Every patient has questions about hearing aids, Part 1


By Dr. Robert Mario

Which hearing aid will work best for me?

A hearing aid should be selected that best suits your needs and lifestyle. It also depends on the kind and severity of your hearing loss. If you have hearing loss in both of your ears, two hearing aids are recommended because they provide a more natural signal to the brain.

Hearing in both ears will help you understand speech and locate where the sound is coming from. Hearing aids range from hundreds to several thousand dollars. An expensive hearing aid does not necessarily mean that it will better suit your needs.

A hearing aid will not restore your normal hearing. With practice it will increase your awareness of sounds and their sources. Because you should wear your hearing aid regularly, you should select one that is easy to use. Also consider parts or services covered by the warranty, estimated schedule and costs for maintenance and repair, and the hearing aid company’s reputation for quality and customer service.

What questions should I ask before buying a hearing aid?

Before you buy a hearing aid, ask your hearing specialist:

•What features would be most useful to me?

•What is the total cost of the hearing aid? Do the benefits of newer technologies outweigh the higher costs?

•Is there a trial period to test the hearing aids? (Most manufacturers allow a 30- to 60-day trial period during which aids can be returned for a refund.) What fees are nonrefundable if the aids are returned after the trial period?

•How long is the warranty? Can it be extended? Does the warranty cover future maintenance and repairs?

•Can the hearing specialist make adjustments and provide servicing and minor repairs? Will loaner aids be provided when repairs are needed?

•What instruction does the hearing specialist provide?

Are new types of aids available?

Receiver-in-the-ear aids, are the newest “rage” in hearing aids. They allow for a small unit to be placed behind the ear with a small wire tip placed in the ear canal. For many these aids meet aesthetic expectations and functionality needs.

Bluetooth compatible hearing aids at all price ranges can work with hands free Bluetooth devices that are worn around the neck. These assist in hearing the cell phone and television better.

Middle ear implants, (MEI), work differently than typical hearing aids. A middle ear implant is a small device attached to one of the bones of the middle ear. Rather than amplifying the sound traveling to the eardrum, an MEI moves these bones directly. This results in strengthening sound vibrations entering the inner ear so that they can be detected. Surgery is required and a thorough consultation with an otolaryngologist to implant the device.

•A bone-anchored hearing aid (BAHA) is a small device that attaches to the bone behind the ear. The device transmits sound vibrations directly to the inner ear through the skull, bypassing the middle ear. BAHAs are generally used by individuals with middle ear problems or deafness in one ear. Surgery and a consultation with an otolaryngologist are required to implant this device.

Dr. Robert Mario, PhD, BC-HIS, is the director of Mario Hearing and Tinnitus Clinics, has locations in West Roxbury, Cambridge and Melrose. He can be reached at 781-979-0800 or visit their website, www.mariohearingclinics.com. Archives of articles from previous issues can be read at www.fiftyplusadvocate.com