So, I thought I’d make a post talking about hearing aids, and the process of getting them. I’m going to try and make this as thorough and comprehensive as possible.
I started wearing hearing aids about two years ago, and I’ve gone through several different pairs in an attempt to find ones that sound best for me, and fit my hearing loss. I’m profoundly deaf, so I require power hearing aids, but I haven’t always. My first pair were a tiny RIC (receiver in canal) pair by Starkey, known as the Xino.
Before getting to that, I had to see my doctor about my hearing loss. She used a tuning fork to test my hearing (very basic test) in the office, and gave me a paper referral to an audiologist. I took that, made some calls, and set up an appointment with an audi. She did a hearing test, which involves listening to pure tone beeps and responding when I could hear them at a certain volume, and found I had moderate-severe hearing loss. That same day, she showed me a few different hearing aids, and ordered them after I left the office.
As a side note, it’s important to do research and actually try out a hearing aid in the office if you can. I found after not trying out an RIC hearing aid, and receiving the ones she ordered, that the receiver (the speaker of the device) that went into my ear would not only keep popping out every 10 seconds, but it was also extremely uncomfortable. It hurt my ears.
The audi said she would not change my hearing aids, and she refused to try out custom molds because I “just need to get used to it.” Since she was clearly not providing me with the service I needed, I went elsewhere.
I sold those RIC hearing aids, and bought a BTE (behind the ear) pair. I went to Sam’s Club to get earmolds for hearing aids made ($80 for a pair), and had my BTE hearing aids programmed at a new audiologist.
Now, the sound on the RIC HAs was not at all loud enough for me to benefit from them. My first audi said this was because she wanted to turn them up gradually so I get used to it easier. This is common, but many audiologists will avoid that and simply set the hearing aids at your preferred volume if you ask.
With the BTE HAs, I heard much better. With RIC hearing aids, many people do not need a custom earmold, and the small, silicone domes suffice. However, I’ve found that earmolds are far more comfortable for me, and they aid in retention, so you won’t accidentally rip your hearing aid out of your ear by brushing your hair back or something.
Now, earmolds are pretty simple. You go to your audi, and they will put a small foam block into your ear with a string attached to it. Then, they will use a large, plastic syringe to squeeze some colored goop into your ear, and the foam block is there to keep it from going in too far. You’ll wait about 5 to 10 minutes for the goo to harden, and it’s then removed. The goo comes in a few different colors and they’re pretty much all the same.
The audiologist will take your ear impressions and send them off to have earmolds made. Between that, and receiving the earmolds, is approximately two weeks. Many audiologists only produce earmolds in plain clear, or one or two flesh tones (by that, I mean flesh tones designed for white people). To get earmolds in fun colors and glitter, you’ll have to go to a provider who works with Westone or another company that produces them.
Your earmolds are sent back to your audi, and you can pick them up and have your hearing aids programmed at the same time usually. Different models and brands of hearing aids have different cords and 2 different methods of programming them, but it’s basically all the same- plug the hearing aids into a computer with cables and program them, or wear a neckloop that programs them wirelessly.
Your audiologist will adjust settings until you find something that sounds best to you. This can take a while, but it’s worth it. They’ll usually tap on things, rustle the keyboard, speak the days of the week, etc. to help you determine if certain sounds are too loud or soft, or just plain annoying.
Digital hearing aids these days have plenty of versatility in terms of programming. Many hearing aids have several different modes you can choose from, such as to eliminate background noise and amplify speech, or a program dedicated to listening to music, and so on. Many hearing aids also have T-coils in them, which allow you to listen to anything the magnetic field can detect, usually in the form of a neckloop. These can be found in some theaters and churches, and a few other places.
So, now, your hearing aids are programmed and you’re wearing them daily, right? Well, you’ll probably need to change your batteries about once a week or two, depending on how often you wear them, how loud they are, and how often you use streaming devices with digital hearing aids. It is recommended to keep a spare pack of batteries in your bag, pocket, at work, in the car, etc. Then you’ll be able to change them and continue to hear, should you end up with dead batteries.
With that, I’m going to talk about the hearing aids themselves. Many hearing aids come in both neutral/skin tone/hair tone colors, and bright colors such as pink, blue, and purple. The two big manufacturers who produce colored hearing aids are Oticon and Phonak. Oticon only offers clear earhooks, and Phonak offers several different colors of earhooks on their Sky line (though the earhooks also fit the other lines, you would have to order them online or through your audiologist.) the bright colors are actually for kids and teens, but many adults choose them for the color, and they do not operate all that differently from adult hearing aids.
Most insurance companies do NOT cover hearing aids, unfortunately, so the vast majority of people end up paying out of pocket for them, and the devices can cost as much as $3,000 a pop, and up to $7,000 a pair. As well, insurance that does cover hearing aids almost never cover the brightly colored ones.
It takes getting used to, wearing hearing aids every day. Earmolds are often itchy, and they cause your ears to be a bit sweaty and waxy. Eventually, you get used to it. It just becomes a part of daily life to pull your hearing aid out and screech your ear canals and press on your ears to alleviate the itching. As well, tubing needs to be replaced every few months because they grow hard and stiff, which causes the ear to hurt when wearing them. Earmolds and tubing need to be washed and cleaned of wax fairly often to keep them in good shape, and to allow you to hear better.
Okay, so, I think I’ve covered everything I can think of about hearing aids! If you have a question, please leave a comment down below, and I’d be happy to answer it! Just for fun, here’s a picture of my current hearing aids.