If you’re starting to notice changes to your hearing as you age, you’re not alone. Hearing loss is the third most common chronic condition among older Americans. In fact, 33% of those between ages 65-74 and nearly 50% of those 75+ experience hearing loss. Taking action as soon as you notice your hearing declining may be important to help you continue communicating effectively, while also helping you lower the risk of other associated health issues, such as cognitive decline, dementia and more.
One of the most common ways people address hearing loss is through a hearing aid. Before purchasing one, there are many important factors to consider. Dr. Diane Nens, audiologist and senior clinical director, UnitedHealthcare Hearing shares five tips to consider when evaluating hearing aids:
1. Look for these key features:
- Custom-programming, where the sound processor inside the hearing aid is programmed to your hearing test results.
- Automatic gain control, which enables you to hear soft sounds while keeping loud noises at a comfortable level.
- Directional processing, which enhances the sounds in front of you while reducing distracting background noise from beside and behind you.
- A feedback manager that allows for greater amplification without whistling.
- Noise reduction, which improves listening comfort and speech intelligibility by reducing distracting environmental noise such as fans or motors.
- Telecoil, which connects to telephones, hearing loops, neck loops and wireless systems.
2. Have reasonable expectations
Hearing aids can’t completely restore normal hearing or eliminate all background noise. But they may help improve the quality of life for users by making speech more understandable, amplifying soft sounds and reducing loud background noises. If you are using hearing aids for the first time, it may take a few weeks before you become completely comfortable with them. Remember to be patient as you adjust to hearing sounds that you maybe haven’t in years.
3. Evaluate home-delivery options
Some new regulations and companies are changing the way hearing aids are sold, helping to bring down costs. As technology has improved and programming has become more precise, people with hearing test results may be able to order custom-programmed hearing aids and have them conveniently delivered to their doorstep, potentially avoiding the need for in-person appointments with hearing health professionals.
4. Consider other additional hearing products
In conjunction with hearing aids, there are assistive listening devices that may remove distracting background noise and bring relevant sounds closer to you. Devices such as neck loops, wireless systems or loops that can be installed in certain facilities may help transmit sounds directly to your hearing aids. This may help improve the sound quality and clarity, especially when listening at a distance.
5. Check with your insurance plan
Some insurance plans, including employer-sponsored and Medicare Advantage plans, may cover some or all of the cost of hearing aids to help make treatment and support more affordable. Check with your health plan to see what coverage may be available.
Considering these tips may help you make a more informed decision about improving your hearing. For more information about hearing loss prevention and treatment, visit uhchearing.com. If you suspect signs of hearing loss, you may consider using free online screeners to determine if additional care and treatment may be necessary.