Whether you're dealing with the after-effects of an ear injury or disease, worked in a noisy environment without proper protection, endured too many loud concerts over the years, or simply suffer from age-related hearing loss, hearing aids could prove just what the doctor (or audiologist) ordered. These small pieces of high-tech gear can help you enjoy life more fully -- but it helps to know what you're getting into. Here are four things you should understand before you buy hearing aids.
1. Smaller Is Not Always "Better"
If you're self-conscious about your hearing loss, it's understandable that you might to seek out the most "invisible" hearing aid possible. You should know, however, that the smallest form factors won't necessarily bring you the best hearing improvement. Each individual has specific needs, and different designs are better at different applications.
2. There Are Good Reasons for the Expense
Why do hearing aids cost thousands of dollars? Several factors go into the pricing of hearing aids, making the seemingly excessive costs pretty much unavoidable. These factors include:
3. PSAPs and Hearing Aids Are Two Different Things
Some people with hearing problems are tempted by advertisements for PSAPs (personal sound amplifying products). These small devices look like hearing aids and amplify incoming sounds at a fraction of the cost of prescribed hearing aids. But they're not a true substitute for their more advanced cousins.
PSAPs were never intended to compensate for faulty hearing. Instead, they're designed for people with completely normal hearing who feel the need for "super-normal" hearing in specific situations. These devices make no allowance for individual hearing issues -- they merely pump up the volume across all frequencies, which under certain circumstances could make hearing even more of a challenge.
It's also important to note that since PSAPs aren't prescribed by an audiologist, their owners aren't likely to have professional guidance as to their safe use. For instance, PSAPs are notorious for providing more low-frequency amplification than most people need to understand conversations more clearly. Your natural response will be to turn up the volume to get more of the higher frequencies -- thus subjecting your ears to excessive (and potentially damaging) low-frequency sound.
4. Hearing Aids Are Not Magical Hearing Restorers
No matter what kind of hearing aid you receive, your audiologist will tell you not to expect a miracle. Hearing aids can be extraordinarily helpful for improving your ability to hear particular frequencies, understand phone conversations, and pinpoint individual voices in a crowded room -- but they can't reverse hearing loss or restore your hearing to exactly where is was before it began to degrade. Understanding the capabilities and limits of these devices will not only help you adjust to them, but it will also help you purchase the product likely to do you the most good.
Now that you have a better understanding of the factors that go into selecting hearing aids, your next step is to consult the experts. Schedule an audiological examination and talk to the audiologist about which type of hearing aid makes the most sense for you.
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