This year, over-the-counter hearing aids will become available for the first time ever. While many are excited about the cost savings of these devices, audiologists are worried that by seeking a commercially-available option, many people with hearing loss will forego the necessary care of a hearing expert.
“The concern is that for individuals with hearing aids who do not get hearing care services, they may continue to have suboptimal hearing outcomes, or become frustrated with their hearing aid and not use it as often or at all,” explained Amber Willink of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland.
What an Audiologist Provides
Hearing aids aren’t a quick-fix technology; they are medical devices that require the expertise of an audiologist for fitting, programming and maintenance in order to provide the most benefit. Here’s how audiologists provide support throughout the entire hearing treatment process:
Before Ordering Devices
After you’ve had a complete hearing exam and your audiologist has reviewed your audiogram with you, you’ll begin to talk about hearing devices. Hearing aids are available from a variety of manufacturers and in an array of styles. Your audiologist will ask you questions about your lifestyle needs in order to help determine which device will best suit your needs.
If you live an active lifestyle and/or have a severe hearing loss, your audiologist will likely suggest a higher-tier technology with features like Bluetooth connectivity and automatic programming. If you live a quieter lifestyle or have a milder hearing loss, you will likely get all the benefits you need from lower-tier technology, which may be available in discreet styles or have rechargeable batteries.
During the Adjustment Period
Once you receive your devices, you’ll have a trial period to decide if you like them. Your audiologist will first program your hearing devices to the exact specifications indicated by your hearing test.
When you take the devices home, you might find that you cannot hear as well as you’d hoped, or that certain sounds are uncomfortably loud. Expect to return to your audiologist’s office a few times to get the programming just right.
After the Trial Ends
Even once your devices feel like the perfect fit, you’ll need your audiologist’s expertise for routine maintenance and repairs. Coming in for regular clean and check appointments will ensure your valuable investment is in good working order and allow your audiologist to monitor changes in your hearing.
For more information on what hearing devices and the expertise of an audiologist can do for you, contact the Hearing and Balance Center at Charleston ENT.