The Problem with Hearing Aids

by Dr. Clint Keifer, FLT Columnist

Hearing aids sometimes get a bad reputation. Bad examples stand out like a sore thumb. It can then be surprising to learn that a highly successful individual wears them (and it likely was not obvious). Why so much variation? Success with hearing aids boils down to a few major factors: your hearing loss, the skill of the provider, and your motivation.

Hearing Loss: Communication problems and hearing losses are very individual; and some issues are more easily helped than others, so what works for your friend may not be appropriate for you. While there are certain conditions where hearing aids should not be recommended, the majority of permanent hearing loss can be helped by appropriately fit hearing aids. The key here is establishing realistic goals and obtaining proper audiologic services to maximize hearing and communication benefit.

Provider Skill: Although this seems like common sense, the importance of provider skill is often overlooked. This is probably the unfortunate result of poor awareness and the overwhelmingly product-driven advertising campaigns from hearing aid dealers and manufacturers. These ads tell you that if you buy the latest technology, all your problems will be solved. The danger is that the device is just a PART of the answer–so spending a lot of money on a good product can absolutely yield very poor outcomes. In truth, an appropriately fit and optimized basic hearing aid can far outperform an inappropriately fit and adjusted high-end instrument (which often ends up in a drawer). The knowledge and skill of your provider makes a significant difference in the benefit you will receive. It’s best to check provider credentials (look for a licensed audiologist) and, if it ever sounds like a sales pitch, it probably is.

Motivation: Finally, the most important factor is you. While detecting sounds is the job of the ear, our complete sense of hearing is a process which heavily involves our brain. A change and improvement to our sensory system requires a “recalibration” adjustment from our brains which takes some time, effort, and understanding. This is a rehabilitative process. Possessing proper motivation and awareness to find a great provider, internalize evaluation results and recommendations, set realistic expectations, and follow-through with the rehabilitation plan allows for a positively life-changing scenario to occur. Get motivated and see your audiologist!

Dr. Clint Keifer is the owner of Great Lakes Audiology in Toledo. You can contact him at 419 327-2273; email at ckeifer@glaudiology.com; or visit www.GLAudiology.com.