OHSU Hearing Aid Program
Common Hearing Aid Questions
Could a hearing aid help you?
One - third or more of adults aged 65 or older have some degree of age-related hearing loss. This type of hearing loss happens so gradually that many do not notice until it becomes a serious problem. Family and friends have to repeat themselves often and loudly in order to communicate, which is a source of frustration to everyone. Many of our patients remember thinking that everyone "mumbles" or "doesn't speak clearly". More often than not, hearing loss is a source of the problem... not the speaker.
Wearing a hearing aid can help remove the strain required to hear, and is often a relief to others. If this sounds familiar to you, it would be a good idea to have your hearing tested by a professional to see if you would be helped by a hearing aid or other hearing assistance.
Benefits of a hearing aid
Hearing aids relieve the strain of hearing. With the newer digital technology available, hearing aids also offer more clarity (less strain and more clear hearing). Hearing aids WILL NOT restore hearing to normal or slow the progression of nerve or age-related deafness.
When you get a hearing aid, however, you should experience:
- Easy listening environments (watching television, one-on-one conversations) should be improved
- Your hearing should be improved even when there is a moderate amount of background noise.
- Loud background noise is still going to create a difficult listening situation, even with hearing aids. Choosing hearing aids with dual microphones is very important if this situation causes most of your struggle with hearing.
- Your earmolds should fit snuggly, but be comfortable. It is normal to experience some occlusion effect (your voice becomes louder) when wearing hearing aids and/or ear molds.
- Sounds like clocks ticking, refrigerators, computer noise, and footsteps will seem abnormally loud when first wearing hearing aids. This is normal. Your ability to tune out these insignificant sounds will improve as your brain adjust to hearing these soft sounds.
Hearing aids can provide much help in communication, but the process does require a period of adjustment on the part of the wearer. Knowing what to expect can help immensely with your adjustment process. We encourage you to work with our hearing aid team to learn about this adjustment period and the benefits you should expect.
Can I get just one hearing aid?
It is okay to wear one hearing aid if you have a hearing loss in one ear. Otherwise getting two hearing aids is highly recommended. Two hearing aids provide the following benefits:
- Localization, the ability to locate where sounds are coming from. If a sound arriving at one ear is very much different in time, loudness, and pitch, the brain has difficulty processing where sound is occurring.
- You hear with your brain as well as your ears. When you supply sound to your ear via a hearing aid, it sends the information to your central nervous system and those cells become active and useful. If your brain is deprived of the sound on one side, the cells are not used and may atrophy.
- Ability to hear better in noisy situations. With the introduction of dual microphones, we can cancel out much interfering background noise. This option is especially helpful if the hearing aid user has two hearing aids. If one ear without the aid is not supplied with directional and amplified sound, the background noise level on that side of the head remains and does not aid the listener in separating speech from noise.
- If someone speaks to you on the side of your unaided ear, his or her voice loses power as it travels to the ear with the hearing aid (sometimes as much as 20 decibels). You may not be able to hear speech, especially if there is background noise coming from all directions in a room.
Why are hearing aids so expensive?This is a question that is often asked at our clinic. There are a few reasons for the cost of hearing aids. The cost of a hearing aid shell and circuit is very low, except when you consider the following:
- Hearing aids are sold in relatively low volume as opposed to other electronic equipment (i.e., televisions, DVD players, stereos). This means that it is expensive to produce hearing aids because there is a low demand.
- Manufacturers spend millions of dollars on research and development every year. Research and development results in improvements in product size, quality, and performance, but does cost manufacturers money that gets passed on to the consumer.
- Audiologists spend many hours of time assisting customers in programming, doing repairs, and cleaning hearing aids during the life of a hearing aid. While it is true that mail order hearing aids can be bought at a lower price initially, those hearing aid purchases are without the support and assistance of audiologists and often lack maintenance services that are needed for hearing aids to perform as intended. Patients who order hearing aids through the mail are often stuck with the additional charges for office visits or maintenance fees when the hearing aid needs re-programmed or serviced.
Where can I get advice, testing, and fitting?
Some people buy from hearing aid specialists/dispensers or retail shops that are found in retail outlet stores. You can also buy hearing aids from an audiologist, a university-trained professional with a minimum of a Master's degree in Audiology. Dispensers may provide quality care and sometimes provide inexpensive devices. They usually do not have a variety of manufacturers to choose from and offer less sophisticated diagnostic testing. Audiologists are trained to recognize medical problems that would require a physician's care (i.e., infection, tumor, otosclerosis). In these cases, surgery may correct the problem, not a hearing aid.
OHSU offers a staff of certified audiologists only. We offer competitive pricing to make hearing aids affordable to most pocketbooks. You can make an appointment to discuss your hearing loss, obtain the latest information in hearing aid technology in a pressure-free medical setting. Your costs are discussed with you up front, and the fitting process is explained in detail during your consultation appointment.
Whether you choose to buy from a retail dispenser or an audiologist, make sure you know what type of technology you are buying and what is covered by the manufacturer's warranty. Educated consumers and patients will get more benefits when you find the right provider with the right products and services to meet your needs.Meet our hearing aid and audiology staff Types of Hearing Aids
How to Make an Appointment
How to Make an Appointment If you are interested in setting up an appointment to discuss hearing aids, or to find out if a hearing aid will help you or a family member, please contact our clinic at 503 494-5171 or email us.