Say What? Expert Reveals Hearing Industry Financial Hazards
By Frank Goldberg, HAS, BCHIS
With the aging of the huge Boomer population, approximately 10,000¹ U.S. citizens turn 65 each day, and will continue to do so for the next 19 years. With rising healthcare costs, many have significant concern that they may face a bona fide financial crisis. This, coupled with the fact that a large number of Boomers are working well into their retirement years, is a recipe putting older Americans at risk of not properly managing, and outright ignoring, health and wellness issues—particularly those relating to medical matters not covered by insurance and require hefty out-of-pocket expenditures. Chief among these is hearing impairment and, more specifically, associated hearing aid device costs.
Typically, someone concerned about hearing loss would visit their ear, nose and throat doctor or a licensed audiologist to have their ears checked for any abnormalities. It would be determined through the diagnostic process whether or not a patient would benefit from hearing aids. Happily, all of this is covered by Medicare or insurance because it is medical in nature. However, even with an insurance-covered medical diagnosis, the hearing impaired community quickly learns that hearing aid devices are generally not covered by insurance to any notable degree and, when a patient seeks to purchase a device on the open market, they suffer what can be unconscionable prices that would cover the cost of a new car or a down payment on real estate.
This factor alone has long been the catalyst for people avoiding corrective action for hearing loss, which only gets more debilitating over time and diminishes one’s productivity and overall quality of life. Hearing loss is one of those gray medical areas that the general public knows “of” but little to nothing “about.”
With this in mind, here are some commonly asked questions regarding hearing loss and hearing aids, also revealing why it’s imperative to seek intervention at the earliest possible date:
What are the primary causes of hearing loss and who is at risk?
Simply, but only partially stated, hearing loss can be caused by genetics (family history), medications such as chemo therapy, antibiotics, and general anesthesia to mention a few, noise exposure, diabetes and diseases like Scarlett Fever, Mumps, Measles and Rheumatic Fever and others. Hearing loss cuts across all ethnic, cultural, economic and social boundaries, so it’s a problem that affects us all—either personally, a family member or someone we care about and want to interact with.
What can be the effects of ignoring hearing loss?
The implications of ignoring the problem are not to be taken lightly as hearing loss has been linked to dementia, depression, irritability, fatigue, stress, social withdrawal, reduced alertness, memory issues and reduced earning power². Each one of these symptoms can be individually researched to gain a fuller understanding of their implications.
How do I know if I need a hearing aid?
If you are experiencing some or all of the following symptoms, you should visit a hearing professional to diagnose why you’re experiencing them. This doesn’t necessarily mean you will need a hearing aid but only a proper medical diagnosis can determine that need. Following are some of the most common symptoms associated with hearing loss:
- You ask people to repeat or don’t when you should to catch what they’re saying
- You have difficulty when more than one person at a time is speaking
- Words appear muffled
- People appear to be mumbling
- More difficulty with high pitch voices like women and children
- You have to turn the TV up loud and even then it’s not 100% clear
- You respond incorrectly when asked a question (You thought they said something else)
- It’s easier to understand when facing the person
- You have to strain to hear what’s being said
- You become annoyed, embarrassed or frustrated because you can’t follow the conversation
- You find yourself withdrawing from social and family situations
If I think I need a hearing aid, what do I do?
Diagnosis of hearing loss is a two stage process. First, you should be seen by an Ear, Nose and Throat physician to determine if any medical condition exists that is causing you to experience the symptoms. Things like excessive or occluding wax, an ear infection or a hole in the eardrum (perforation) are treatable conditions that can restore normal hearing.
If, however, it is determined that no issues exist that are visible or treatable, then stage two takes place. An examination of the hearing is performed by either an audiologist or licensed hearing aid dispenser to determine the extent and configuration of the hearing loss. Those factors will assist the professional in determining what hearing aid product will be most advantageous for you.
What questions should I ask when shopping for hearing aids?
It is important to keep in mind that hearing loss and the treatment thereof, with or without amplification, is personal and subjective. No two patients will respond the same way to the identical instruments. With that said, there are some basic questions that should asked and replied to such as:
- Will the proposed hearing aids help me to hear better and why?
- Why was this particular instrument recommended for me?
- Are there other instruments that are comparable?
- What type of style of hearing aid is best for me and why?
- What features are inherent in the hearing aids and how do they help me?
- What is the warranty from the manufacturer?
- What services can I expect from your office and is there a cost?
- What kind of care and maintenance is required?
How do I know which kind of hearing aid is right for me?
This is a mutual decision between you and the professional treating you. Your professional will consider all aspects about you to include the type and nature of your hearing loss, your lifestyle, your expectations, your needs, your vision, your dexterity, your steadiness, your alertness, your hand-eye coordination, your comprehension of the workings and manipulation of the instruments controls and so on. Then you and the provider come to a consensus to select the appropriate hearing aid devices from which to choose.
Are there hearing aids that are so discreet they can hardly be seen?
There have been dramatic advances in hearing aid styling. Not too long ago, hearing aids were large, cumbersome and very visible. There has always seemed to be a stigma about wearing hearing aids in that other people would think you were old or “not with it”. Because of that alone, many needy people forwent the use of hearing aids. Hearing aids today are discreet and some are completely invisible to the eye. That said, the style of hearing aid best suited for you will be determined by your hearing loss and other factors, which my require something less discreet. Your hearing aid professional can help you make that determination.
Recognizing the avoidance ramifications and the cost of treatment, in 2010 hearing aid industry authority
Frank Goldberg, HAS—an expert Board Certified in Hearing Instrument Sciences—is Founder and CEO of www.DiscountHearingAidsofAmerica.com — a company dedicated to removing barriers related to procuring affordable, high-quality hearing aid devices, professional advice and top-notch service.