In our Better Hearing Month Sound Bites podcast, Starkey’s panel of experts answered 10 of the most frequently asked questions we get about hearing, hearing loss and hearing aids.
One of the questions host Dave Fabry, Ph.D answered — along with Dr. Archelle Georgiou and Jamie Myers, Au.D. — was, “How do I know which type of hearing aid is right for me?” We’ve transcribed their answer below, which has been edited for length and clarity.
Dave Fabry, Ph.D. — To move into Question Three, if I have a hearing loss and hearing difficulties, how do I know what type of hearing aid is the best one for me?
Jamie Myers, Au.D. — That's an excellent question. And I mean, there are many different models or styles to choose from. And it's a loaded question, because from my audiologist mind, I go through so many things when thinking about what style is right for a patient.
So it's not as easy as just, "Oh, one size fit's all, click ‘add to cart.’ Yeah. That'll work for me."
Certainly there are some models that work for most. But when you're looking at a style, you have to think about, what is your ear like? What is your ear anatomy? Do you have a tiny ear? Is it tipsy and turny, and curvy? And nobody knows, because you've never been able to look inside your ear.
Not to mention your hearing loss. I mean, that's the first step in getting the hearing test. What is your hearing loss? And it's not even the severe hearing losses we worry about.
I think as an audiologist, most people we see still have some normal residual hearing, usually in their low frequencies. And they have a sloping loss where they've lost high frequency sounds, which ties back to misunderstanding, not hearing well in background noise — all of those first symptoms of hearing loss.
And [that type of] hearing loss is particularly difficult, because we don't want to plug your ear up. If you try to put a custom hearing aid in that ear, sometimes it's difficult. Sometimes you feel like you have your fingers in your ear, everything can sound a little more muffled, especially your own voice. So we have to take your specific hearing loss into consideration.
And now with the perk of having so much more connectivity with hearing aids, we have to discuss, what is your technological savviness? Do you like Bluetooth? Do you like connecting it to your phone? Do you like using apps? Do you still work? Do you use your cell phone? Do you use a landline? Do you use a walkie talkie? Do you use a radio? What do we need you to use your ears for?
And so… your hearing care professional — they're really the steward of this journey that can guide you through all of those questions and then say, okay, based on what we know now, you have either this one option or you can choose from these three.
Dave Fabry, Ph.D. — And when I was working — and I still work with patients now — but we would talk about the size, like you said, the performance as well and then cost. And I think the great thing is that we are seeing channels that allow price points that can fit most people's budget. From devices that fit almost invisibly in the ear canal and still enable a connection directly to a smartphone, Android or iPhone, all the way up to the most powerful ones that may fit behind the ear or the receiver-in-canal devices.
And then really looking at the lifestyle beyond the audiogram, as you said, I think is so important to considering what the best solution will be. And that's why we at Starkey still believe that even with some of these new channels that may allow direct-to-consumer, that everything you articulated is often best handled and the best results achieved when the patient and the professional engage in the diagnosis and then the discussion over all of these different factors that will help them come up with the solution of the best size, the best performance and the best cost of device for them.
Jamie Myers, Au.D. — Absolutely.
Dave Fabry, Ph.D. — And then the last thing I would say is, we have two ears, we have two eyes, two ears. When people are looking at a hearing aid, they should be looking at two hearing aids. I think if you're looking at, if price is a sensitive factor, I would say — and I'd look to see whether you agree — that getting two devices is critical in terms of the best outcomes.
Jamie Myers, Au.D. — Oh, absolutely. I mean, studies have shown it. If you aid one ear and leave the other unaided, we can actually see your word discrimination or your word understanding, decrease in that unaided ear. And that really goes back to what Archelle was saying, all of this leads back to your brain. I mean, all of it is being processed up there. So really two is better than one when you do have hearing loss in both ears.
To find a nearby hearing care professional or audiologist who you can consult with to determine the best hearing aid for you, simply type your zip code in here and you’ll a generate a list of local providers who you can contact. To listen to this Starkey Sound Bites podcast (as well as past and future episodes) look for it wherever you get your podcasts.
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