Hearing Aids Work, but Only if You Do
Consumer Reports: Hearing Aid Is Only Part of Hearing Restoration Process
Hearing Loss Treatment continued...
"There are all kinds of different causes of hearing loss: It could be earwax, it could be an ear infection, or something more serious than hearing loss caused by dying of hair cells in the ear canal, which is the cause of most age-related hearing loss," Stanger says. "That is the reason why it's important to go to a medical doctor first to find out what really is the cause of your hearing loss."
But once you know your hearing loss isn't due to a treatable condition, you have other options. Just under one in five people surveyed by Consumer Reports went to a name-brand hearing aid store, while 30% went to independent hearing-treatment providers -- non-MD hearing professionals.
Consumer Reports warns that not all hearing professionals are equal. Audiologists generally must have a doctoral degree (usually the AuD), pass national tests, and have extensive clinical training. Hearing-aid specialists have from six months to two years of supervised training or a two-year college degree, and in most states must pass licensing tests.
However, the study found that both types of hearing professionals made mistakes in fitting the hearing aids that the 12 shoppers bought. About two-thirds of the time, they ended up with the wrong hearing aid settings.
Which hearing aid was best? The testers from Consumer Reports found that the behind-the-ear, open-fit models worked best for the vast majority of people. But they weren't cheap; these models range in price from $1,850 to $2,700 apiece.
Consumer Reports did not compare brands, but it did test some nonprescription hearing aids. These were inexpensive, but Consumer Reports gave them low marks.
How to Hear Better With Your Hearing Aid
Hearing rehabilitation is much more than getting fitted with the proper hearing aid, says Boothroyd, now scholar in residence at San Diego State University.
"The one factor that always emerges from hearing-rehabilitation studies is the time people spend practicing," Boothroyd says. "A lot of people, depending on their personality, will not be deterred, and they will spend time doing what needs to be done. Others will be intimidated and will withdraw from communication situations. For them, it might be better to have formal training materials."