing aids do not come ready to go right out of the box. Obtaining hearing aids from eBay or Amazon does not come with the expert provider that customizes the devices for you and your hearing loss. Your provider will ensure the hearing aids are physically comfortable and producing good sound quality by making adjustments while the devices are in your ears. The fitting appointment will also include teaching you how to put the aids on and take them off, adjust the volume, clean the devices, charge the aids or replace the batteries, etc. It is important to understand that this is just the starting point. Your provider can make the hearing aids sound great in the office, but then you go into the real world. Patients must follow up with their providers to let him/her know what is working and not working so proper adjustments can be made. The good news is, the hearing aids can be reprogrammed easily. Just because your hearing loss changes from the first year to the second year does not mean you automatically have to buy new hearing aids. It is very important to maintain and keep regular checkups with your provider. Hearing aids become a part of your life and the provider keeping them programmed and up to date to your ever-changing lifestyle must be informed and engaged with what is happening with how you hear your life.

Hearing aid technology today is quite amazing. But just like a beautiful Steinway grand piano, it will not sound great unless an expert is at the helm. Hearing aids can track noise around you and automatically make adjustments to seek out speech sounds. Hearing aids can be synced to your smart phone and stream your phone calls/music, track your footsteps, alert your family member if you have fallen, and even translate foreign languages. Hearing aids are also very effective at treating tinnitus, even for people with normal hearing. Tinnitus is the perception of a noise, often ringing, in the ears, and affects millions of people worldwide. Tinnitus is not a condition itself, but is a symptom of an underlying condition, such as age-related hearing loss, ear injury, or a circulatory system disorder. A hearing healthcare expert will understand how to evaluate and treat the underlying cause of tinnitus.

No two people or experiences are the same. Hearing aids are devices that require that both the provider and patient are dedicated and educated. The benefits of properly prescribed hearing aids will far outweigh the costs. You will be able to keep up with conversations with family, hear the sweet sounds from your grandchildren, and end the epic battle over the television volume level. In addition, research shows that a person with untreated hearing loss is less productive and will earn less income than those who treat their hearing loss. There is also more and more evidence showing the detrimental effects of untreated hearing loss to overall brain health. Treating hearing loss is considered one of the easiest modifiable risk factors in preventing dementia. There is no better time than now to make the investment in your hearing.