The hearing healthcare marketplace has two barriers that prevent individuals from achieving healthier hearing:
- The inability to recognize hearing loss in the first place (owing to its slow onset), and
- The temptation to find a quick, easy, and inexpensive fix.
Regretfully, countless people who have overcome the first barrier have been lured into the supposedly “cheaper and easier” methods of correcting their hearing loss, whether it be through the purchase of hearing aids on the web, the purchase of personal sound amplifiers, or by visiting the big box stores that are much more concerned with profitability than with patient care.
Regardless of the lure of these simple fixes, the fact is that local hearing care providers are your best option for better hearing, and here are the reasons why.
Local hearing care providers use a customer-centric business model
National chain stores are profitable for one reason: they sell a high volume of low-priced goods and services at low prices in the name of larger revenue. National chains are all about efficiency, which is a pleasant way of saying “get as many people in and out the door as rapidly as possible.”
Undoubtedly, this profit-centric model works great with most purchases, because you most likely don’t need expert, individualized care to help choose your undershirts and bath soap. Customer service simply doesn’t factor in.
However, problems develop when this business model is extended to services that do call for expert, individualized care—such as the correction of hearing loss. National chains are not interested in patient outcomes because they can’t be; it’s too time-consuming and flies in the face of the high volume “see as many patients as possible” business model.
Local hearing care providers are completely different. They’re not obsessed with short-term profits because they don’t have a board of directors to answer to. The success of a local practice is centered on patient outcomes and high quality of care, which results in satisfied patients who stay loyal to the practice and spread the positive word-of-mouth advertising that creates more referrals.
Local practices, for that reason, thrive on delivering high quality care, which will benefit both the patient and the practice. By comparison, what will happen if a national chain can’t deliver quality care and satisfied patients? Simple, they use national advertising to get a continual flow of new patients, promising the same “quick and cheap fix” that lured in the original customers.
Local hearing care providers have more experience
Hearing is complex, and like our fingerprints, is unique to everybody, so the frequencies I may have trouble hearing are distinct from the frequencies you have trouble hearing. In other words, you can’t just take surrounding sound, make it all louder, and push it into your ears and count on good results. But this is in essence what personal sound amplifiers, along with the cheaper hearing aid models, accomplish.
The truth is, the sounds your hearing aids amplify—AND the sounds they don’t—HAVE to complement the way you, and only you, hear. That’s only going to take place by:
- Having your hearing professionally tested so you know the EXACT characteristics of your hearing loss, and…
- Having your hearing aids professionally programmed to boost the sounds you have difficulty hearing while distinguishing and repressing the sounds you don’t want to hear (such as low-frequency background noise).
For the hearing care provider, this is no straight forward task. It requires a lot of education and patient care experience to be able to conduct a hearing test, help patients choose the right hearing aid, skillfully program the hearing aids, and offer the patient training and aftercare necessary for optimal hearing. There are no shortcuts to supplying comprehensive hearing care—but the results are well worth the time and energy.
Make your choice
So, who do you want to trust with your hearing? To someone who views you as a transaction, as a customer, and as a means to reaching sales goals? Or to an experienced local professional that cares about the same thing you do—helping you obtain the best hearing possible, which, by the way, is the lifeblood of the local practice.
As a basic rule, we advise that you avoid buying your hearing aids anywhere you see a sign that reads “10 items or less.” As local, experienced hearing professionals, we provide comprehensive hearing healthcare and the best hearing technology to match your specific needs, lifestyle, and budget.
Still have questions? Give us a call today.
That there is a right way to clean your ears proposes that there is a wrong way, and undoubtedly, there is a very wrong way. The wrong way is prevalent, and it breaks the first rule of cleaning your ears: don’t insert foreign objects into your ear canal. That includes cotton swabs and any other item that will likely only push the earwax up against the eardrum, possibly causing irritation, temporary hearing loss, or eardrum damage.
So what should you be doing to clean your ears under usual conditions? In a word: nothing (I hope you weren’t expecting something more profound). Your ears are made to be self-cleansing, and the regular movements of your jaw move earwax from the canal to the outer ear. If you attempt to remove it, your ear just produces more wax.
And earwax is beneficial, as it contains protective, lubricating, and antibacterial qualities. In fact, over-cleaning the ears brings about dry, itchy, irritated skin within the ear canal. Therefore, for the majority of people the majority of of the time, nothing is required other than normal washing to wash the outer ear.
But notice that we said MOST of the time, because there are situations in which individuals do produce too much earwax or excess earwax impacts the eardrum. In instances like these, you will need to clean out your ears. Here’s how:
Cleaning your ears at home
We’ll say it again: don’t insert any foreign objects into your ear canal. You can irritate the sensitive skin of the canal and can end up perforating your eardrum. This means no cotton swabs and positively no ear candles. (Speaking of ear candles, in 2010, the FDA distributed a warning against using them, reporting that no scientific evidence supports their effectiveness and that their use can cause major injuries.)
To properly clean your ears at home, take the following steps:
- Buy earwax softening solution at the drugstore or make some at home. Directions for making the solution can be found on the web, and the solution often includes the use of hydrogen peroxide, mineral oil, and glycerin.
- Pour the solution into your ears from the bowl or by using a plastic or bulb syringe. Tilt your head to the side and allow the solution to work for 5-10 minutes.
- Drain the fluid out of your ear by tilting your head slowly over a container or the sink, or you can use a cotton ball pressed against the outside of the ear. (I know it’s tempting, but again, don’t force the cotton ball into your ear.)
- Flush out your ears with lukewarm water using a bulb syringe to free any loosened earwax.
When not to clean your ears at home
Cleaning your ears at home could be hazardous in the presence of an ear infection or a perforated eardrum. If you experience any symptoms such as fever, dizziness, ear pain, or ear discharge, it’s best to speak with your doctor or hearing specialist. Additionally, repeated attempts at self cleaning that fail may signify a more severe congestion that requires professional cleaning.
Medical doctors and hearing specialists utilize a variety of medicines and devices to rapidly, thoroughly, and safely remove excess earwax. The solutions tend to be more powerful than the homemade variants, and instruments called curettes can be inserted into the ear to manually remove the wax.
When in doubt, leave it to the experts. You’ll get the assurance that you’re not causing harm to your ears, and symptoms can subside within minutes of a professional cleaning. In addition, underlying problems or hearing loss can be identified and corrected by a professional.
If you have any additional questions or want to set up an appointment, give us a call today! And remember, if you’re a hearing aid user, you’ll want to get a repeated professional checkup every 6 months.
It’s popular to think of hearing loss as an inescapable problem associated with aging, or, more recently, as a consequence of the younger generation’s constant use of iPods. But the numbers illustrate that the larger problem may be exposure to loud noise at work.
In the US, 22 million workers are exposed to potentially unsafe noise, and an estimated 242 million dollars is spent yearly on worker’s compensation claims for hearing loss, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
What’s more is that higher rates of hearing loss are found in progressively noisier professions, displaying that direct exposure to sounds above a certain level steadily increases your risk for developing noise-induced hearing loss later in life.
How loud is too loud?
A study performed by Audicus found that, of those who were not subjected to occupational noise levels over 90 decibels, only 9 percent suffered from noise-induced hearing loss at age 50. In contrast, construction workers, who are continuously exposed to sound levels as high as 120 decibels, experienced noise-induced hearing loss at the age of 50 at a rate of 60 percent!
It seems that 85-90 decibels is the threshold for safe sound volumes, but that’s not the complete story: the decibel scale is logarithmic, not linear. That signifies that as you increase the decibel level by 3 decibels, the sound level approximately doubles. So 160 decibels is not twice as loud as 80—it’s about 26 times louder!
Here’s how it breaks down: a decibel level of 0 is hardly perceptible, normal conversation is about 60 decibels, the limit for safety is 85-90 decibels, and the death of hearing cells starts at 180 decibels. It’s the region between 85 and 180 that leads to noise-induced hearing loss, and as would be imagined, the occupations with increasingly louder decibel levels have increasingly higher rates of hearing loss.
Hearing loss by occupation
As the following table displays, as the decibel levels associated with each profession increase, hearing loss rates increase as well:
|Occupation||Decibel level||Incidence rates of hearing loss at age 50|
|No noise exposure||Less than 90 decibels||9%|
Any profession with decibel levels above 90 places its workers at risk for hearing loss, and this includes rock musicians (110 dB), Formula One drivers (135 dB), airport ground staff (140 dB), nightclub staff (110 dB), and shooting range marshalls (140 dB). In each case, as the decibel level increases, the risk of noise-induced hearing loss grows.
Protecting your hearing
A recent US study on the frequency of hearing loss in farming found that 92 percent of the US farmers surveyed were exposed to damaging noise levels, but that only 44 percent claimed to use hearing protection accessories on a daily basis. Factory workers, in contrast, tend to adhere to more stringent hearing protection regulations, which may explain why the incidence rate of hearing loss is slightly lower in manufacturing than it is in farming, despite subjection to near equivalent decibel volumes.
All of the data point to one thing: the importance of protecting your hearing. If you work in a high-risk occupation, you need to take the right preventative measures. If avoiding the noise is not an alternative, you need to find ways to mitigate the noise levels (best attained with custom earplugs), in addition to making sure that you take routine rest breaks for your ears. Reducing both the sound volume and exposure time will minimize your chances of developing noise-induced hearing loss.
If you would like to explore a hearing protection plan for your specific circumstances or job, give us a call. As hearing specialists, we can provide personalized solutions to best safeguard your hearing at work. We also offer custom earplugs that, in addition to defending your hearing, are comfortable to wear and can preserve the natural quality of sound (as opposed to the muffled sound you hear with foam earplugs).
The maxim “you get what you pay for” is especially true of hearing aids, and while the latest hearing aids are designed to be more effective than ever, they’re not exactly inexpensive, either.
Luckily, modern digital hearing aids, while not cheap, ARE becoming more budget friendly, in the same way that most consumer electronics are becoming more affordable (A 20-inch flat screen TV cost $1,200 in 1999; it costs just $84 today). And when you stop to think about it, we tend to spend far more cash on things that simply do not improve our quality of life to the level that a pair of hearing aids can.
Let’s say, as an example, that a pair of hearing aids costs $5,000. Presuming the hearing aids last 5 years, that is equal to a monthly cost of only $83.33 per month. Many people spend more money on their cable television bill, and that’s why the majority of our patients openly admit that while the upfront expense seems large, the monthly expense, relative to the benefit they receive from healthier hearing, is more than worth it.
So you have to ask yourself, would you be willing to commit less than $100 per month to have better conversations and relationships with your family and friends? Most people would, and that’s why so many people decide to invest in hearing aids.
But once you make a decision to invest in hearing aids, what are your options for paying for them? In spite of conventional beliefs, you have a number of potential options.
Financing options for hearing aids
The initial mistake people make is assuming that no financial aid is possible. Although receiving help can be challenging at times, there are in fact a range of resources that you should inquire about before deciding to hand over a full cash payment. Here are some of the steps we suggest taking:
- Begin by talking to your private insurance provider. While private insurance differs by company and by state, many people find that their private insurance supplies some type of assistance with hearing aids.
- Consider the use of a medical flexible spending account. This is a specialized kind of account you can use to set aside money (pre-tax) to pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses.
- Check out your Medicare and Medicaid benefits. This is not the most usual way to help pay for hearing aids, but Medicare and Medicaid do supply benefits in certain limited circumstances.
- Call your local VA office if you’re a veteran. Veterans may obtain benefits that can help partly or completely pay for hearing aids. Check with your local VA office for more information.
- Search for charitable organizations that offer hearing aids or financial aid. If you satisfy the financial guidelines, there are numerous charitable organizations that supply hearing aids or financial assistance for hearing aids. We’ll share some resources for you in the following section.
- Check your state’s vocational rehabilitation program. If hearing aids are required for employment, your state may help you pay for them through its vocational rehabilitation program.
- Consider financing your hearing aids. Numerous programs exist, including CareCredit, which works like a credit card but is exclusive to healthcare services.
There are far too many options and resources to list, and many programs are specific to the state you live in or to the specific organizations you’re associated with. Therefore, rather than browsing a long list of resources, it’s best to search for programs specific to your state or circumstances. For instance, executing a Google search for “hearing aid funding in ” or “hearing aid assistance for veterans” will likely supply some worthwhile results.
You may also want to take a look at the list of financial resources from the
Better Hearing Institute and the Hearing Loss Association of America, both of which list programs by state and include lists of several charitable organizations.
If you’re still not positive where to begin, or are having a hard time finding information, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We can point you in the right direction and can help you find the financing option that works best for you. Your hearing is well worth it—give us a call today!
More often than not, people are unaware that they have hearing loss. It develops so gradually that it’s frequently undetectable, and moreover, most family physicians do not regularly test for hearing loss at the annual physical exam.
Bearing in mind these two facts, it’s no wonder that most people first find out they have hearing loss by being informed about it from close friends or family members. But by the time people confront you about your hearing loss, it’s more than likely already relatively advanced. Since hearing loss worsens over time—and cannot be fully restored once lost—it’s essential to treat hearing loss at the earliest opportunity instead of waiting for it to get bad enough for people to notice.
So when and how often should you get your hearing tested? Here are our suggestions:
Establish a Baseline Early
It’s never too early to get your first hearing test. The earlier you test your hearing, the sooner you can create a baseline to compare future tests. The only method to assess if your hearing is getting worse is by comparing the results with earlier examinations.
Although it’s true that as you become older you’re more likely to have hearing loss, keep in mind that 26 million people between the age of 20 and 69 have hearing loss. Hearing loss is common among all age groups, and exposure to loud noise places everyone at risk regardless of age.
Annual Tests After Age 55
At the age of 65, one out of every three people will have some degree of hearing loss. Because hearing loss is so typical around this age, we encourage yearly hearing tests to ensure that your hearing is not worsening. Remember, hearing loss is permanent, cumulative, and practically undetectable. However, with yearly hearing tests, hearing loss can be detected early, and intervention is always more effective when implemented earlier.
Evaluate Personal Risk Factors
As reported by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, “approximately 15 percent of Americans (26 million people) between the ages of 20 and 69 have high frequency hearing loss due to exposure to noise at work or during leisure activities.”
If you have been exposed to loud work environments or activities such as music concerts or sporting events, it’s a good idea to have your hearing tested. It’s also a good idea to get a yearly hearing test if you continue to expose your hearing to these conditions.
Watch for Signs of Hearing Loss
As we explained before, the signs and symptoms of hearing loss are often first recognized by others. You should set up a hearing test if someone has recommended it to you or if you encounter any of these signs or symptoms:
- Muffled hearing
- Trouble understanding what people are saying, especially in noisy settings or in groups
- People commenting on how loud you have the TV or radio
- Avoiding social situations and conversations
- Ringing, roaring, hissing, or buzzing in the ear (tinnitus)
- Ear pain, discomfort, or discharge
- Vertigo, dizziness, or balance problems
Don’t Wait Until the Damage is Done
The bottom line is that hearing loss is common among all age groups and that we all live in the presence of several occupational and everyday risk factors. Considering that hearing loss is hard to detect, worsens over time, and is best treated early, we recommend that you get your hearing tested regularly. You might end up saving your hearing with early treatment, and the worst that can happen is that you find out you have normal hearing.