When hearing loss starts, see a doctor
Posted September 25, 2008 3:55 p.m. EDT
Updated September 25, 2008 10:03 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — People experiencing hearing loss should see a doctor before hitting the market for a hearing aid.
Shopping for a hearing aid can get confusing. Offers for free hearing tests can lead you to an expensive device that you do not need and that might not even work.
The best advice remains: Start with a doctor. See an ear, nose and throat doctor, and seek out one that specializes in hearing disorders if you can.
Hearing problems began in childhood for Kel Landis, 51, when a series of severe ear infections might have damaged the nerves in his ear. His hearing only grew worse as he aged.
"Particularly from one side, people would say things to me, and I didn't even know they had said something to me," Landis said.
Landis looked into getting checked out for a hearing aid. "I just wanted to be able to hear the world," he said.
Landis was at the lower end of the age range, between 50 and 60, in which people might start to notice hearing loss, said Dr. John McElveen, a hearing-aid specialist.
Parents should keep an eye on children who listen to loud music through earphones, McElveen said. The damage might not be noticeable now, but it could cause their hearing to diminish faster as they age.
A proper exam will determine if a hearing aid will help a person. Then it is a question of balancing the best sound, best fit and look – with the right price.
The earliest hearing aids simply focused more sound into the ears. One on the end of a cane that amplifies sound is an example of other custom-made devices.
The newest devices are tiny, with digital sound.
"But, I will tell you, the hearing aids have increased in price, because they've become smaller and more sophisticated," McElveen said.
Landis chose a digital hearing aid that goes over the ear. The device is programmed to boost the higher frequencies he has problems haring.
"I've had it for about three weeks, and I'm hearing birds, and I'm hearing things I never heard before," Landis said.
He urged other people with hearing difficulties not to be discouraged from using hearing aids because they are self-conscious about the way they look.
"I'm OK. I'd rather hear than to worry about what this little thing looks like behind my ear," Landis said.