The American Academy of Audiology has developed an in-depth resource for adults who are experiencing hearing loss that covers:
- Types of Hearing Loss
- Myths and Facts of Hearing Loss
- Signs of Hearing Loss
- Hearing Loss Symptoms and Conditions
- Who Are Audiologists
- Types of Hearing Devices
- Financial Considerations Related to Hearing Care and Devices
- Considerations for Using Hearing Aids
- Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids
- Tips for Successful Management of Adult Hearing Loss
Download the in-depth resource below or continue reading to learn more. If you suspect you or a loved has hearing loss, make an appointment with an audiologist.
The ability to hear and communicate effectively impacts all aspects of your life including relationships, success in school and work, and overall quality of life. Hearing loss is the third-most common chronic health condition for adult Americans (National Center for Health Statistics, 2012).
Hearing loss can occur at any age. Although hearing loss might occur suddenly, it most often develops over several years or decades. Some of the reasons for changes in hearing include:
Use of medications
Exposure to loud sounds
Although most hearing loss in adults is permanent, some types of hearing loss are medically treatable or surgically correctable. The most common treatment for permanent hearing loss in adults is hearing aids; however, only a fourth of those who can benefit from a hearing aid use one. Most individuals wait about seven years to investigate treatment options after they begin to suspect having a hearing problem. Reasons for waiting include not thinking that the hearing loss is bad enough to need attention, not knowing what services are available, concern over cost, the social stigma of hearing loss, and a lack of self-awareness.
Types of Hearing Loss
You may suspect that you have a hearing loss, but to determine the best treatment the audiologist also needs to determine the type of hearing loss. It is not possible for you to determine the type or degree of hearing loss you have, even using online screening tools.
Screening tools can alert you that your hearing might not be normal, but anyone concerned about hearing should consult an audiologist for an audiologic evaluation (hearing test). The audiologist can propose a hearing device for treatment, but the plan of care also may include other recommendations (e.g., auditory training, improving communication skills/communication strategies, and/or assistive and alerting devices).
The audiologist will classify hearing loss into one of three categories:
Sensorineural hearing loss
A type of hearing loss that typically impacts overall volume and the ability to understand speech clearly. This type of hearing loss can affect all ages.
Conductive hearing loss
A type of hearing loss that typically decreases volume of sound (like wearing an earplug). This type of hearing loss can affect all ages.
Mixed hearing loss
A type of hearing loss that may involve a combination of decreased volume and clarity (sensorineural hearing loss and conducive hearing loss).
Myths and Facts of Hearing Loss
When it comes to hearing loss, there are many myths that encourage individuals to put off getting their hearing checked.
Signs of Hearing Loss
As mentioned, in many cases, hearing loss is not sudden. Common signs of hearing loss include:
- Asking people to repeat what they say.
- Feeling like others are always mumbling or not speaking clearly.
- Difficulty hearing and understanding speech in noisy environments.
- Missing words or phrases on the telephone.
- Turning the volume up on the television or radio louder than normal.
Decreased hearing can affect all aspects of an adult’s life. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to issues such as sadness, depression, anxiety, paranoia, cognitive decline, and poor social relationships.
It is possible to manage and treat hearing loss, and it’s important that you do so with a trusted medical provider such as an audiologist.
Hearing and Balance Symptoms and Conditions
Hearing loss can cause many short and long-term symptoms and effects, including:
If you’re experiencing symptoms that are affecting your hearing and balance, learn more about hearing and balance conditions that an audiologist can diagnose and treat.
Seeking Care: Who Are Audiologists?
An audiologist will perform an evaluation to assess your hearing. The audiologic evaluation is centered on identifying the current hearing concerns and developing plans that will improve the patient’s quality of life. The evaluation will allow for a thorough understanding of the capabilities and limitations of an individual to communicate in a variety of different listening situations.
The audiologist will also assess features and functions that will be most effective in a hearing device, if needed for treatment. The information obtained in the evaluation will enable the audiologist to formulate a treatment plan to discuss with you.
During your hearing health-care journey, other professionals may be involved in your treatment. From otolaryngologists, or ear, nose, and throat (ENT) providers to hearing instrument specialists, it’s important to know the differences.
Find An Audiologist
An audiologist can help diagnose, treat, and help manage a hearing or balance condition. Use our audiologist directory, “Find an Audiologist” to find an audiologist near your location.
Types of Hearing Devices
There are many different types of hearing devices, and no one device is appropriate for everyone or every kind of hearing loss.
When considering a hearing aid or other types of hearing device, a consumer should work with an audiologist and other providers, as needed, to identify primary concerns and long-term needs. Other factors include selecting a device that fits one’s lifestyle, is easy to use, and fits within a budget.
Selecting a hearing aid is not the same as purchasing an electronic device, so the guidance of a qualified hearing professional is needed to specifically address an individual’s needs.
The following are descriptions of devices that can be used to enhance or improve hearing.
Hearing aids are any “wearable instrument or device designed for, offered for the purpose of, or represented as aiding persons with or compensating for, impaired hearing” (FDA, 21 CFR 801.420) and are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Wireless connectivity/accessories are devices that allow the listener to directly stream information from a phone or other personal listening device (e.g., tablet, computer, e-reader) as well as remote or lapel microphones that help the listener to hear over long distances (e.g., in classrooms, conference rooms, and lecture halls).
Hearing implants includes bone-anchored implants, middle-ear implants, cochlear implants, and auditory brainstem implants. Hearing implants are considered when traditional hearing aids can’t provide enough benefit or improvement of speech understanding, or when there is a total loss of hearing.
Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids
OTC hearing aid solutions are under development to create a class of hearing aids that can be purchased without a prescription by a licensed health-care provider. The American Academy of Audiology believes that these devices are likely to be most appropriate for individuals with no more than mild hearing loss and recommends to consider purchasing an OTC device only with the recommendation of an audiologist.
Not all these devices are designed to be used to treat hearing loss. Hearing aids and other devices can be purchased at a variety of locations, including audiologist offices, some physician offices, on-line, retail outlets, and hearing aid dealer offices. When considering a hearing device, be sure to consider the:
- Services offered
- Technology available
- Available insurance coverage
It is important to realize that the hearing device itself is only one aspect of good hearing care — the provider, the programming of the device, and other services, such as auditory training and communication strategies, are just as important, if not more so. The American Academy of Audiology does not recommend purchasing or using a hearing device without the recommendation of an audiologist.
Financial Considerations Related to Hearing Health-Care and Devices
It can be confusing to compare costs when it is not clear if the price includes only the device or also the related services of the audiologist. Also, it can be difficult to know what will be covered by insurance. The following offers some guidance for understanding the costs for evaluation, treatment, and management of hearing loss.
Consideration for Using Hearing Aids
You have many options for purchasing hearing aids, but it’s important to realize that hearing aids are complex, medical devices that require expertise to program correctly. It’s also important to understand that not using hearing devices, or using incorrect hearing devices, can create more problems. When meeting with your audiologist to discuss hearing devices, some good questions to ask include:
- What do the stated charges include?
- Who can program the device if I need or want to change providers?
- What is the warranty and what does it include?
- What is the expected life of the device?
- Am I a candidate for an implantable hearing device?
- What are the realistic expectations I should have when using this device?
- Are there any wireless accessories that would enhance the benefit I receive from this hearing device?
- How long do I get to try the hearing aids and still return them for a refund? Are any fees nonrefundable?
- What follow-up care should I expect?
- What is the expected battery life and cost?
- Do I need to see a physician before getting hearing aids or other devices?
- Are you qualified to evaluate my candidacy for devices other than hearing aids?
It is also a good idea to bring a friend or family member to your appointment with you. They will be able to learn about how you communicate best and will serve as a second set of ears to hear all the information your audiologist has to share.
Over-the-Counter (OTC) Hearing Aids
OTC hearing aid solutions are under development to create a class of hearing aids that can be purchased without a prescription by a licensed health-care provider. The American Academy of Audiology believes that these devices are likely to be most appropriate for individuals with no more than mild hearing loss and recommends to consider purchasing an OTC device only with the recommendation of an audiologist. It is important to understand that true OTC hearing aids are not available, so consumers should be wary of considering any device being marketed as such.
There may be risks associated with using OTC hearing aids:
- Failing to identify an underlying medical condition to the hearing loss;
- Providing less amplification than is necessary and suffering consequences of undertreated hearing loss;
- Providing more amplification than is necessary and potentially causing greater degrees of hearing loss.
For these reasons, the American Academy of Audiology recommends that consumers with certain signs and symptoms do not select a direct-to-consumer device.
With any self-selected device, there is a risk that the technology will not give you the volume or sound quality you want or need. Therefore, the American Academy of Audiology recommends anyone concerned about their hearing to see an audiologist for a hearing test and to discuss of appropriate hearing devices before any device is used.
Tips for Successful Management of Adult Hearing Loss
Managing your hearing loss is important. Successful management can look like several things, including, but not limited to:
- Have a comprehensive audiologic evaluation (hearing test) with an audiologist as soon as you or a family member has concerns regarding hearing.
- Talk with your audiologist about any underlying reasons for the hearing loss.
- Follow through on any appointments that are recommended to determine the cause of the hearing loss or other possible treatment options.
- Invest in a hearing device that meets your unique needs and requirements and if recommended by an audiologist.
- Don’t wait to have your hearing tested or to start using an appropriate hearing device is hearing loss is identified.
- Recognize that technology might not be the only treatment needed to help your hearing loss. Sometimes, the brain needs exercises (called “aural rehabilitation”) as a supplement to hearing devices to help the brain adjust to the sound. Hearing loss is complex and simply using a device is often not enough to adequately manage the challenges it creates.
Download Full Guide to Adult Hearing Care
The ability to promote awareness of adult hearing care is essential as approximately one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
Download the full Guide to Adult Hearing Care below or if you suspect you or a loved one have hearing loss, make an appointment with an audiologist near you.