What to consider when buying a hearing aid

If you’ve started noticing changes to your hearing as you age, know this: You’re not alone.

Hearing loss is a common chronic condition affecting about 48 million people in the U.S. and more than 477 million worldwide. Approximately a third of people between the ages of 64 and 75 experience hearing loss. Nearly half of people over 75 deal with it.

Taking action as soon as you notice your hearing declining may help you to stay connected with friends and family and may lower the risk of other associated health issues, such as cognitive decline, depression and more.

Unlike a broken bone, hearing loss does not resolve on its own and generally worsens over time. One of the most common and effective ways to address hearing loss is with hearing aids. But there are many important factors to consider before you purchase a device.

Diane Nens, audiologist and senior clinical director for UnitedHealthcare Hearing, has these tips:

1. Look for key technology features

  • Convenience: Using hearing aids has become easier than ever with rechargeable batteries that may last an entire day.
  • Connectivity: With Bluetooth compatibility, you may be able to take phone calls through your hearing aid and adjust settings from your smartphone. Other simple accessories, such as TV connectors, may allow you to stream audio directly to your hearing aids, making is easier than ever to stay connected to your environment.
  • Sound processing: High-quality hearing aids are custom programmed and have sophisticated processors that can help you hear soft sounds in front of you while keeping loud noises at a comfortable level and reducing background distractions.

2. Have reasonable expectations

Hearing aids can’t completely restore normal hearing or eliminate all background noise. However, studies have shown that people who treat their hearing loss often report significant improvements in overall quality of life.

If you are using hearing aids for the first time, it may take a few weeks to become more comfortable with them. Remember to be patient as you adjust to sounds that you may not have heard in years.

3. Evaluate virtual care options

Some new regulations and companies are changing the way hearing aids are sold, helping to bring down costs and improve access to these important devices. As technology has improved and customization has become more precise, a person with hearing test results may be able to order custom-programmed hearing aids and use new virtual hearing care options to help with remote fitting and support, potentially avoiding the need for multiple in-person appointments with hearing professionals.

Given the persistent spread of COVID-19, these new alternatives are proving popular, especially among older Americans who continue to limit in-person appointments.

4. Check your coverage for hearing aids

Some insurance, including employer-sponsored and Medicare Advantage plans, may cover all or some of the cost of hearing aids to help make treatment and support more affordable. Check with your health plan to see which options may be available to you.

For more information about hearing-loss prevention and treatment, visit uhchearing.com. See how UnitedHealthcare enables people nationwide (even individuals without health insurance) to save 60% or more on hearing aids.

If you suspect you’re experiencing hearing loss, consider using the free online hearing exam to determine if care and treatment may be necessary.