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VidaCura Newsletter VidaCura Newsletter: Taking Care of Ourselves: Health and Wellness Information You Can Use
Health and Wellness Information You Can Use
  If you or someone you know thinks they may need hearing aids, you should meet with your physician for a medical exam
Hearing Loss and Aid Primer

If you’re starting to regret abusing your ear drums in earlier years, you’re in good company. About one in six boomers experience hearing loss according to the Better Hearing Institute, a non-profit educational group financed by the hearing aid industry. The AARP reports that there are more people between the ages of 45-64 with hearing loss than those over age 65.

If you or someone you know thinks they may need hearing aids, you should meet with your physician for a medical exam. They might refer you to an audiologist who would perform a more comprehensive evaluation. In case you are one of the many needing a hearing aid its important to become an educated consumer. Here's what you need to know:

There are three types of hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss generally results from wax blockage, punctured eardrum, infection, or damage to the inner ear that prevents normal functioning of inner ear structures. Conductive hearing problems can be improved or corrected with medical treatment.

Sensorineural (nerve) hearing loss is most commonly associated by aging, exposure to loud noises or trauma such as a blow to the head, or damage to areas of the brain that work with the ear to interpret sound. This type of loss may be treated with a hearing aid.

The third, mixed hearing loss is a combination of conductive and sensorineural types and is treated accordingly. If a hearing aid is called for, two general styles of hearing aids; behind the ear (BTE) and in the ear (ITE). There are variations, advantages and disadvantages of each.

Some initial signs of hearing loss to watch for include ringing in your ears or “tinnitus”, inability to hear well in groups or in areas with background noise, and frequently turning up the volume on radios, television or other electronic appliances. Many people don’t realize that they are experiencing hearing loss until the symptoms are recognized by a third party. Tinnitus can be caused by other medical conditions and medications- that’s why we recommend you check with your physician as a first step.

Preventing hearing loss is a life-long process. The easiest way to protect your hearing is to prevent exposure to excess noise. Heavy machinery, loud music, engines, or even a one-time extremely intense exposure can cause hearing loss. It’s most common for hearing loss to occur slowly over time as long-term exposure causes destruction of inner ear mechanics. If you live or work in a high noise area, use ear protection. Basic ear plugs used to reduce noise (sleeping partner snoring) won’t protect your ears while using landscaping equipment or other high-decibel machinery.

Having a family member with hearing loss, reoccurring ear infections, certain medications or previous damage to the ear can all predispose a person to hearing.

Insurance doesn’t usually pay for hearing aids:
Hearing aids require a prescription. Audiologists often sell hearing aids, or partner with a licensed hearing aid retailer. Unless you’re a veteran or in some cases, a child under age 13, expect to pay. Prices often range from $1,000 to $7,000 or more depending on the type of model and hearing loss. But you might not need anything nearly as costly; consumers often pay more than necessary or can be victimized by unscrupulous dealers.

Why are hearing aids so expensive?
As with many other areas of healthcare, high hearing aid prices can be attributed to monopolistic pricing and regulations that discourage competition. A hearing aid consists of a small microphone that amplifies weak sounds through a small speaker. Unlike price decreases that we’ve come to expect from other electronic devices like, the price of hearing aids have actually increased despite the fact that its industry trade association has concluded that hearing aid manufacturers could help more people, sell many more hearing aids and make more profit if prices were reduced.

There are some hearing aid-type devices that don’t require a prescription and offer substantial savings. These devices are made by companies including Maxisound, Nexear and Songbird. Prices for their models range from $80 to $500 each. They are most common online, and all are sold with money-back guarantees. So for mild to moderate hearing loss, they’re worth a try. (VidaCura carries Nexear brand products, Click here to see them.)

A study conducted in a recent issue of the American Journal of Audiology concluded that these over-the-counter type hearing aids “don’t work well and could potentially damage a persons hearing”. This is ironic as that study was funded by the Oticon Foundation, manufacturer for Oticon brand hearing aids. We suspect the eyeglass industry said many of these same things about reading glasses when they first were sold OTC.

Be a smart shopper:
Following a principle you’ll hear us frequently refer to; you will get the best care if you do your research and ask the right questions. It’s especially important for hearing aids since in addition to dealing with your hearing, you'll also likely be spending your own money. If the results of your exam indicate that you might benefit from a hearing aid, consider the following factors: Hearing aids are sold by licensed audiologists and by retailers who have relationships with audiologists. That opens the door wide to potential kickbacks, and referral fees in exchange for recommending higher priced models. This can result in your paying prices higher than you should.

If hearing aids can help you hear better, please consider them. The stigma associated with wearing a hearing aid is largely gone. Celebrities who have been helped by hearing aids include President Bill Clinton, actors Lou Ferrigno and Richard Thomas, and U.S. Army General Norman Schwarzkopf. It’s so common to see people with earpieces plugged into one ear, its hard to tell whether they’re talking on the phone or improving their hearing.

Five important rules to follow when shopping for a hearing aid:
1. Ask friends and family for recommendations on where they’ve purchased hearing aids.
2. Beware of suspect advertising claims. Unfortunately, all are common gimmicks
3. Keep the medical recommendation from your medical practitioner or audiologist separate from their brand, model and style recommendations. Rather, ask what features and specifications they recommend in a hearing aid for you. Then, shop based on your own price, service and style preferences.
4. Ask for a trial period of at least 30 days. Some dealers may charge a 5-20% service fee on returns. If you are a Costco member, the hearing aids they sell are refundable
5. Some dealers charge a fee for creating custom molds for your ear.


August 2009
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Hip & Knee Replacement
Doctor in the House?
Hearing Aid Primer
Chart Medical Genealogy
Resistance Bands
Get A $557 Tax Incentive
Bad Times = Better Health?
Issue 2: From the Editor
The VidaCura Blog
VidaCura Main Site
AARP Health Resources
New York Times Health
Making Home Safer
Tax Raise Health Plan
Longer Chemotherapy
NPR: On Health Podcast

NPR: Health Care
What if you don't have health insurance? VidaCura Co-founder Larry Berk offers some advice. Read more>

Do bad times equal better health? Read more>
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