Hearing loss: why is it so misunderstood?

Why Hearing Loss is so Misunderstood?

Your 40’s – hearing loss happens gradually

The reason hearing loss is misunderstood is because it happens so gradually in our lives. The aging process begins to change our hearing in and around our forties. It is so subtle that day after day we do not notice the difference. We wake up every morning, and we hear the same as we did yesterday. We do not believe that anything has changed.

Your 50’s – hearing becomes more difficult

By the time we are 55, we start to notice that it becomes a little more difficult when there are three or four people speaking around us, but we figure it is only the circumstances. In actuality it is a little bit of background noise that is causing the problem. Perhaps, the music is playing a bit too loud even though it did not affect us in our twenties or thirties. Now in our fifties it is, and we point to the circumstances that we are in, not that we have a hearing loss.

Your 60’s – high frequencies are starting to be missed

By the time we are 65, we are beginning to miss parts of speech. High frequencies, where the consonant sounds are, are starting to be missed. People begin to sound like they mumble because we only hear the vowels or they become dominant in the conversation. Over time, background noise, which are low frequencies, begin to dominate our listening environment.

Again, we believe it is only the circumstance. We believe that people do not speak clearly or there is too much noise going on in the background. This is what makes it difficult for us to understand the conversation, or so we believe. We think that we hear just the same today as yesterday, because we have noticed no real change in the last twenty years. Because hearing loss is so gradual, few notice the changes taking place each and every day.

In our twenties, thirties, and forties, long and full conversations were an everyday thing. We could have a conversation while actually doing things. We could move around the kitchen and get things done and still have a deep and meaningful conversation because it was easy to hear and understand all the speech.

What tends to happen when our hearing begins to fail is we begin to misunderstand the subtleties in speech. As we age those subtleties really become a problem as we are now missing certain consonants in the words which make people sound like they mumble. We go from having deep and meaningful conversations to having shorter and less meaningful conversations; and it puts a strain on our relationships. We start to wonder if there is something wrong with the relationship. When it is really that we are losing the ability to have long conversations.

In relationships, with a hearing loss that is not understood, over time those easy, fluid, and wonderful conversations we used to have start to become shortened. Often, someone will start to wonder what happened to their relationship. We used to talk so much and have great communication. It feels like we are falling out of love. It feels like our connection is not there anymore. What is not being recognized is that it is not the relationship. It is the hearing loss that is impacting the relationship.

My message to you is…. get your hearing checked on a regular basis. Your relationships with your spouse, mate grandchildren, children, and friends are worth it! You are worth it! Get your hearing checked.

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How hearing aids benefit us beyond better hearing

Hearing aid benefits

So how does a hearing aid work? Based on your hearing test, the specialist will program it to know which frequencies you hear well and which ones you struggle to hear. A hearing aid uses digital technology to listen to all sound in the listening environment. Then, using that programming it analyzes which frequencies it needs to adjust the amplification to meet your specific hearing ability. By doing this, the hearing aid is correcting and amplifying only the frequencies you need altered, as well as cleaning out distortion and background noises, so you start to hear sounds as close to natural hearing as possible again. Remarkable!

But how does hearing well improve our quality of life? We rely on our hearing to maintain our connection with the world. Hearing is an important part of how we communicate with the people in our lives. It helps us to regulate and orient ourselves in our environment. It acts as our early detection system for danger.

A positive impact on our emotional and social well-being are the most obvious improvements we experience when we take action to improve our hearing, but there are also financial benefits, safety benefits and medical benefits to taking action sooner, rather than waiting until the loss becomes severe.

Being able to hear well increases our level of self-esteem. It allows us to be more confident because we feel competent to make decisions and to participate in conversations. We trust that we understand what is being said to us and we are less intimidated and less concerned that people are talking about us because now we can hear what they are saying. We are even less frustrated and less angry because we feel included and valued. Hearing well improves our interpersonal relationships and that makes a big difference in our happiness.

Safety is a big concern associated with hearing loss. If we cannot hear a warning called out to us, or an alarm, we put ourselves at risk. If we cannot hear a loved one call for help or when they are in danger, we put them at risk. Treating our hearing loss with hearing aids means we have increased our safety and the safety of those in our care. Imagine how differently a situation will turn out if we can hear a fire alarm or a call for help.

Financially, taking action to correct our hearing loss can lead to higher earning power. While still in the working world, a hearing loss can lead to misinformation, misunderstanding instructions and making errors that can jeopardize our job or our chances for advancement. After we retire, hearing loss can affect our finances if we haven’t heard all of the information to make an informed decision about our money. These choices may be about investments or about the items we purchase. Having confidence in our hearing means we can be confident we have the correct information needed to make informed decisions about our finances.

There are so many benefits to hearing well. We all deserve to live a full and happy life, and hearing well is a big part of that.

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Our brain and how we hear.

Hearing loss is a gradual process and usually happens over a period of years. It is sneaky and we often don’t realize how far it has gone until it has gotten greater than a mild loss. The leading causes of hearing loss are ageing and excessive and prolonged exposure to noise; however, there are many other reasons that could cause a hearing loss.

Most people suffer from the sensorineural hearing loss. This means that there is actual nerve damage which is located in the inner ear. Whether the nerves have bent or broken, damaged nerves are not stimulated by sound around you and so they don’t send a signal to the brain. When the hearing centre of the brain is not stimulated, it leads to shrinkage of brain tissue. When the nerves are not being stimulated by sounds around you it leads to auditory deprivation.

Nerve damage is not reversible. However, by using hearing aids, we can change the way sound is sent into the ear and on to the brain where hearing actually happens and this can improve the quality of our hearing. Doing this can significantly slow the progression of damage that causes hearing loss. It also means reactivating the hearing centers in the brain, keeping it active and reducing or stopping the shrinkage of the tissue.

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Why do the cost of hearing aids vary?

The cost of hearing aids – Did you know there are over 1,400 unique models of hearing aids available in Ontario? That’s a lot of hearing aids with many different features and technology levels.

Hearing aids are microcomputers. As with all computers, the speed of processing, size and capabilities related to your specific needs vary the cost. Some hearing aids come with one processor and some with two processors. They process an enormous amount of input information in less than a blink of an eye. Wearing the most advanced hearing aids is like wearing two computers for each ear that are wirelessly linked to acting like a supercomputer! They process input sounds in nanosecond speeds (in case you were wondering that is a millionth of a second), analyze them, and then reconfigure those sounds to transmit information that makes sense for your hearing ability through your ear’s mechanics to your brain.

Hearing loss is as unique as a fingerprint. This means that different hearing aids will benefit each individual differently. A Hearing Instrument Specialist’s task is to gather information to determine which product will provide the optimum benefit to their patient and then make a recommendation to the patient based on that information. In order to make the best recommendation, the Specialist must take the time to learn about the person – How do they spend their time? Who are the people they interact with? What are they hoping to gain by improving their hearing ability? They combine this information with the results of the hearing test to determine which technology level is the ideal level to achieve the patient’s hearing goals. Low-cost technology works well in a quiet one on one setting for most people, but being in a group of friends or family outings and meetings with background noise, changes everything. Higher, faster and greater processing will need to be considered for these noisier situations, which increase the product cost. Again, that’s why we have 1,400 different choices.

There is a lot of misconception about the cost of hearing aids. This seems particularly true in Ontario, where the hearing aid industry is regulated by the Ministry of Health as part of the Prescription Act. But the cost of the hearing aid device itself is only one portion of the final cost – like a prescription at the pharmacy. The truth is that each clinic charges the same manufacturer’s cost price for the same model of hearing aid, but like all of our high tech devices today; the more technology a hearing aid has, the higher its price will be. There are additional fees for services added to the basic device cost and it’s those costs that create the variance by a clinic. You get what you pay for!

Other costs include varied hearing testing, selection of the appropriate device, dispensing fees, verification after the fitting, programming for multiple environments needed specifically to the patient needs, extended warranties, lost, stolen and damage coverage, office and in-home service plans. I’d like to talk about these different costs and, in doing so, I hope to dispel some of the current apprehension around investing in your hearing health.

It is worthwhile to explain that hearing evaluations (tests) are not covered by OHIP in any hearing aid office. In order to keep prices reasonable and fair, Hearing Instrument Practitioners in Ontario are part of a professional association that helps them to regulate their practices, as are Audiologists. The governing body, Association of Hearing Instrument Practitioners of Ontario (AHIP) provides a recommended fee guide that details the maximum cost of any service provided by a hearing clinic, including testing services. This fee guide is posted in each office so you can clearly understand the potential costs. The maximum fee allowed for testing is $84. Each clinic must determine their own fees for testing to that maximum guideline provided by AHIP. Some clinics, like Hear Well Be Well™, offer to test as a free service. There are fees for each service performed by the Specialist and fees are charged when completed. Again, you get what you pay for!

A comprehensive schedule of follow up care and fine tuning programming at regular intervals within the first 90 days compared to a one time follow up visit in the first 30 days will vary the charges for office fees.

In the end, receiving a higher degree of testing, assessment and follow up care is an expense that has a great deal of value.

Office Service Plan

Some clinics offer an Office Service Plan with the purchase of your hearing aids so the cost of future office visits are bundled for lower ultimate cost to you and higher value; and that means you can come in worry-free for assistance with cleaning, repairs, reprogramming or general care and never be out of pocket when you need help. Lower costs and ongoing service when you need it are vital ingredients to a successful hearing aid fitting.

The next item that is built into the final cost of your hearing aids is the warranty. Different manufacturers provide warranties of different lengths, from 1 to 3 years. This warranty covers you for manufactures defects and repairs only. Repair costs are high after the warranty expires so having as long of a warranty is preferable. Hear Well Be Well™ even offers a no charge 5-year extended warranty on some of the products they dispense. The longer the coverage, the more value it provides in the end.

Loss, stolen and damage coverage is also very important and can vary from a one year only, some offer a two year and some will offer a three-year policy at no charge. Warranties are there to help us be prepared for the unexpected – like forgetting to take them out before we dive into a pool, or the dog chewing one to bits!

What about protection for drastic changes in hearing. We don’t expect sudden changes but head injuries in a car accident or a fall, a stroke or even ototoxic medication can cause these sudden changes. Wouldn’t it be comforting to know that if your hearing declined drastically within the next 2 years you would be able to replace your hearing aids with technology that will meet your new needs without paying that bill again? Hear Well Be Well™ has a solution with one of the leading manufacturers at no charge.

And finally, some warranties are only in effect within Canada, while others cover you no matter where you travel internationally. For people who travel outside of Canada, this type of coverage is crucial for peace of mind. Hear Well Be WellTM works with one manufacturer that honours your warranty in 50 countries and has over 1,500 independently owned outlets across Canada and the USA. Now that’s impressive!

Understanding the warranty being provided with your hearing aid is very important and a critical component in the value of the hearing solution you are purchasing. If you are comparison shopping, be sure to understand and compare the features of the warranty of each device you are considering before choosing. Some manufacturers charge $1,000 for extended coverage for one year on each hearing aid and others include three-year coverage free. It makes you wonder which one believes in their product.

When we say “accessories” that can include everything from batteries, to cleaning solutions and other Assistive Listening Devices (ALD’s), like wireless TV streamers and remote microphones. Accessories like TV streamers and remote controls that are included for FREE are actually not free. They are built in costs from the hearing aid manufacturer in the price of the hearing aids so you get them even if you don’t need them or want them. You’re paying for them anyways!

Batteries are the primary consideration when we are thinking about accessories with hearing aids. There are different sizes of batteries as well as different manufacturers and this means each type can last a different amount of time. On average, when properly stored and used, the smallest hearing aid battery will last 3-4 days for a full-time wearer and the largest batteries can last upwards to two weeks or more. Some Hearing Aid Clinics provide you with a package of 4 batteries and others will include a full box of 60 batteries with your hearing aid purchase. So this will vary your total invoice cost. Future cost to replace batteries also varies by the clinic. It’s something to consider when you’re budgeting the ongoing cost of maintaining your hearing aids. (One of the big differences we offer at Hear Well Be Well™ is that we provide 4 years of free batteries with your hearing aid purchase when you buy the first year supply with the hearing aid purchase. Details are available in office).

At the end of the day, there are many components in the price of hearing aids. Understanding hearing aid pricing may help to increase your overall satisfaction with your decision to invest in your hearing. Having confidence that you are getting the best solution for health provides peace of mind that is invaluable. The first step in determining which hearing solution is right for you is always to have a comprehensive hearing test completed. To arrange a free, comprehensive hearing test, please contact us today!

Request a free hearing screening or Take our online hearing test

Good vibrations – our charity concert

Good Vibrations Good Vibrations

We enjoyed a spectacular evening of good old country entertainment, dinner and comradery at the South Huron Recreation Centre on Friday, September 25. Master of Ceremonies Bob Heywood, welcomed almost 200 guests at the first ever Hear Well Be Well™ “GOOD VIBRATIONS”, charity concert. What better way to celebrate hearing well than through the sheer enjoyment of a night of great music, dancing and friends?

The concert benefitted the One Care Easy Ride Program in Huron and Perth Counties. Tickets were $25 and provided guests with a BBQ Pulled Pork dinner along with a night of great music and dancing. Musicians Greg Gallello and Jamie Baldwin kicked off the evening, followed by The Ozark Country Band, and Rosemarie Overholt as they paid tribute to country superstars such as Merle Haggard, John Denver, Dolly Parton and so many more! The crowd was so pleased with the entertainment, they rallied for 3 encores.

Our very own Rosemarie Overholt is the daughter of local sensation Joe Overholt and she expressed that she was “so very proud – not only to be able to honour my father by singing his songs to many of his followers and everyone there – but to be part of the Hear Well Be Well™ family.”

Thanks to the generous support of many local businesses, the silent auction was a huge success. Proceeds will go to ONE CARE Home & Community Support for the One Care Easy Ride Program. One Care provides a wide range of services to help people live in their own homes and communities, including appropriate transportation as one of the essential keys to independent living in Huron and Perth Counties.

Good Vibrations

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Analogue vs. Digital technology

Analogue vs. Digital technology

Prior to the mid-1990s, all hearing aids were analogue. What that means is that hearing aids had a microphone, amplifier and a receiver just like the old rotary dial telephones every house used to have. Today hearing aids are digital. Microphones still receive the sound just as they always have but before they get to the amplifier, they go through digital conversion then manipulation. It is in this place before the amplifier, that the hearing aid filters the noise, the speech and the input signal for loudness levels and determines what needs to come out through the amplifier in order help you hear speech clearly in every listening situation. Digital hearing aids have gone from processing these sounds from milli-seconds to nano-seconds – this means it is a 1,000 times faster today than just a few years ago.

Today, digital hearing aid technology has the ability to hear and filter multiple noises simultaneously, adjust them independently, look at the speech, clarify the speech from multiple directions and put it through the amplifier at your optimal hearing levels to give you the clarity of understanding without lifting a finger. This all gets done at rates above 10 million sounds per second.

While you can still buy analogue hearing aids starting at $280 per aid, why would you?

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