HOME PAGE

 

Colorado Springs

Audiology, Inc.

 

Phone  719.520.1155

LOCATION  & DIRECTIONS

Dr. Gene McHugh

Licensed Audiologist

In Colorado

 

 

OFFICE HOURS

Mountain Time USA

Mon-Thurs

9:00AM-5:00PM

Closed Fridays

 

 © Copyright 2017

 

 

 

 

COMMON CONSUMER QUESTIONS 

 
 

What are typical symptoms of hearing loss?

A: Persons with untreated hearing loss will:

  • frequently misunderstand others unless they are 
    facing them
  • frequently ask others to repeat
  • tend to turn up the volume on TV or radio
  • try to avoid social gatherings due to difficulty understanding in group settings
  • begin withdrawing from social contact with friends and family
  • have trouble speaking on the phone
  • usually deny they have problems and instead, accuse others of mumbling

     Recognizing a hearing problem is the first step toward accepting a hearing loss. Then it's necessary to do something about it. Usually, the first sounds one misses are sounds in the higher pitched range.  Losing the higher pitched sounds primarily reduces word clarity.

 Especially difficult are:

  • hearing women & children
  • hearing in public gatherings
  • understanding TV
  • hearing at a distance
  • hearing without being able to see the other person

Top of Page

Q: Where should a person go if they have a hearing problem?

A: There are three professionals who treat people with hearing problems. Their training is very different. It is important that consumers understand the differences and qualifications of hearing health care professionals:

  • EAR PHYSICIANS treat patients with medical conditions of hearing loss. Ear physicians have an M.D. or D.O. degree.
  • AUDIOLOGISTS are university trained professionals who treat non-medical conditions of hearing loss including fitting hearing aids. Audiologists have a Master's degree (M.A., M.S. M.C.D. etc.), or doctoral degree (Au.D., Ph.D., Ed.D. Sc.D.).
  • HEARING AID SPECIALISTS dispense hearing aids. Hearing aid specialists must complete a home study course on hearing aid techniques before being registered in Colorado. Otherwise, hearing aid specialists are not required to have any formal training.

Top of Page

Q: What are some of the causes of hearing loss?

A: The two main factors causing permanent hearing loss are long term exposure to loud or constant noise and aging.  Nonetheless, hearing loss can occur at any age resulting from:

  • hereditary factors (e.g., born hearing impaired, or acquire hearing loss as a young adult)
  • chronic middle ear infections
  • illnesses during pregnancy (e.g., rubella, syphilis)
  • illnesses in childhood (e.g., meningitis, measles, mumps)
  • traumatic injury (e.g., total deafness in one ear following an accident)
  • fluid disorders of the inner ear such as Meniere's disease or perilymphatic fistula
  • exposure to certain medications which are toxic to the ears (e.g., very strong I.V. antibiotics, chemotherapy)
  • brain tumors affecting the auditory nerve

Top of Page

Q: Are some types of hearing loss temporary?

A: Yes, but temporary losses constitute only 5-10% of hearing losses and most involve problems of the middle ear - for example, ear infections in children.  Unfortunately, most people have hearing loss affecting the inner ear which is a permanent disability.

Q: How common is permanent hearing loss?

A: Most (i.e., 90%) of hearing loss is "permanent" in nature.  Current surveys estimate 31.5 million Americans have enough hearing loss to be communicatively significant.

Here are some general guidelines regarding the incidence of hearing loss:

  • 3 in 10 people over age 60 have hearing loss;
  • 1 in 6 baby boomers (ages 41-59), or 14.6%, have a hearing problem;
  • 1 in 14 Generation Xers (ages 29-40), or 7.4%, already have hearing loss;
  • At least 1.4 million children (18 or younger) have hearing problems;
  • It is estimated that 3 in 1,000 infants are born with serious to profound hearing loss.

Reference:  Better hearing Institute, 2004

Top of Page

Q: Can hearing aids really help people who suffer from hearing loss?

A: Yes, in 95% of cases, people can be helped.  It is important that realistic expectations between the benefits vs. limitations should be disclosed by your audiologist or hearing aid specialist.  For example, new hearing aid users who are 90+ years or have very limited high frequency sensitivity will not be as successful using hearing aids as compared to patients 85 or younger, or who have relatively flatter configurations of hearing impairment.

Top of Page

Q: Why do some people refuse to get help for their hearing loss?

A: Surveys on hearing impaired/non-users indicate that the main reasons are:

  • they do not think their hearing loss is that bad yet (most common)
  • they do not think hearing aids will help that much
  • they have heard that hearing aids are useless in background noise
  • they think a hearing aid will make them look old
  • they blame other people for not speaking clearly 
  • they cannot afford hearing aids 

Top of Page

Q: What is the best brand of hearing aid?

A: There is NO one best brand. With more than 30 major manufacturers/brands of hearing aids, quality is relatively good across the board. Tip for consumers: There are no data to show that companies who advertise the most are any better or worse in quality.    However,  they tend to be more expensive.

Q: How long do hearing aids typically last?

A: I tell patient approximately six years (by my best estimation). Some users get 10-15 years of excellent service using the same hearing aid. However, most people consider getting upgraded hearing aids every 4-6 years due to improvements in hearing aid technology and/or because of gradual changes in their own hearing. As a general rule, I prescribe an additional 10dB of gain since the average person over 65 loses approximately 1dB per year. In this way, I am hoping patients will get about 10 years of service with each hearing aid.

Top of Page

Q: Are hearing aids covered by most health insurances?

A: The best answer is "rarely."  However, if you have any questions, check with your insurance carrier. 

Q: Does Medicare cover hearing aids?

A: Medicare has never covered hearing aids, and in these days of reducing Medicare coverage and social security benefits to elderly persons, it is unlikely that they ever will (include hearing aids).  

Top of Page

Q: How much do hearing aids cost?

A: In our office, hearing aids range from $1000.00 to $2500.00 per hearing aid.  Usually, the difference is dependent upon two factors:

  • Style of hearing aid (in-the-ear, in-the-canal, behind-the-ear, completely-in-canal)
  • Sophistication of circuitry (special options, programmable circuits, digital, many others).  

Top of Page

Q: What does it cost for a hearing test?

A: Audiologists can charge between $35.00 to as much as $200.00 for an audiologic evaluation (CPT code #92557).  Our office does not charge for the hearing test when the purpose is hearing aid related.  The reason we do not charge is because Medicare stipulates that it will not cover the cost of a hearing test if it has anything to do with the process of determining the need for hearing aids.  Most audiologists bypass this stipulation and charge Medicare for the hearing test anyway which is illegal and subject to Medicare fraud.  

Top of Page

Q: What are the basic styles of hearing aids?

A: There are five styles:

  • In-the-ear (ITE)
  • In-the-canal (ITC)
  • Completely-in-canal (CIC)
  • Micro-canal (MC)
  • Behind the ear (BTE)
  • Open-fit BTE's with receiver in the ear (RITE)

Top of Page

Q: Is there a trial period for hearing aids?

A: In Colorado, every potential buyer has a right to a 30-day trial period. If the buyer chooses not to purchase the hearing aid (for any reason), the dispenser must return at least 95% of the cost. In many cases, dispensers will refund 100% of the cost (as we do in our office).

Q: Aren't all hearing aids the same?

A: No, there are huge differences. Each hearing aid fitting takes into account:

  • level of amplification based upon frequency response
  • need for signal processing
  • acoustic venting
  • practicality of hearing aid style

While conventional hearing aid fittings tend to have similar benefits and limitations, the newer technology hearing aids have greatly expanded the benefits of amplification.  

Patients may tell me about a friend who has a hearing aid that works really well for them and request the SAME make and model.  Unfortunately, what is appropriate for one individual may be completely wrong for someone else.  I think it's good when a patient tells me about their friend's experience, but trust your audiologist's opinion regarding what is most appropriate for you.  

Top of Page

Q: Should people always get two hearing aids or is one sufficient?

A: Usually, people hear and understand better with two hearing aids, but not always. As such, about 70% of fittings in the last several years were binaural (two ears).

Factors which tend to contraindicate two hearing aids include:

  • age (e.g., patient over 90 years of age)
  • significant differences between ears for word understanding (e.g., more than 40% difference)
  • relatively "flat" hearing loss (people with sloping hearing loss perform much better with two)
  • cost (two hearing aids will normally cost twice as much as one)

Top of Page

Q: What realistic improvements can be expected with hearing aids?

A: The basic goal in fitting hearing aids is to improve patients' ability to hear and understand words. The percentage of improvement varies significantly between people depending upon each individual's:

 

  • degree of hearing loss by frequency shape
  • patients with sloping hearing loss tend to have more problems adjusting to hearing aids
  • discrimination ability
  • patients with discrimination scores under 70% tend to have more problems adjusting to hearing aids
  • age
  • patients over 85 tend to have more problems adjusting to hearing aids
  • sophistication of the hearing aid instrument
  • flexible hearing aids allow for greater fine tuning 
Most, but not all patients report improvement in:
  • listening to TV
  • small group settings
  • hearing one's spouse

Top of Page

Q: What kinds of limitations can be expected with hearing aids?

A: Most, but not all hearing aid users will report:

  • less than impressive results in noisier environment
  • difficulty using the telephone
  • hearing at distances

Q: What are digital hearing aids?

A:    Most of today's electronics (TV, radios, telephones, etc.) are available using traditional analog circuitry or newer digital circuits.  As with other electronics, almost hearing aids are digital, being more flexible than traditional analog circuits.  In fact, very few hearing aids have analog circuits. 

Q: Do hearing aids break down?  And if so, why?

A: Yes. On average, hearing aid users need to have their hearing aids repaired about once every two years. It seems some people hardly ever have a problem, while others have frequent repair needs. This often depends upon wear and tear. The most common reason for hearing aid breakdown is earwax clogging the sound opening.

Top of Page

Q: Why do hearing aids suddenly stop working?

  • battery is dead (first thing to check)
  • earwax covering opening to sound channel (second thing to check)
  • battery contacts are loose (let your dispenser check this one)
  • defective circuitry (this one will need to go in for a repair)

Q: Do older people tend to have more earwax problems?

A: With age, people have more earwax problems.  If you have an earwax problem, have your ears cleaned.   If you are able to manage your own earwax using Q-tips and/or over-the-counter softening agents, be careful, but do it.   If not, you will need to see a family physician, audiologist, or ear physician for cerumen management.  

The issue of cleaning one's own ears is controversial, professionally.  Research does not support the addage "Don't put anything in your ear smaller than your elbow." (Roland, et al, 2008)   There is risk of injuring oneself, pushing earwax further into the ear canal, producing more earwax, among other reasons.  However, In my practice and based upon research, I do not discourage patients from cleaning their ears.  I often ask patients, "Do you clean your own ears?"  If they answer affirmatively, I inquire how they do it, and rather than lecture them on what NOT  to do, show them how they can more effectively and carefully clean their ears.     

Top of Page

Q: Is earwax a problem?

A: For people who wear hearing aids - Yes, earwax is a big and sometimes costly problem. It is important for hearing aid users to have their ears cleaned occasionally. The need for ear canal cleaning is dependent upon each individual's production of earwax. This is especially true for nursing home residents.

Q: How can you tell if you're being taken by an unscrupulous practitioner or hearing aid provider?

A: If you feel unnecessary pressure to buy a hearing aid by the seller, don't buy it. This is especially true for home sales. If you are told the sale price is only good for the next couple of days, don't buy it. Be very careful about phone sales people. Be very careful about direct mail advertising which says an appointment has been reserved for you. If you're not sure, call your family physician or a friend who is satisfied with their hearing aid to get a second opinion.

If you have other questions, feel free to E-Mail us and we'll add your question to this page.

Top of Page