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decision pointShould I get a hearing aid?

Hearing loss can affect your work and home life. It can also affect your personal safety. Permanent hearing loss can make you feel lonely or depressed or like you have lost your independence.

Hearing aids can often help with these issues. If you think you have a hearing problem, you may want to think about getting a hearing aid.

Consider the following when making your decision:

  • Some types of hearing loss can be treated and corrected so that you don't need a hearing aid. See an ear, nose, and throat doctor to find out if your hearing loss can be treated and if a hearing aid will help.
  • You can learn how to live with reduced hearing by paying attention to people's gestures, facial expressions, posture, and tone of voice. You might want to take a lip-reading class. These things can help whether you use a hearing aid or not.
  • Although it will take some time to get used to using a hearing aid, many people do so and learn how to get the most out of one.
  • Hearing aids can help you hear better and feel connected to others.

What is a hearing aid?

A hearing aid makes sounds louder. But it cannot single out one type of sound, such as a voice, and make it louder. It makes all sounds louder. Although a hearing aid doesn't restore normal hearing, it may make it easier for you to carry on your daily activities and to talk with others.

You can wear hearing aids behind your ear, in your outer ear, or in your ear canal. Most newer models fit in the ear or ear canal. There are three major types of hearing aids:

  • Analog adjustable hearing aids are made based on your hearing tests. They make both speech and other sounds louder in the same amount. Your doctor can adjust them a bit to fit your hearing, and you control loudness. These are the least costly type of hearing aids.
  • Analog programmable hearing aids contain a computer chip that your doctor can program based on your hearing loss and how you respond to louder sounds. These hearing aids can be changed for different hearing situations, such as when you talk with one person in a room or at a dinner party in a restaurant. You can change the settings with a remote control.
  • Digital programmable hearing aids can adjust themselves to different sounds such as a voice or noise. They give you more choices in programming than analog hearing aids. They are the most advanced and the most expensive type of hearing aid.

How can I find out if a hearing aid could help me?

If you think you have a hearing problem and are thinking about getting a hearing aid, look for an ear, nose, and throat doctor (an otolaryngologist or otologist). He or she can check to make sure other problems aren't present and find out the cause of your hearing loss. The doctor can also recommend possible treatments.

If the doctor finds that a hearing aid would help, ask for a recommendation for an audiologist. This specialist can help you choose the type of hearing aid that will work best for you. He or she can help you learn how to get the most out of your hearing aid.

What are the benefits of wearing a hearing aid?

Hearing aids can help you hear better and feel connected to family, friends, and others. They can also make you safer when you drive or when you work around home. Hearing aids may help with your job, hobbies, and daily activities such as talking on the phone. A hearing aid often can be programmed to mask tinnitus (a ringing in the ear).

Wearing a hearing aid also shows courtesy to others, because you don't have to keep asking them to repeat what they just said. You can again enjoy talking with your family without extra effort.

Will it be hard to adjust to a hearing aid?

It may take from several weeks to months for you to get used to your hearing aid. You may find that:

  • Your hearing aid makes all sounds louder, and you may hear sounds you have not heard for a long time. Your own voice probably will sound very loud. Background noises such as rustling newspapers, clinking silverware, and other voices may bother you. You will have to learn to filter out unwanted sounds.
  • Your hearing changes as your situation changes. How your hearing aid works will be different when you talk quietly to a friend or spouse, enjoy a family dinner, or attend a presentation with a large group of people. In each situation you will have to learn how to adjust your listening.
  • Your hearing aid can be uncomfortable. It will feel odd in your ear at first and may cause some pain and tenderness in the ear canal. But you do not have to wear it 24 hours a day.

In most cases, you can try a hearing aid for at least 30 days before you buy it to see if it is helpful and if you can adjust to it. If the hearing aid isn't helpful, then you can return it.

If you need more information, see the topic Hearing Aids.

Your choices are:

  • Do not get a hearing aid, and learn how to live with reduced hearing by paying attention to people's gestures, facial expressions, posture, and tone of voice. (These things can help whether you use a hearing aid or not.)
  • Use a hearing aid. First, you will need to see a doctor to find out if your hearing loss can be treated and if a hearing aid will help.

The decision whether to get a hearing aid takes into account your personal feelings and the medical facts.

Deciding about getting a hearing aid

Reasons to get a hearing aid

Reasons to not get a hearing aid

  • A hearing aid can help you hear better and feel connected to others.
  • With a hearing aid, you don't have to keep asking others to repeat what they just said.
  • You need to hear better to do your job and other daily activities.
  • You have a type of hearing loss that can be helped by a hearing aid.
  • Hearing better will make you feel safer when you drive or when you work around home or on the job.
  • A hearing aid often can be programmed to mask tinnitus (a ringing in the ear).

Are there other reasons you might want to get a hearing aid?

  • You think that wearing a hearing aid is embarrassing.
  • You have tried, but you cannot adjust to using a hearing aid.
  • Your insurance does not cover the cost of a hearing aid, and you cannot afford one.
  • You are able to adjust to reduced hearing by paying attention to people's gestures, facial expressions, posture, and tone of voice.
  • You have a type of hearing loss that cannot be corrected with a hearing aid.

Are there other reasons you might not want to get a hearing aid?

These personal stories may help you make your decision.

Use this worksheet to help you make your decision. After completing it, you should have a better idea of how you feel about using a hearing aid. Discuss the worksheet with your doctor.

Circle the answer that best applies to you.

I have trouble hearing. Yes No Unsure
I have talked to an ear, nose, and throat doctor about my hearing problem. Yes No NA
Treating other problems, such as removing earwax or taking medicine for an infection, did not help me hear better. Yes No Unsure
I can live with hearing loss by paying attention to people's gestures, facial expressions, posture, and tone of voice. Yes No Unsure
My hearing problem is affecting relationships with my family, friends, and others. Yes No Unsure

I understand the costs of getting a hearing aid.

Yes No Unsure
I am willing to take the time to adjust to using a hearing aid. Yes No Unsure

*NA=Not applicable

Use the following space to list any other important concerns you have about this decision.

 

 

 

 

 

What is your overall impression?

Your answers in the above worksheet are meant to give you a general idea of where you stand on this decision. You may have one overriding reason to use or not use a hearing aid.

Check the box below that represents your overall impression about your decision.

Leaning toward getting a hearing aid

 

Leaning toward NOT getting a hearing aid

         
Author Monica Rhodes
Editor Kathleen M. Ariss, MS
Associate Editor Pat Truman, MATC
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Donald R. Mintz, MD - Otolaryngology
Last Updated April 22, 2009

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 22, 2009
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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