How to Deal With Your Hearing Challenges: A Comprehensive Walkthrough of the Different Options Available

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Ongoing in-person support and care focused on your specific hearing care needs, which includes counseling, cleanings, readjustments, repairs, earwax removal, and other hearing care related services, is an integral part of the standard of care delivered by a local audiologist.

Have you or a loved one come to the realization that there is a problem with your hearing?

You are not alone.

One out of every eight Americans struggle with their hearing loss. According to the WHO, that number is likely to double by 2050.

A search query on the internet will produce an overwhelming amount of information and solutions available at a broad range of price points. Consequently, knowing exactly how to deal with your hearing challenges can be confusing.

We understand your predicament and your South Shore Hearing Center team is ready to help you better navigate the hearing treatment landscape by offering a comprehensive walkthrough of the different options available to treat your hearing challenges.

Know What You Are Looking For

Unfortunately, there are no “one-size-fits-all” solutions for treating hearing loss, so finding the right solution that meets your needs as well as your better hearing objectives is an essential element in your search for a solution.

Here are some questions to ask yourself in order to guide your selection process:

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What hearing challenges do I need to address and how severe are they?

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Do I prefer to go it alone, or do I need professional support? How much professional support do I need?

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Is in-person support okay for me, or will remote support be enough?

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Am I looking for budget-priced solutions, or are outcomes more important than the price I pay?

Once you’ve determined what you are looking for, it will be easier to narrow your choices and select the treatment option that suits your needs and meets your objectives.

Treatment Options without Professional Support

In your search for solutions, there are many options available for dealing with mild to moderate hearing loss.

Mild to moderate hearing loss is often described as being inconvenient in some listening environments but not something that truly disrupts your lifestyle and quality of life.

For these types of hearing challenges, you may feel like you really don’t want or need professional support from a doctor of audiology, ENT, or otologist. In most cases, you might experience different levels of technical support related to the operation of the device but no professional support.

Keep in mind that these treatment options are the equivalent of purchasing a magnifying glass or reading glasses to help address a specific vision challenge rather than one which requires prescription glasses.

Earbuds with a Cell Phone App – Price: $0 - $250

Pros:

  • Comes at a low price point
  • Uses technology you may already have

Cons:

  • Does not address specific hearing challenges (amplifies everything)
  • Does not require testing or office visits
  • Little to no support or care
  • Fall in the category of PSAPs (personal sound amplification products)

This option involves using the microphone on your smartphone, an app, and earphones or earbuds to provide amplification in certain environments.

Earphones and earbuds of higher quality will provide better results as will the options and features available from the app you choose.

Many of these apps are free to use but come with limited features to control background noise, enhance speech, or reduce own-voice amplification. You will have to pay an annual subscription of $60 and up in order to add these features to the app.

Since no testing or office visits are required, the biggest drawback of this option is that you’re on your own when it comes to understanding and addressing your type and severity of hearing loss and you’ll receive only limited technical support.

PSAPs (Personal Sound Amplification Products) – Price: $79 - $1250

Pros:

  • Easy to access
  • Budget priced

Cons:

  • One size fits all
  • Does not require testing or office visits
  • Self-fitting can lead to comfort and performance issues
  • No professional support
  • Equally amplifies all sounds

Technically, PSAPs are not considered hearing aids. Like the option above, they are an amplification tool designed to amplify the sounds around you in specific environments, such as at a public event or while watching television.

Since no hearing test or office visits are necessary, you will remain unaware of any more serious hearing challenges you may be having and you will have no personalized professional support.

Because they are a consumer product rather than hearing aids, PSAPs are regulated by consumer organizations rather than the FDA, so the only support available will be related to the performance and troubleshooting of the device.

OTC Hearing Aids – Price: $800 - $2500

Pros:

  • Competitive pricing
  • Easily accessible
  • Are certified as hearing aids by the FDA

Cons:

  • Not a custom solution
  • No hearing test or office visits required
  • Can lead to comfort and performance issues due to self-fitting
  • No professional support
  • No damage/loss warranty
  • Address mild to moderate hearing loss only

A better option than those above, because they are hearing aids and not PSAPs, OTC hearing aids are easily accessible, come at a lower price point than the options that include professional support, and are certified and regulated by the FDA.

Keep in mind that these are not prescription hearing aids, so they do not have the capacity to address more severe hearing challenges. Meant to provide some assistance for individuals with a mild to moderate hearing loss, they do not come with the custom options needed to address your specific hearing challenges.

Since no hearing test or office visits with a hearing care professional are involved, you will be rolling the dice when it comes to whether you are getting the right help to resolve your specific hearing loss challenges.

Treatment Options That Include Professional Support

If you are experiencing a mild to moderate hearing loss, you may be able to get the help you need and meet various short-term better hearing objectives by using the various types of hearing technology already described.

However, you are at a disadvantage by using those products because you don’t receive any personal, professional support that is able to zero in on your specific hearing challenges with targeted solutions.

Professional support, provided by a doctor of audiology, ENT, otologist, or hearing instrument specialist, typically includes a hearing evaluation, personalized programming of your hearing device, and ongoing support designed to help you meet your specific better-hearing objectives.

The next three treatment options in our review include some level of professional support.

Direct-to-Consumer Hearing Aids – Price: $1850 - $2400

Pros:

  • Online convenience
  • Require a hearing test
  • Technology from reputable manufacturers
  • Some remote audiological support
  • Money-back guarantee

Cons:

  • Less accurate online hearing tests
  • No physical ear examination
  • No in-person support
  • No assistance from insurance
  • Service may be impersonal

Purchasing direct to consumer hearing aids online is easy, convenient, and doesn’t require an in-office appointment with a doctor of audiology. If you choose this option, you will have a hearing test and you will receive professional support.

The devices offered are from reputable manufacturers, they are preprogrammed to address commonly used gain and sloping hearing loss targets, and an audiologist or hearing instrument specialist will provide adjustments via remote programming.

However, your hearing test will not include a physical examination of your ears for issues that may not require or be helped by hearing aids, and support is likely to come from a different person each time you call.

Although you may receive a money-back guarantee for your purchase, you will not get the typical 1 to 3 year warranty that covers loss, replacement, and repair. In addition, you can expect no assistance from your insurance company if you choose this option.

Big Box Retail Stores (Costco/Sam’s Club, Etc.) – Price: $1250 - $4000

Pros:

  • In-person hearing test
  • In-person fitting and ongoing support
  • Professional level technology
  • Repair and loss warranty

Cons:

  • Hearing exam is not comprehensive
  • Need to wait in line to get support
  • No insurance assistance
  • Have to be a member of the club

This option includes an in-person, professional hearing test and ongoing in-person support in the internal hearing aid center located inside your local Costco, Sam’s Club, or other big box store

The prescription hearing aids offered are from reputable manufacturers, come professionally programmed and fitted to meet your specific hearing loss needs, and they will come with a repair/loss/replacement warranty.

A hearing test at a big box store will not investigate all possible causes and solutions because they are not comprehensive, so your treatment will still address only those issues common to individuals with a similar type and severity of hearing loss.

You will have to be a member of the club in order to take advantage of the services provided, and because they are housed in a retail setting, you could find yourself waiting in line to receive support and attention.

You can expect no assistance from your health insurance if you choose this option, and when it comes to truly addressing your overall hearing health, it still comes up short.

Working with Local Audiologist – Price: $2500 - $7500

Pros:

  • Personal treatment and care by a doctor of audiology
  • Highest level hearing aid technology
  • Personal support focused on you rather than your device
  • Warranty
  • Maintenance and repair support
  • Insurance accepted

Cons:

  • Have to attend physical appointments
  • Higher investment price

When you consult with a local audiologist, a comprehensive hearing assessment is the foundation of the hearing care you receive. Information gathered during your hearing assessment will lead to the development of treatment solutions and device programming designed to meet your specific better-hearing objectives.

Rather than assuming that you need hearing aids, your audiologist will physically examine your ears to rule out obstructions, inflammation, and other hearing loss causes that are not helped by hearing aids.

Ongoing in-person support and care focused on your specific hearing care needs, which includes counseling, cleanings, readjustments, repairs, earwax removal, and other hearing care related services, is an integral part of the standard of care delivered by a local audiologist.

Independent, local audiologists provide you with access to the industry’s best hearing aid technology that is protected by a loss/repair/replacement warranty and you may be eligible to receive financial assistance from your health insurance when you choose this option.

Hearing Loss Surgery (Electronic Implants) – Price: $30,000 - $50,000

Pros:

  • Go-to solution when hearing aids do not provide a solution
  • Innovative advanced level technology
  • Covered by health insurance

Cons:

  • Must meet certain qualifications
  • Requires surgical procedure
  • Very expensive

The final option for treating a hearing loss is really not available to the vast majority of people with hearing challenges.

Cochlear implants or electronic implants were designed to address profound hearing loss not helped by traditional hearing aids and are only available to qualified individuals.

Before implant surgery, a doctor of audiology, ENT, or otologist will collaborate with a surgeon and anesthesiologist in order to determine whether the surgery will produce the desired outcomes without severe negative complications.

Because it involves surgeons, facilities, anesthesia, and device programming, adding up to between $30k and $50k, electronic implants are very expensive, but most of these expenses are covered in full or part by your health insurance.

What’s Your Next Move?

There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution when it comes to addressing your hearing challenges, but by knowing what you want and the options available, you can narrow down your choice to one that fits your needs, personal preferences, and your budget.

Regardless of the treatment option you choose, we encourage you to consult with a local professional like the audiologists at South Shore Hearing Center in order to have a basic understanding of the type and severity of hearing loss you are experiencing before you make your choice.

Request a callback by using the adjacent form, or give us a call at (781) 337-6860 (South Weymouth) or (781) 826-4711 (Hanover) to get professional advice regarding treatment options that will provide the results you’re looking for.

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Kaitlyn Foley, Au.D., CCC-A

Dr. Kaitlyn Foley is a Massachusetts native . She is a recent graduate of Northeastern University’s Doctorate of Audiology program. She began working full time after completing a year-long residency at South Shore Hearing Center. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in speech and hearing with a minor in education and psychology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2014. Ms. Foley’s interests include diagnostic audiology, pediatric and adult amplification, educational audiology, and cochlear implants.

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