If you've recently learned that your aging loved one needs a hearing aid, you may be concerned about choosing the right one. Because hearing aids vary in size, price, ear placement, and other special features, it's important to make an educated decision. This piece breaks down the different hearing aid options, along with what to look for when buying one.
While learning to use a hearing aid takes time,
the payoffs are significant for many seniors.
How Hearing Aids Work
While a hearing aid can't reverse hearing loss, it can significantly improve your loved one's hearing by reducing background noise and amplifying sounds.
Made up of three parts -- a microphone, amplifier, and speaker -- hearing aids collect sound, analyze, and adjust it according to factors like level of hearing loss, listening requirements, and surrounding sound levels, then deliver it back to the ears. Seniors with hearing loss in both ears may need two hearing aids.
Different Styles of Hearing Aids
Available in both analog and digital styles, the most common forms of hearing aid include: completely in the canal (CIC), in the canal (ITC), in the ear (ITE), behind the ear (BTE), receiver in canal (RIC), receiver in the ear (RITE), and open fit.
Each style of hearing aid has distinct advantages and disadvantages. For example, while smaller hearing aids are more discrete, they may lack more advanced functionality, such as directional microphones and volume control. Additionally, hearing aids with small batteries can be a challenge for seniors who struggle with fine motor skills.
Recent technological developments have led to advancements in hearing aid design, including everything from wireless connectivity to remote controls.
Unfortunately, only one out of every five people who needs a hearing aid uses one. If you know someone who is elderly and pushing back against getting a hearing aid because of vanity or the belief that his/her hearing is "good enough," explaining that today's models offer more discretion and functionality than past models can be a useful persuasive tactic. We know that hearing and the elderly can often be a touchy subject to broach - yet the payoffs for those seniors who choose to use a hearing aid can be significant.
When It's Time to Buy
Ultimately, the hearing aid that will work best for your aging loved one depends on unique factors, such as severity of hearing loss and lifestyle. Your audiologist will work with you to select the best hearing aid for your loved one's needs.
Because hearing aids for the elderly can a serious investment and can range between a thousand and several thousand dollars, be sure to ask about a trial period as well as a warranty, both of which can offer valuable peace of mind. While Medicare doesn't cover the cost of hearing aids, some insurance policies do. Additionally, some states offer medical assistance for hearing aids, while veterans may be eligible for free hearing aids.
Learning to Use Hearing Aids
It's important to remember -- and to remind your aging loved one -- that a hearing aid won't magically restore hearing or "correct" hearing in the same way that glasses "correct" vision. Acclimating to amplified sound can take time and practice -- particular in different environments. Regular wear and proper care will help accelerate the "breaking in" period. Learning more about how hearing aids work and scheduling follow up visits with your audiologist can help ensure that your aging loved one's hearing aid is working at optimal capacity. The support of caregivers is also essential during this time of adjustment.
The more educated you are about your loved one's hearing aid options, the more informed decision you will make when it comes time to buy. mmLearn.org knows what a big decision this can be for caregivers and those they care for and has provided three informative videos on the subject of hearing loss and aids. Jane Watson, Audiologist covers everything from: What should I ask before I buy?; What's New in Hearing Aid Technology?; Why are hearing aids so expensive?; and more in these three caregiver training videos below:
- Top 5 Questions to Ask When Buying a Hearing Aid (Also available with Spanish Subtitles)
- Innovations in Hearing Aid Technology (Also avaiable with Spanish Subtitles)
mmlearn.org offers a large library of free videos offering support for caregivers of older adults, covering topics pertaining to senior care. Whether you are a healthcare professional or a family caregiver, if you are caring for an older adult we know that you will find mmlearn.org an essential learning and guidance tool for all of your caregiver training needs.