How to Choose the Best Hearing Aid for You

Hearing loss is widespread throughout the country. Approximately 20 percent of people in Lake Charles experience some degree of hearing impairment. Fortunately, the majority of them will benefit from hearing aids. Unfortunately, this means the majority of them will be faced with the difficult task of choosing a hearing aid. There are almost as many hearing aids as there are used cars in a typical lot!

Hearing Aid Factors to Consider

A line full of closed doors to choose from

There may be roughly a bazillion hearing aids available but narrowing it down to a few hundred isn’t as difficult as it might seem.

Actually, you can do better than that. Finding your perfect hearing aid depends upon the following factors:

  • Your type and degree of hearing loss.

    Just as no two snowflakes are identical, the same applies to hearing loss. Your Lake Charles audiologist will schedule a comprehensive hearing evaluation to determine the severity and frequency of your impairment, a critical first step in finding a hearing aid that will meet your unique needs.

  • Your lifestyle.

    Whether you’re a social butterfly who enjoys catching the latest movie or dining out with friends in fancy restaurants, or prefer quiet evenings at home in the intimate company of – well, yourself – there is a hearing aid designed for your lifestyle. No need paying for expensive features you don’t need and won’t use; conversely, an under-equipped hearing aid is likely to end up sitting in a drawer at home. It certainly won’t do you any good there!

  • Your cosmetic preferences.

    Your hearing aids won’t make a bit of difference unless you wear them, so it’s important to choose a style you find appealing. If you’re shy about your hearing loss and wish to conceal your hearing aids, you’ll want discreet ones that are hidden from others. If you’re the type who doesn’t mind flaunting them, a more visible option might be right up your alley. The important thing is to find a pair that will give your self-confidence a boost.

  • Your budget.

    It’s all about dollars and sense. Hearing aids aren’t the cheapest devices in the world, so pricing is undoubtedly a factor. But don’t let it be the only factor: the most important thing is selecting a pair that will address your hearing needs, so you’ll benefit from them.

We get it – that’s still a lot to take in. While these factors should help you narrow down your options, your Lake Charles audiologist is happy to help in the final decision-making process. We urge you to schedule an appointment for a consultation and to ask as many questions as possible before taking the plunge.

3 Ways Hearing Aids Can Prevent Cognitive Decline

abstract graphic of brain

In 2013, Johns Hopkins University researcher and epidemiologist Dr. Frank Lin led a study which was the first to evaluate the potential impact of hearing loss on mental performance.

Participants with hearing loss took recurring cognitive examinations, used to evaluate memory and thinking skills, over the span of six years. Hearing tests were also conducted over the same time frame.

What the researchers discovered was concerning: those with hearing loss had cognitive abilities that diminished 30 to 40 percent faster than those with normal hearing, even after accounting for other contributing factors like age, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

But that wasn’t everything. Not only did people with hearing loss suffer from higher rates of cognitive decline—the decline was directly associated to the severity of the hearing loss. The more serious the hearing loss, the greater impairment to brain function. Additionally, those with hearing loss displayed signals of appreciable cognitive impairment 3.2 years sooner than those with normal hearing.

The research depicts a deep connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline, but the question persists as to how hearing loss can lead to cognitive decline.

How Hearing Loss Causes Cognitive Decline

Researchers have offered three explanations for the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline:

  1. Hearing loss can bring about social isolation, which is a well-known risk factor for cognitive decline.
  2. Hearing loss forces the brain to invest too many resources to the processing of sound, at the expense of memory and thinking.
  3. A common underlying trauma to the brain causes both hearing loss and decreased brain function.

Possibly it’s a collection of all three. What is evident is that, regardless of the cause, the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline is powerful.

The question now becomes, what can we do about it? Experts estimate that 27 million Americans over age 50, including two-thirds of men and women aged 70 years and older, are suffering from some type of hearing loss. Is there a way those with hearing loss can prevent or overturn cognitive decline?

How Hearing Aids Could Help

Recall the three ways that hearing loss is believed to cause hastened cognitive decline. Now, contemplate how hearing aids could resolve or correct those causes:

  1. Individuals with hearing aids boost their social confidence, become more socially active, and the consequences of social isolation—and its contribution to brain decline—are lessened or eliminated.
  2. Hearing aids protect against the overtaxing impact of struggling to hear. Mental resources are freed up for memory and thinking.
  3. Hearing aids present heightened sound stimulation to the brain, helping to re-create neural connections.

Admittedly, this is mainly theoretical, and the big question is: does utilizing hearing aids, in fact, slow or protect against accelerated mental decline, and can we measure this?

The answer may be discovered in an upcoming study by Dr. Frank Lin, the lead researcher of the initial study. Lin is working on the first clinical trial to study whether hearing aids can be objectively measured to prevent or minimize brain decline.

Stay tuned for the results of this study, which we’ll cover on our blog once published.

Hearing Aids Shown to Enhance Memory and Speech Comprehension

Group thinking, memory

Have you ever taken a course, or attended a lecture, where the information was delivered so rapidly or in so complicated a manner that you learned next to nothing? If so, your working memory was likely overloaded over and above its total capacity.

The limitations of working memory

We all process information in three steps: 1) sensory information is received, where it is 2) either ignored or temporarily retained in working memory, and last, 3) either discarded or stored in long-term memory.

The problem is, there is a limit to the amount of information your working memory can hold. Picture your working memory as an empty glass: you can fill it with water, but after it’s full, additional water just pours out the side.

That’s why, if you’re talking to someone who’s preoccupied or focused on their cell phone, your words are simply flowing out of their already occupied working memory. So you have to repeat yourself, which they’ll be aware of only when they clear their cognitive cup, dedicating the mental resources necessary to fully understand your message.

Hearing loss and working memory

So what does this have to do with hearing loss? When it comes to speech comprehension, just about everything.

If you have hearing loss, especially high-frequency hearing loss (the most typical), you likely have problems hearing the higher-pitched consonant sounds of speech. Consequently, it’s easy to misunderstand what is said or to miss out on words completely.

But that’s not all. In addition to not hearing some spoken words, you’re also taxing your working memory as you attempt to perceive speech using complementary information like context and visual signs.

This continual processing of incomplete information burdens your working memory beyond its capability. And to complicate things, as we grow older, the volume of our working memory decreases, exacerbating the effects.

Working memory and hearing aids

Hearing loss burdens working memory, creates stress, and impedes communication. But what about hearing aids? Hearing aids are supposed to enhance hearing, so in theory hearing aids should clear up working memory and improve speech comprehension, right?

That’s precisely what Jamie Desjardins, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Speech-Language Pathology Program at The University of Texas at El Paso, was about to find out.

DesJardins studied a group of individuals in their 50s and 60s with bilateral hearing loss who had never worn hearing aids. They took an initial cognitive test that measured working memory, attention, and processing speed, before ever putting on a pair of hearing aids.

After utilizing hearing aids for two weeks, the group retook the test. What DesJardins found was that the group participants demonstrated appreciable enhancement in their cognitive aptitude, with better short-term recollection and quicker processing speed. The hearing aids had broadened their working memory, reduced the amount of information tied up in working memory, and helped them accelerate the speed at which they processed information.

The implications of the study are wide ranging. With improved cognitive function, hearing aid users could witness enhancement in almost every aspect of their lives. Better speech comprehension and memory can improve conversations, strengthen relationships, enhance learning, and stimulate productivity at work.


This experiment is one that you can test out for yourself. Our hearing aid trial period will enable you to run your own no-risk experiment to see if you can accomplish the same improvements in memory and speech comprehension.

Are you up for the challenge?

A Brief Guide to Hearing Aids

Small digital hearing aid in hand

Hearing aid guides are not hard to find, but most are not exactly reader-friendly, either. Many are simply too long or complex, creating more confusion rather than less.

My guess is that you’re much less interested in the physiology of hearing or in the particulars of acoustical engineering and a lot more interested in determining the proper technology at a reasonable price. Your intent is to hear better, not to read a 20-page manual.

If that represents you, then you’ll welcome this brief guide to hearing aids. We’ll review four brief parts, and when we’re finished, you’ll be set to work with your hearing care professional to find the technology that’s best for you. Let’s get started.

How All Digital Hearing Aids Work

Selecting a hearing aid can seem overwhelming—there are a number of brands and seemingly never-ending factors to consider. But it’s really not as complex as it seems. As you move forward through this guide, keep in mind that all digital hearing aids work generally the same way, and include these four fundamental parts:

  1. The microphone picks up external sound and delivers it to the digital processor.
  2. The digital processor modifies the sound signal based on the settings programmed by the hearing specialist. The modified sound signal is then transmitted to the amplifier.
  3. The amplifier increases the volume of the sound based on the programmed settings, amplifying only the frequencies the individual has difficulty hearing (while suppressing background noise). This signal is then sent to the speaker.
  4. The speaker delivers the magnified sound to the ear, resulting in louder, clearer sound.

In addition, all hearing aids contain a battery, volume and setting buttons, and remote controls.

Hearing aids really only differ in two essential ways: 1) style, and 2) advanced features. We’ll cover these in the next two sections.

Hearing Aid Styles

You have your choice of three principal styles:

1. Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids hook over the top of the ear and rest behind the ear. The case is then connected to an earmold in the ear canal by a piece of clear tubing. BTE hearing aids are convenient to handle and maintain, normally have a longer battery life, and can handle severe hearing loss.

2. In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids fill the external part of the ear with a custom-molded shell. ITE hearing aids are smaller than the behind-the-ear hearing aids but larger than the in-the-canal styles. This renders ITE hearing aids easier to handle than the smaller styles but less conspicuous than the BTE style.

3. In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids and completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids fit partly or entirely within the ear canal, causing them to be nearly or completely invisible. ITC and CIC hearing aids are custom molded to the contours of the ear, and some can be worn for several months at a time.

When selecting a style, take into account the tradeoffs among simplicity of use, battery life, and concealment. Your hearing care expert will help you prioritize your preferences and select the appropriate style.

Hearing Aid Advanced Features and Accessories

Once you’ve selected the most suitable style, you can figure out which of the following features you need—and which you don’t.

  • Directional microphones enable you to focus on the sounds and conversations directly in front of you while lessening the interruption of loud background noise.
  • Telecoils, or T-coils, allow you to talk on the phone while cutting down on the static caused by background noise.
  • Environmental noise control allows you to optimize hearing based on your environment, for example in a tranquil room at home as opposed to in a hectic restaurant.
  • Direct input to sound sources such as TVs, radios, computers, and music players allow for clear sound without background noise.
  • Wireless connection to mobile phones turns your hearing aids into top quality wireless headphones. The hearing aid settings can be controlled from the phone (or digital watch), and sound can be wirelessly streamed directly from the phone to the hearing aids.

Optional accessories include cleaning kits, storage cases, ultraviolet sanitizers, battery-changers, and more. Your hearing care professional can help you decide on which you may need or want.

Selecting the Right Hearing Aids

Before investing in hearing aids, take these four steps:

  1. Find a reputable, local hearing care professional. Only professionals with adequate experience can assess your hearing accurately, which is essential for when it comes time to program, fit, and fine-tune your hearing aids.
  2. Discuss hearing aid styles and advanced features. Your selection of hearing aids will depend on your preference of style and functionality. Discuss these two facets with your hearing professional and your options will become manageable.
  3. Develop a budget. Some would say that your hearing is priceless, but that doesn’t imply you have a limitless budget. With all of the hearing aid options available to you, you and your hearing specialist can find the right hearing aid at a reasonable price.
  4. Test out your new hearing aids. Ask about trial periods and test out your new hearing aids. Work with your hearing specialist to set reasonable expectations and give your hearing aids an opportunity to work. Your patience will be rewarded when you recognize the difference better hearing will make in your life.

And that’s it. What seems to be a complicated process is in fact easily workable, once you understand how to prioritize your needs and narrow your choices. With the help of your local hearing care professional, you can uncover the most appropriate technology at the right price—so you can start enjoying all of the benefits of better hearing.

What Makes Modern Hearing Aids Better?

Digital Hearing Aid

Technology changes quickly: in 2005, the average 40-inch flat screen television would’ve cost you more than $1,500. Today, 10 years later, you can find a 40-inch flat screen TV for around $230.

The same has happened with hearing aids, even though it’s more likely to escape our notice. We take note that TVs become bigger, better, and more affordable, but we’re blind to the enhancements in hearing aids because we’re not bombarded with advertising and massive store displays.

Nonetheless, hearing aids, along with all other consumer electronics, have improved drastically over the last 10 years. If analog hearing aids are like the bulky 15-inch-tube-TVs of the past, today’s digital hearing aids are like the lightweight 65-inch-Ultra-High-Definition TVs of the present.

Here’s what makes modern hearing aids significantly better, beginning with the technology that makes it all achievable.

Digital Technology

Hearing aids, like all electronic devices, have reaped the benefits of the digital revolution. Hearing aids have come to be, in a sense, miniaturized computers, with all of the programming flexibility you’d expect from a contemporary computer.

The consequence is a gadget that is small, light-weight, energy efficient, and capable of manipulating information—information being, in the instance of a hearing aid, sound.

So how do modern-day hearing aids manipulate sound? Let’s use an analogy: think of inbound sound as incoming mail and the digital hearing aid as a mailroom.

As mail is collected, it’s identified, labeled, stored, and ultimately delivered to the appropriate recipients. In the same way, digital hearing aids can take incoming sound and can label specific frequencies to be delivered to the amplifier. Speech sounds, for example, can be identified as essential and sent to the speaker for amplification. Similarly, background noise can be marked as “undeliverable” and returned.

Analog hearing aids lacked this “mailroom” feature. Incoming sound is delivered all at once—like if the mail clerk were to give you everyone’s mail and you had to sort through the clutter yourself to find your own. Speech simply gets lost in the mix with background noise, and you have to work tirelessly to dig it out.

Hearing Aid Advanced Features

Digital handling of information is the key to everything a modern hearing aid can do. Here are some of the advanced features associated with contemporary hearing aids that digital technology makes possible:

  • Speech recognition – digital hearing aids can recognize and boost speech with digital processing and directional microphones.
  • Background noise suppression – background noise is a lower frequency sound, which the hearing aid can recognize and suppress.
  • Clearer phone calls – telecoil technology amplifies the signal from your phone, resulting in clear sound without interference.
  • Wireless streaming – hearing aids equipped with Bluetooth technology can link to devices wirelessly, so you can stream music, phone calls, and TV programs directly to your hearing aids.
  • Wireless control – compatible hearing aids can be operated with smart phones and digital watches, so you can easily and subtly adjust volume and settings.

Trial Your New Digital Hearing Aids

As you have seen, digital hearing aids are impressive pieces of modern technology. That’s why virtually all instances of hearing loss can now be efficiently treated, and why most people are satisfied with the performance of their hearing aids.

If you’d like to test out this new technology for yourself, give us a call and inquire about our hearing aid trial period.

5 Questions to Ask Before Buying Hearing Aids

Hearing Test

Congratulations on taking the first step toward better hearing by booking your hearing assessment. You’re already ahead of the game, as most people delay getting a hearing test for years—in some cases decades.

But now that you’ve arranged your hearing test, you’ll want to see to it that you’re prepared for the visit, particularly if test results indicate that you might benefit from hearing aids. Selecting hearing aids can be complex, but if you ask the right questions, your hearing care professional can help point you to the right technology.

To attain the best hearing you can, remember to ask these five questions at your upcoming hearing test.

1. What type of hearing loss do I have?

Your hearing care professional will test your hearing using the most current technology, and the results of the test will be printed on a graph known as an audiogram. See to it that your hearing professional reviews the audiogram with you and clarifies:

  • The type and severity of your hearing loss. High-frequency hearing loss is most common, and is categorized as mild, moderate, severe, or profound.
  • How hearing aids can help, and if and why you’d need hearing aids for one or both ears. Hearing loss in both ears is most effectively addressed with two hearing aids, and the audiogram will show the results for both ears.

2. Which hearing aid is most suitable for my needs?

Every patient’s hearing loss and hearing requirements are unique. The more your hearing professional knows about your way of life, the better they can recommend the suitable technology.

If you’re fairly active, for example, you may look into the most up-to-date hearing aid technology with wireless functionality. If you don’t require all of the special features, on the other hand, a more practical option is probably a better fit.

3. What are my financing options?

Next up is everyone’s least popular topic—price. Although you should take into account that the benefits of hearing aids far surpass the cost (the monthly cost in most cases being less than the cable TV bill), the price can still seem high.

Several financing possibilities are available that can help you cover the expense, although not all options are available to every individual. Still, you should talk to your hearing professional regarding some of these options:

  • private insurance (uncommon but worth asking about)
  • Medicare and Medicaid
  • Veterans Administration benefits
  • charitable organizations
  • state programs
  • financing options (special healthcare credit arrangements)

4. How can I most effectively adapt to my new hearing aids?

After you’ve picked out your preferred hearing aids and have had them expertly fit, you can go home and immediately hear perfectly without any problems, correct?

Not exactly. Just like anything new, you’ll need to have some time to adapt. You’ll be experiencing sounds you haven’t heard for some time, your voice may sound different, and the fit of the hearing aid may feel unpleasant. This is completely normal and expected, and will resolve itself in a short amount of time. You simply have to be patient.

Make sure your hearing professional provides advice on how to best adapt to your hearing aids, including how to operate them and how to learn the features.

5. How do I take care of my hearing aids?

Hearing aids are high-tech and dependable devices that should function reliably for years. Still, they will require regular cleaning and care. Talk to your hearing professional about cleaning products and procedures, storage methods, accessories, and battery management.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to have your hearing practitioner professionally clean your hearing aids a couple of times a year.


As you get ready for your hearing test, remember that achieving the best outcome requires:

  1. understanding your hearing loss
  2. coordinating your hearing loss and lifestyle to the right technology
  3. selecting an affordable solution based on your budget
  4. professionally fitting and programming your new hearing aids
  5. adapting to and maintaining your hearing aids

With the assistance of your local hearing care professional—and by asking the right questions—you can ensure the best outcome and a life of better hearing.

How Hearing Aids Can Keep Your Brain Young

Graphic of brain
Photo credit: flickr Saad Faruque

Twentieth century neuroscience has uncovered something quite amazing: specifically that your brain can change itself well into your adult years. Whereas in the early 1900s it was presumed that the brain stopped changing in adolescence, we now acknowledge that the brain reacts to change throughout life.

Neuroplasticity

To appreciate exactly how your brain changes, think of this comparison: imagine your normal daily route to work. Now suppose that the route is blocked and how you would respond. You wouldn’t simply surrender, turn around, and go back home; rather, you’d look for an alternate route. If that route happened to be more efficient, or if the primary route remained closed, the new route would become the new routine.

Equivalent processes are going on in your brain when a “normal” function is obstructed. The brain reroutes its processing along new pathways, and this re-routing process is regarded as neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity comes in handy for grasping new languages, new skills like juggling, or new healthier behavior. As time goes by, the physical changes to the brain correspond to the new behaviors and once-challenging tasks become automatic.

But while neuroplasticity can be useful, there’s another side that can be hazardous. While learning new skills and healthy habits can make a favorable impact on our lives, learning bad habits can have the reverse effect.

Neuroplasticity and Loss of Hearing

Hearing loss is an example of how neuroplasticity can have a negative impact. As covered in The Hearing Review, researchers from the University of Colorado discovered that the part of the brain devoted to hearing can become reorganized and reassigned to different functions, even with initial-stage hearing loss. This is thought to clarify the interconnection between hearing loss and cognitive decline.

With hearing loss, the portions of our brain responsible for other capabilities, like vision or touch, can solicit the under-utilized areas of the brain responsible for hearing. Because this diminishes the brain’s available resources for processing sound, it damages our capability to understand speech.

So, if you have hearing loss and find yourself saying “what was that?” a lot, it’s not just because of the injury to your inner ear—it’s partly caused by the structural changes to your brain.

How Hearing Aids Can Help

Like most things, there is a both a negative and a positive side to our brain’s potential to change. While neuroplasticity aggravates the effects of hearing loss, it also expands the performance of hearing aids. Our brain can build new connections, regenerate cells, and reroute neural paths. That means increased stimulation from hearing aids to the parts of the brain in charge of hearing will promote growth and development in this area.

In fact, a recently published long-term study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society uncovered that using hearing aids lessens cognitive decline in people with hearing loss. The study, titled Self-Reported Hearing Loss: Hearing Aids and Cognitive Decline in Elderly Adults: A 25-year Study, followed 3,670 adults age 65 and older over a 25 year time period. The study found that the rate of cognitive decline was greater in those with hearing loss as compared to those with healthy hearing. But the participants with hearing loss who used hearing aids showed no difference in the rate of cognitive decline compared to those with normal hearing.

The appeal of this study is that it concurs with what we already know regarding neuroplasticity: that the brain will reorganize itself according to its needs and the stimulation it gets.

Keeping Your Brain Young

In summary, research demonstrates that the brain can change itself all through life, that hearing loss can speed up cognitive decline, and that utilizing hearing aids can prevent or minimize this decline.

But hearing aids can achieve a lot more than that. As stated by brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, you can boost your brain function irrespective of age by engaging in challenging new activities, keeping yourself socially active, and practicing mindfulness, among other approaches.

Hearing aids can help with this too. Hearing loss tends to make people withdraw socially and can have an isolating influence. But by wearing hearing aids, you can make sure that you continue being socially active and continue to stimulate the sound processing and language regions of your brain.

5 Tips For Getting the Most Out of Your New Hearing Aids

Hearing Aid Fitting

Congratulations—you’re set to join the millions of Americans who have discovered how wearing hearing aids can make life much more exciting and rewarding. In the near future, you’ll be listening to sounds you’ve long forgotten, participating in stimulating discussions, and listening to music with enhanced discernment for each instrument.

But before you can get to all that, you’ll have to endure a brief period of adjustment to get used to your new hearing aids. Here are five suggestions to to assist you to push through this stage and to help you get the maximum benefit out of your new technology.

1. Visit a Hearing Care Professional

If you wish to have the best hearing attainable, there’s no way around the first step, which is visiting a hearing care expert. They can assist you in finding the right hearing aid that matches your hearing loss, lifestyle, and financial position. And, most of all, they can custom-fit and program your new hearing aid so that it’s optimized for your unique hearing loss.

Your hearing loss, like a fingerprint, is unique. That means every hearing aid should always be programmed differently—and this calls for the skill-set of a hearing care professional.

2. Give Your Hearing Aids a Chance

Your brand new hearing aids will take some getting used to. You’ll detect sounds you haven’t listened to in some time, your voice may sound different, and sound may in general just seem “off.” This is perfectly ordinary: you simply need time to adjust.

Start by making a commitment to wear your hearing aids for as much of the day as possible, for at a minimum a few weeks. Put them in when you wake up and take them out before bed. Although it may be awkward initially, you’ll adjust to better hearing in no time—and it will be well worth the effort.

If you discover that you’re having problems adjusting, arrange an appointment with your hearing care professional. Hearing aids can be fine-tuned, so you never have to give up on better hearing.

3. Start Small

We suggest adjusting to your hearing aids to start with in the comfort of your home. Attempt watching a movie or TV show and paying special attention to the conversation; take part in one-on-one conversations in a quiet room; and listen to music while attempting to identify various instruments and pitches.

Then, when you’re more comfortable, you can test your hearing aids out in more complex environments like at social gatherings, restaurants, and movie theaters. Modern hearing aids come with sophisticated features and environmental settings that can easily handle these increased listening demands—which segues perfectly to the fourth tip.

4. Learn the Advanced Features

After you’ve adapted to your hearing aids, you should continue to learn some of the more sophisticated features. With the help of your hearing specialist, you can learn how to maximize the functionality and convenience of your modern hearing aids.

Depending on your specific model, you’ll be able to do things like wirelessly stream music and phone calls straight to your hearing aids, control the volume from your mobile device or digital watch, and effortlessly change settings to maximize your hearing in different environments. Be sure to talk to your hearing specialist about all the features that may be helpful to you.

5. Care For Your Hearing Aids

Finally, you’ll want to make sure that you safeguard your hearing aids. This implies daily cleaning, appropriate storage, and managing your battery supply. Your hearing specialist will help you combine hearing aid maintenance and care into your daily routine so that it becomes automatic and effortless.

You’ll also want to get your hearing aids professionally cleaned and assessed one or two times annually to ensure proper performance for years to come.


We’d like to hear from you: if you presently have hearing aids, tell us about your experience! Let us know how you adapted to your hearing aids and any recommendations you’d give to those just getting started.

5 Reasons To Choose a Hearing Aid Over a PSAP

Hearing Aids

You have probably watched the advertisements. The ones marketing PSAPs, or personal sound amplification products, ensuring a boost to hearing for as little as 20 dollars. It seems like a fantastic deal—particularly when compared to the hefty selling price of a hearing aid.

The truth is, it’s not so much a great deal as it is shrewd marketing. The ads do their best to hide some very important information while concentrating on carefully selected talking points.

But the question remains: why would you choose to spend more money on a hearing aid when cheaper PSAPs are readily available? Here are five reasons.

1. PSAPs are not FDA-regulated medical devices

Listen carefully to the PSAP commercials. You’ll hear all about “boosts” to hearing but never about actually treating hearing loss. The reason: PSAPs are not FDA-regulated medical devices and cannot be used to treat any medical ailment, including hearing loss. PSAPs are merely recreational devices intended to produce advantages to those who can already hear normally.

Making use of a PSAP to treat hearing loss is like purchasing a pair of reading glasses to treat near and far-sighted vision impairment. Hearing aids, on the other hand, are FDA-regulated medical devices that can properly treat hearing loss.

2. PSAPs are not programmable

Hearing aids may not look very impressive on the outside, but inside they include advanced digital technology that can slice up, store, adjust, and control any kind of sound. Hearing aids can also make modifications for pitch and volume so that amplification matches the patient’s hearing loss exactly.

A PSAP, in comparison, is a one-size-fits-all electronic gadget that amplifies soft sounds. Since everyone’s hearing loss is slightly different, PSAPs won’t amplify the correct frequencies. Instead, PSAPs will amplify all sound, creating distortion in noisy settings.

3. PSAPs can’t enhance speech

Speech sounds are unique in that they are mostly represented in the higher frequencies, especially in comparison to background noises. Because digital hearing aids can detect variations in sound frequency, hearing aids can amplify speech while repressing background noise. PSAPs, by and large, are lacking this capability.

4. PSAPs could cost you more in the end

To begin with, hearing loss is in some cases brought about by factors that do not require hearing amplification at all. If, for instance, earwax accumulation is triggering your hearing loss, an easy professional cleaning can restore your hearing within a matter of minutes—and without a cent spent on any amplification products.

Second, sometimes more significant medical ailments can result in hearing loss, so you’ll want a professional assessment to rule this out. Because you can purchase a PSAP without any interaction with any healthcare specialists, you could be putting yourself in real danger.

Third, if you do have noise-induced or age-related hearing loss, a PSAP will not work the way you would need it to. You’ll most likely purchase a hearing aid sooner or later anyway, so you might as well bypass the extra cost of the PSAP.

And finally, compared with hearing aids, there is no mandatory trial period for PSAPs. If you purchase one and it doesn’t get the job done, there’s no legal guarantee that you’ll regain your money.

5. PSAPs lack the functionality of a hearing aid

PSAPs, like we said, are simple amplification devices stripped of any enhanced functionality. Hearing aids, in contrast, can enhance speech, reduce background noise, and accommodate to different environments. Several hearing aid models can even wirelessly stream phone calls and music, and some can be controlled with smartphones and watches.

The choice is yours

PSAPs do have their uses. If you have healthy hearing, PSAPs are great for things like bird watching and eavesdropping on conversations, if that’s your sort of thing.

But for hearing loss, don’t settle for less than you deserve. Your hearing, and the relationships that depend on it, are too important.

The Real Cost of Hearing loss

If you had the potential to avoid or reduce the risk of cognitive decline as you grew older, how much would you be inclined to pay for it?

What would you say to $15 per week? That’s about the cost of an expertly-programmed pair of hearing aids, which the most recent research shows can diminish the risk of cognitive decline in seniors with hearing loss.

Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that “self-reported hearing loss is associated with accelerated cognitive decline in older adults; hearing aid use attenuates such decline.”

The study shadowed 3,670 adults age 65 and older during a 25 year duration. The study found that the rate of cognitive decline was larger in those with hearing loss compared with those with normal hearing. But the participants with hearing loss who utilized hearing aids demonstrated no difference in the level of cognitive decline compared with those with normal hearing.

Several studies out of Johns Hopkins University have likewise demonstrated that hearing loss is associated with hastened cognitive decline, depression, and in some cases even dementia.
So, hearing loss can lead to hastened rates of cognitive decline, but using hearing aids can deter this decline. The question is, how does hearing loss lead to cognitive decline?

A generally supported theory is that hearing loss has a tendency to diminish social interaction and stimulation to the auditory components of the brain, leading to changes in brain chemistry and structure. These modifications are thought to account for the drop in cognitive function as well as the onset of depressive signs and symptoms.

Hearing Loss and Mortality

An additional study out of Johns Hopkins University analyzed 1,666 adults age 70 or older who had received a hearing examination. The participants were put into three categories: (1) no hearing loss, (2) mild hearing loss, and (3) moderate to severe hearing loss. Then, mortality was evaluated for each group, with the following results, as announced by Johns Hopkins researchers:

“Interestingly, after adjusting for demographic characteristics and cardiovascular risk factors, their results suggested that moderate or more severe hearing loss was associated with a 39% increased risk of mortality, while a mild hearing loss had a 21% increased risk of mortality, compared to those with normal hearing.”

This is not to imply that hearing loss directly affects mortality rates, but rather that the consequences of hearing loss can. Hearing loss has been found to bring about cognitive decline and decreased levels of social interaction and physical activity. This triggers changes to the brain and decreased physical and social activity levels, which more clearly can influence mortality rates.

Hearing Aids Can Help

The real price of hearing loss, then, is much more than merely inconvenience or missing out on a couple of conversations. Hearing loss could compromise your mental, physical, and social health—and possibly even your life.

As more research is carried out, and as we become more informed on the real costs of hearing loss, $15 per week for a set of premium hearing aids will seem like nothing at all.