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50+: Live Better, Longer

Listen Up: Hearing Aids Are Effective!

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Overall, participants preferred the compression limiter and wide dynamic range compressor types of circuits to the linear peak clipper, but all three provided benefits compared with unaided hearing.

Hearing aids are a treatment choice for hearing loss, and patients with hearing loss should be referred by their primary care doctor for an assessment and evaluation by an audiologist or an otolaryngologist, Beck says.

"People with hearing loss should work with a professional to have the characteristics of amplifying circuits fitted to compensate for their individual hearing loss and listening needs," she adds.

Beck suggests setting hearing goals such as "I want to hear in noisy situations," "I want to hear my grandchildren," "I want to eat dinner in a restaurant and hear what people are saying," or "I want to communicate effectively in my job." Then patients can be properly fitted and evaluated for a hearing aid.

"Many hearing aids are programmable and have different circuits, and professionals will work with you to fine-tune the characteristics," she tells WebMD. "You participate in your rehabilitation."

In addition, "hearing aids have improved significantly and are much more cosmetically acceptable," she says. "They are very small and comfortable but, of course, we shouldn't let cosmetics be more important than communication," Beck says.

According to Seth Dank, MA, CCC-A, a New York state-licensed audiologist, today's patients have numerous choices of size and technology, from basic amplifiers that have been around for 20 years, to modern-day digital hearing aids.

"It does take a while for someone to realize that they are experiencing hearing loss. Usually family members or friends might notice first. Hearing loss is a gradual process, and sometimes the person who has a loss gets used to it, so it is not noticeable to them," he says.

Usually people with hearing loss have some problems communicating and/or hearing people talking or hearing the television, or they may feel like they can hear but can't understand, Dank says.

But help is available.

"Once you notice hearing loss, come in to an audiologist for an evaluation where he or she will run several basic tests to determine the cause of the hearing loss and the degree of the problem," he says.

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