If you are experiencing hearing loss, you will be happy to learn that hearing aids are now designed to benefit your specific listening needs and lifestyle. They are not a one-size-fits-all solution and our audiologists work with you to help find the right hearing aid for your needs. Below, we answer the most common questions we hear about the selection and fitting of hearing aids:
Hearing Aid Styles
There are many different styles of hearing aids. It is critical to talk with your with your audiologist regarding which style will provide the most benefit for your hearing loss, listening needs, and lifestyle. Not all styles provide the same features and benefits, nor will they fit all hearing losses.
The most common hearing aids dispensed today are the RIC hearing aids. These devices are configured with the majority of the device on top of the ear, and a narrow wire running down the front of the ear and into the ear canal. At the end of the wire, a receiver (or speaker) sits in the ear canal with either a non-custom silicone dome or a custom shaped shell to hold it in place.
This configuration allows for the greatest flexibility in a hearing aid, making it able to adapt to significant changes in hearing if needed. Unlike a pair of glasses, if a person's hearing changes, we are able to connect the hearing aids to our computer via special software and update the prescription.
These devices also typically have the widest range of options in terms of different battery types and connectivity options.
Our Behind-the-Ear hearing aids are generally slightly larger devices which rest behind your ear and carry sound to your ear either through a tube and custom mold of the ear.
These tend to be the most durable option, and offer the most power available for individuals with severe-to-profound hearing losses.
The In-the-Ear hearing aids eliminate the need for any components on top or behind the ear, eliminating interference with masks, glasses, hats, etc. The profile can fill the ear making it the easiest option for individuals with limited dexterity. It is custom molded to your ear and fills either the whole bowl of the ear or just the lower portion of the bowl-shaped area of your outer ear. This style is appropriate for mild to moderately-severe hearing loss, is easier to handle than smaller hearing aids, and also includes features such as directional microphones, volume controls, programming buttons and Bluetooth wireless technology.
In-The-Canal-hearing aids are custom molded and fit partially in the ear canal, but not as deeply as the smaller CIC/MC types. This style of hearing aid can improve mild to moderately-severe hearing losses, is less visible in the ear, is easy to use with a telephone, has directional microphones and can have Bluetooth wireless technology as well as a programming button.
These devices also avoid mask interference by being located in the ear.
Completely-in-the-canal or mini-canal hearing aids are molded to fit inside your ear canal and can improve mild to moderate hearing losses. This type of hearing aid is the least noticeable of the in-the-ear styles, is less likely to pick up wind noise, and is easy to use with a cell phone or a home telephone.
The newest option on the market are self- fitting hearing aids. These are an option between over-the-counter devices and traditional hearing aids.
An audiologist will assess your ears and hearing to make sure the devices are an appropriate option for you. The devices are then paired to a smart phone and set up by the user.
With a rechargeable battery life of about 10 hours, they are not intended for full time use like a traditional hearing aid, but are used as "Lifestyle devices".
We are a certified Jabra Enhance Center, and offer these devices as well as an optional coaching session with our audiology assistant for help with device set up.
As these are much simpler devices with less precision in the fitting and less need for time with our doctors, the price point is significantly lower, with a pair of devices being available for $799. The additional necessary ear health assessment can be billed through insurances for many people.
Choosing the Right Hearing Aid
How do you know which hearing aid is the best for you? What should you consider when choosing hearing aids?
There are many hearing aid manufacturers, each with different benefits and features. Working with a professional who offers several brands ensures that you have access to the best option for you.
We have active contracts with Resound, Phonak, Oticon, Signia, Widex, Starkey, Unitron, and Cochlear Americas.
In a North Carolina practice you may be seeing an Audiologist or a Hearing Aid Specialist. To practice as an Audiologist in North Carolina you must be licensed in Speech Language Pathology and Audiology and have a minimum of a Master’s Degree in Audiology. Hearing aid specialists are licensed by the North Carolina State Hearing Aid Dealers & Fitters Board.
It is vital to your hearing success that you and your audiologist select the technology which will best match the listening situations you find yourself in on a day-to-day basis.
We offer hearing solutions for every hearing loss, lifestyle, and budget. It is important to us to meet your hearing needs where you are in life. From slight-to-mild hearing loss to profound losses; stay-at-home-types to social butterflies; minimal resources to tech-lovers - we have a solution for you!
Although not required by law in North Carolina, most practices offer a trial or adaption period and the ability to return the hearing aid within that time frame for a partial refund of your money. The trial period is a set amount of time for you to wear the hearing aid home, become accustomed to hearing once again and to experience how well the hearing aid is meeting your listening needs. Remember, it may take a while to get used to hearing and to wearing hearing aids. It may also take a few visits to your audiologist for “fine tuning” before you are hearing the best you can.
The research shows that the average adult takes 4-6 weeks of wearing hearing devices the whole time they are awake every day to reach maximum benefit from hearing aids. Therefore we offer a 45 day Trial or "Transition Period". Very few people end up returning hearing aids once they have a chance to hear what they are missing! Occasionally we do exchange devices during that Transition Period to make sure that we have found the perfect fit.
Devices returned within the Transition period are fully refundable, as well as any long-term care plans that may have been purchased. Professional services are charged as they are used.
Hearing aids can not restore your hearing to “normal” nor eliminate background noise. Beware of advertisements or claims to the contrary. The function of a hearing aid is to make all sounds in your environment easier to hear, and it is your brain which process the sounds it hears and makes sense of these sounds.
The cost of hearing aids will vary based on level of technology and extend of services included in the care package, from several hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars. Medicare does not cover the cost of hearing aids although about one in three private insurances in North Carolina cover some part of the cost. We have an on-site financial coordinator who can talk to your insurance company to ensure you have access to as much financial support as possible.
Hearing aids are an approved/eligible expense on the long form of your taxes under medical expenses and so qualify as purchases through your Health Flex Spending or Health Savings Account.
We also work with several financing options including Leasing through Allegro Health and Care Credit.
The application for prior approval through Allegro can be completed here: https://hearinghealthcaredurham.com/allegro/
Hearing Aid Fitting Process
If the results of your hearing test and consultation indicate that you are a candidate for hearing aids, we create an individualized plan for the fitting of your hearing aids. There are several appointments involved in the initial hearing aid fitting process:
At this appointment, your hearing aids will be programmed specifically for your ears and hearing based on your hearing test and lifestyle assessment.
At Hearing Health Care Services, we follow best-practice recommendations by fitting our hearing aids using Real Ear Measures, which involves taking custom measurements of the hearing aids in your ear to create the most accurate and appropriate programming for you. Patients who are fit using Real Ear Measures are more comfortable and have better long-term results than patients who are fit using standard fitting protocols.
In addition to programming your hearing aids, we will educate you about the components of your hearing aids, how to put them on and take them off, what to expect in the first several days and weeks, and how to change the battery.
This appointment is the beginning of your 30-day hearing aid trial.
This appointment is scheduled for approximately two weeks after your initial fitting appointment. At this appointment, we will discuss the benefits of your hearing aid programming and make any necessary adjustment. We will also review the things we covered at your first appointment as well as learn about how to care for your hearing aid and some troubleshooting information.
At our second follow up visit, we address any concerns that may have come up as you are continuing to settle into hearing.
This visit is often when we help pair hearing aids to a smart phone or device and go over the many features available from today's modern smart hearing aids.
We also review regular cleaning, maintenance, long-term care, and troubleshooting with hearing aids so that you can be in control of your hearing!
Typically scheduled at the end of your trial period, this last appointment is to ensure that you are getting the full benefit from your devices.
We perform the first routine deep cleaning on the devices, and dry them in a Redux drier that allows us to measure if moisture exposure is a concern in your day-to-day environment. We then measure the output, internal noise, and distortion of the devices so that we know what the measurements look like when they are functioning optimally. This means that if you have issues in the future, we have a reference for making sure your hearing aids are in top shape!
Once your trial period is complete and you are satisfied with the physical fit, volume and sound quality of your hearing aids, we recommend that you return to the clinic about once a quarter for a routine clean and check appointment. At this quick, 15-minute appointment, we will thoroughly clean your hearing aids, replace non-electronic components, and assess the sound quality.
Should additional replacement parts or repairs be needed, this will be discussed with you first. These routine, proactive appointments will keep your hearing aids working properly, reduce the need for out-of-office repairs, and extend the life of the devices over time.