A primer on hearing aids

To the Editor:

My thirty-five years of hearing impairment and wearing hearing aids does not make me an expert on either subject. However, the experience has taught me that there is a vast difference between hearing professionals, such as professionally trained audiologists, and hearing aid companies, such as the one which opened recently in Vineyard Haven and has flooded many of us with direct mail and newspaper advertising.

Over the years, friends who have found that their hearing seems to be going downhill have asked me to help them determine how to approach the problem and find their solution.

The first thing I tell them is that the mission of a hearing aid company is to sell a particular brand of hearing aid, whereas the mission of an audiologist is to evaluate (not just screen) the hearing problem and suggest optional solutions which may or may not include an aid. A complete diagnostic evaluation is often covered by insurance.

Secondly, if the problem is due to excessive wax, one has to go to an ear MD for wax removal.

Third, very few hearing aids are sold at the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, so beware of special price promotions, which really are not unusual or so special.

Fourth, most hearing aid manufacturers use feedback and noise management systems, so the availability of one is not unusual.

And finally, an “invisible” hearing aid is simply one that is set completely in the ear canal. They are produced by many hearing aid companies and have been available for many years.

Having a hearing problem and wearing aids is not the most comfortable way to live, even if the impairment is only the loss of high range sound. One’s expectations of hearing aids are often unrealistic. Unlike eyeglasses which can help one recover 20/20 vision, aids do not create perfect hearing, but they can help significantly if one starts with a thorough diagnostic evaluation by a professionally trained audiologist.

Ned OrleansVineyard Haven