So, you are probably watching TV a little louder than anybody else in the house when all of a sudden, an advertisement that says “Hear better and clearer, NOW!” caught your attention. In the next couple of minutes, they started offering you a piece of hearing aid, free hearing aid case, 90-day full refund, and an extended warranty, totally FREE.
But, wait there is more! If you call now, you can get a second piece for FREE! Sounds good, right? But what is the truth behind these TV advertisements? How can you be assured that what you are purchasing is what you really need? Is it fit for your condition?
Before you decide on dialing the number on the screen, it might be best to understand hearing loss and the treatment options that you have. This article aims to answer these questions and let you arrive at an informed decision prior to purchase.
What is a hearing loss?
The sense of hearing is the start of the communication process. It gives us the ability to listen, send signals and information to the brain and later on respond. Without it communication is incomplete. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, there are nearly 37.5 million American adults over the age of 18 who have reported trouble hearing. Studies show that hearing loss is twice as much more prevalent in men than in women and out of the millions experiencing hearing loss, only 20% take advantage of the options to address it. Hearing loss can be sudden due to ear diseases and injury, or gradual due to aging.
The ear has three main parts, the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. The outer ear acts as a funnel of sound vibrations that will transmit the sound to the middle ear. The middle part of the ear has the eardrum at the end of the ear canal where sound vibrations bounce off and are transferred to the inner ear. The inner ear which has the actual organ that recognizes and perceives hearing called the cochlea. It also has the hair cells which send signals to the brain to recognize the sound. Each part plays a vital role in healthy hearing and damage to any part can cause varying degrees of hearing problems.
There are various causes to hearing loss, depending on which part of the ear is affected and these are categorized into two:
Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL)
Ninety percent (90%) of the total hearing loss cases fall under this category. This is not the usual decrease in volume of the sound we hear, it can be an intermittent or total loss of sounds. This is a nerve-related hearing loss which involves the inner part of the ear due to the exposure to old age, prolonged exposure to loud noise, head trauma, virus or disease, an inborn malformation in the inner ear, Meniere’s disease and tumors.
Treatment for this type of hearing loss includes the use of corticosteroids to relieve inflammation and corrective surgery.
Conductive Hearing Loss
The type of hearing loss caused by problems in the transfer of sound waves from the outer part of the ear towards the eardrum. An example of conductive hearing loss is physical deformations of the parts of the ear which either be the outer ear, ear canal or middle ear.
Likewise, anything that can block the sounds like impacted earwax and foreign objects in the ear can cause this. Illnesses like common colds and upper respiratory tract infections which can cause fluid in the ear and ear infections. This is usually treatable although it still depends on the severity of the condition. Your doctor can prescribe antibiotics or ear drops, while some cases may require surgery.
Treatments to Hearing Loss
To understand the extent of your hearing loss, consulting an Otolaryngology, a specialist in ear, nose and throat conditions, will be the best option and first step. You may either be advised to undergo surgery, take or apply medications or use hearing devices like hearing aids.
What are hearing aids?
Hearing aids are devices to help magnify and amplify sound vibrations as they enter the ear. These sound vibrations pass through the ear and can be detected by the remaining sensory cells or hair cells in the ear. The severity of damage in the hair cells would also define the effectivity of hearing aids to a person.
Types of hearing aids
Depending on the degree of amplification of sound that you need, your style preference, and your budget, there should be a hearing aid to match it.
From the name itself, this hearing aid is composed of a hard plastic case that is worn behind the ear and is connected to an earmold in the outer ear. It is suitable for people of all ages and is highly recommended for children. It is easy to maintain and is less prone to damage or losses. It is also preferred by those who do not want something plugged inside their ear interfere with the loudness of their speaking voice.
These hearing aids completely fit inside the outer ear. Unlike the BTE, it is not recommended for children as the case holding the electronic components of the hearing aid needs to be replaced as the ears change its size. It is suitable for adults who have difficulty hearing and communicating over the phone or hearing from a public address and sound system. It has a telecoil, a device that receives sound directly through the hearing aid than through a microphone of the device.
This type of hearing aids address both the listening needs and the aesthetic preference of the user. In fact, this is the smallest type of hearing aid and is offered in two versions – the in-the-canal (ITC) and completely-in-canal (CIC). Both are suitable for mild to moderate hearing loss because it has smaller space to contain additional sound enhancement devices like the telecoil.
Are the hearing aids on TV real?
Yes, those are real, but there is no guarantee of reliability and durability. A hearing aid cannot be one size fits all. It is best to consult your doctor before deciding to purchase. He may be able to different options to you based on your needs. Likewise, your doctor might have a partner supplier and can help you get better deals. For a more informed decision-making, these are the factors to consider before buying a hearing aid:
The severity of your hearing loss
Your doctor can tell you whether you have mild, moderate, or severe hearing loss and there is a suitable hearing aid for that.
Those who are conscious about aesthetics may prefer nude colored hearing aids to camouflage their device or they can also use the in-the-canal type. While people with the active lifestyle might prefer water-resistant and waterproof hearing aids.
The features that you need and your budget
Most hearing aids showcase advanced connectivity feature nowadays, some come with a remote that can adjust the volume while most of it can now do it through a mobile app. Any additional feature of the hearing aid can bloat the price. Stick to the functionality and comfort more than the added features.
Hearing aids are experiential products and there is no such thing as “one-size-fits-all” for this device. It is more practical to take advantage of the limited trial periods that manufacturers offer. These are usually between 30 to 90 days and a week or two might be enough for you to evaluate your experience with a certain brand.
Similar to what you have seen on TV, the manufacturer can also offer a fixed 1-year warranty or an extended warranty. Compare as many brands as possible to assess which one is the bang for the buck in terms of its warranty on parts and service.
Payment options and grants
Depending on the state you are in, you might be able to find an organization or foundation which might offer flexible payment terms and even grants for hearing aids. If you are a US Veteran, the US Department of Veterans Affairs offers grants by registering through the VA website.
Buying hearing aids advertised on TV entices the audience because it sounds easy, practical and it saves time but with careful assessment it can, here are the pros and cons you might want to take into account:
Delivered right at your doorstep
Has flexible card payment terms
Order placement via phone call
May not be suitable for your type of hearing loss
It might not fit properly
You did not have the chance to test the sound quality
Warranty and repair problems
Communicating your hearing problem to your doctor and your family prepares you and everyone around you in handling this condition properly without making you feel isolated and treated differently. It is never too early or too late to let yourself hear better again. Knowing your options based on the severity of your hearing loss can lead you buying a hearing aid with a more sound decision.