First Things First
• Visit your family doctor first to have your ears checked for possible ear wax build-up and other conditions that may affect your hearing. Your doctor may refer you to an ear-nose-throat (ENT) specialist for further evaluation, or may recommend an audiologist or hearing aid dispenser.
• See a properly licensed audiologist for a hearing test. There will probably be a fee for the test if you don’t purchase hearing aids from this business, but patients are entitled to receive a copy of their audiogram to take elsewhere. Some companies charge a fee even if you do purchase from them.
• Hearing loss related to employment or military service may be covered by Workers’ Compensation or Veterans’ Affairs. Find out the answer before proceeding with a hearing test and hearing aid purchase as these institutions may have special requirements or application processes
• If you have a private health insurance plan, find out if it covers testing and/or a portion of the purchase price of hearing aids, and if there are any referral letters/test results required in order to apply for coverage.
• Consider taking a support person along when you visit the hearing aid dispenser as it can be difficult to take in all the information they provide – especially if you have a significant hearing loss.
• People often find they have hearing loss in both ears, although one side may be worse than the other. This can lead people to think that one hearing aid in the bad ear is sufficient. Hearing aid dispensers will suggest instruments for both ears – and they are usually correct – it isn’t just some fancy sales pitch. While the ear is the organ that receives the sound, the brain is the organ that processes it, and the brain will perform this function better if it gets the best possible sounds from both ears.
• Insist on a decent trial period for new hearing aids – two or three weeks is not enough time for a person to get used to hearing better, especially if the loss is significant, and a lot of time has passed before purchasing hearing aids – six weeks (or even longer) is a more reasonable trial period.
• Find out if there is a re-stocking fee if you decide to return the aids during the trial period – some companies charge, some don’t; some companies will not take aids back but will work with you to find another brand that may work better.
• Be sure to understand what is and is not covered by any insurance the hearing aid dispenser provides – typically dealer-coverage is in effect for one year and covers one replacement of a lost or damaged hearing instrument. This can also vary depending on the hearing aid – some hearing aid manufacturers may have a longer warranty than the dispenser.
• You should be able to go back to your hearing aid dispenser as many times as you require to have your hearing aids adjusted to meet your needs – there should not be any additional fee for this – it should be part of the sales price. It’s important to understand this at the outset of the purchase process.
• Hearing aids are set according to a hearing test performed in a very quiet sound booth. This does not reflect the sounds one hears in the real world. You may need multiple visits back to explain what is too loud and what is too soft. Be sure to select a hearing aid dispenser that is easy to get to and that you feel comfortable about. This may mean visiting a few dealers before you decide which company to use.
• Hearing aids can have all kinds of bells and whistles – some important, some not so much. Be sure to understand what the basic hearing aid provides, and what features, if any, would be suitable for you. For example, some people benefit from having a special T-coil to hear better on the phone, but others may not need this feature.
• The hearing aid dispenser is responsible for teaching clients how to use and take care of their hearing aids – some people learn this quickly, others need more time.
• It is important to give the brain time to re-learn how to hear once hearing aids have been introduced. This means that you should wear your hearing aids every day all day to accustom your brain to new or forgotten sound sensations. The sounds that have been absent and suddenly return when a hearing aid is inserted can be confusing until the brain adjusts to them, recognizing that noises like a newspaper rustling or cutlery clattering can be ignored.
• Patience with your new hearing experience, and believing you have made the right decision further help with the adjustment.
• Ask your household insurance company if they will provide coverage for hearing aid loss or damage after the dealer’s insurance period is up: some insurance companies will not provide any coverage for hearing aids, and those that do usually charge an additional premium.
• The cost of hearing aids should be included as a medical expense when you file your income tax for the year in which you purchased them.
• In Manitoba, financial assistance to purchase hearing aids is available to members of the Society for Manitobans with Disabilities’ (SMD) through its Assistive Technology Program. To become a member of SMD you need to have received services from the society (e.g. parking permit, wheelchair) or be a member of CHHA or another organization affiliated with SMD. Details about the program are available at: http://smd.mb.ca/smd-services/assistive-technology
The Mayo Clinic web site includes helpful information on choosing hearing aids. Read their article at Mayo Clinic article on choosing hearing aids
Posted in: Hearing Devices & Technologies