By Ann L. Rhoten, Au.D., CCC/A
If you have been on the hearing aid journey, either personally or with someone you care about, you know how difficult it can be. First the denial. Then the bargaining. And finally, the recognition that being able to hear clearly is just as important as being able to see, maybe more so After being asked which was more important hearing or sight, Helen Keller replied, “The problems of deafness are deeper and more complex, if not more important, than those of blindness. Deafness is a much worse misfortune. For it means the loss of the most vital stimulus–the sound of the voice that brings language, sets thoughts astir and keeps us in the intellectual company of man.”
Recognizing the importance of our hearing is the beginning of the journey. Quality hearing aids, if well cared for, can last up to seven years. Most recently, a longtime patient replaced a hearing aid that was twelve years old. For most people, replacement is recommended every three to five years, and possibly more often depending on lifestyle, health changes and other factors.
How do you know if it is time to investigate new hearing aids? Here are some questions to ask yourself.
Are my hearing aids obsolete?
Hearing aid technology advances in leaps and bounds, with a revolution occurring about every five years. Today’s hearing aids offer more features, more compact technology and greater discretion than ever before. If your hearing aids are four or five years old, there is a good chance they are obsolete! You just cannot imagine the improvements that have taken place in the past five years … until you hear them for yourself!
Are your hearing aids working properly?
Hearing aids wear out, some more quickly than others do. After all, they are exposed to moisture, dust, dirt, hairspray and ear wax most all day long everyday. They can be damaged when dropped or even in the process of changing batteries.
If you have noticed a decline in their performance (the change could be gradual or it could be sudden), your hearing aids may be failing. Most hearing aids can be repaired, at least in the first five to seven years, but after that time, it becomes more costly to get new parts. You may be able to get your aids repaired, but there is a good chance it will be accomplished with used parts.
Are you having trouble following conversations again?
Remember, hearing loss is a progressive, degenerative condition. If you are having trouble following conversation again, if you’ve started turning the TV up louder, or you’ve noticed that you just aren’t hearing things as well as you used to, your loss may have worsened. It is time to get back to the audiologist and get things checked out.
Your needs have changed
When you first purchased your hearing aids, your circumstances were likely different than they are today. Perhaps you were still working and it was important for you to be able to follow discussion in a large conference room. Maybe you now have a more active lifestyle than before and you need aids that can keep up with you. Or – and this happens frequently – you may have purchased just the most basic hearing aids back then but now you have a few more resources and want to step up the technology or features.
Your health has changed
Arthritis and similar conditions can make it difficult for users to change the batteries or handle their hearing aids. If you are having more trouble handling your hearing aids because of changes in your physical health, new hearing aids can be a real boost.
For example, if changing the battery is a real problem, consider purchasing hearing aids with rechargeable batteries. You will only have to change the batteries about once a year! If you do not want to go the rechargeable route, consider moving to an over-the-ear device. Generally, they have a larger battery door that those with dexterity problems find easier to manage.
If you have become a little more forgetful, new devices can adjust themselves automatically to the environment so you do not have to remember to program your aids. They can detect whether you are engaged in a one-to-one conversation, if you are in a car, or even if you are in a crowded room with lots of ambient noise.
You’ve fallen in love with being able to hear
Many people, when they first purchase hearing aids, are full of doubts. Will the aids really help me, will I be able to wear them comfortably, will I be embarrassed, and do I really need them?
After living with hearing aids for three or five years, their attitudes change. They become more open about hearing loss and sometimes even become advocates to their friends, families and co-workers. The second time around, patients become more interested in really using the technology to enhance their lives. Advanced features, new technology and compatibility with other electronics (such as Bluetooth), become far more important than the first time.
If you suspect your hearing aids are not serving you as well as they used to, call my office at (859) 554-5384 to schedule a consultation and start hearing again!
Dr. Rhoten is an audiologist with Kentucky Audiology & Tinnitus Services, PLLC, 1517 Nicholasville Road, Suite 202, Lexington, KY 40503 • (859) 554-5384, or visit her online at www.kytinnitustreatment.com