What did you say?
What was that?
If these words are creeping into your conversations more frequently, you may need hearing aids.
Scared at the thought?
Millions of boomers are. They have hearing problems, but don’t do anything about it.
Begin by seeing a medical doctor. He or she can tell you if your hearing loss could be caused by a medical problem such as earwax, fluid behind the eardrum, or an infection.
About 5 percent of hearing problems can be treated medically or surgically, Danette Wagner Jackson, audiologist for Integrity Hearing Services, told me in an interview.
Next, choose a qualified, experienced hearing aid dispenser or audiologist. Find out what the licensing requirements are in your state. Make sure the hearing aid dispenser or audiologist meets state requirements.
You can also ask family or friends for recommendations and check with your local Better Business Bureau.
The American Academy of Audiology offers lists of audiologists in cities throughout the United States.
Before you have a hearing test, find out what type is offered, what it will cost, and how it will be conducted. You don’t want a quick test in a noisy room for this important evaluation.
Make sure test results are explained to you, says Wagner Jackson. “It’s very important. A lot of decision are based on what the hearing loss is.”
Find out if you can take the test results with you. That way, you can compare hearing aid prices and buy from a firm that charges less.
Hearing aids cost $1,000 to $4,000. Some firms may charge two times or more than others.
Many states recommend or require that consumers get at least a 30-day trial period to determine if the hearing aids will work for them. The dispenser or audiologist usually charges a service fee of 5 to 20 percent of the purchase price if the hearing aid is returned during that time.
You should work closely with the dispenser or audiologist during the trial period to get the hearing aids adjusted properly. It takes time to get use to hearing aids. Even when they are properly adjusted there may be initial discomfort in sound levels.
“People don’t really know what to expect,” Wagner Jackson said. They feel something in the ears, and their voice sounds different to them. And the biggest, most difficult change is all the sounds in the environment, she said. “The brain needs to be retrained.”
Digital hearing aids can be programmed with a computer to make adjustments to fit individual needs.
“Little things going wrong can be fixed,” Wagner Jackson said. Pointers are given on how the hearing aids can work better, and tips are offered on listening techniques.
Discuss options with your dispenser or audiologist on what’s best for your hearing loss. Don’t just get the smallest hearing aids or what your friend has.
“It’s not like going to the grocery store and buying lemons,” she said.
Wagner Jackson says people shouldn’t be scared about wearing hearing aids. “Hearing loss is more noticeable than hearing aids.”
For details on how to buy a hearing aid see:
"Sound Advice on Hearing Aids" – Federal Trade Commission
"Selecting Hearing Aids" – The American Academy of Audiology