Do you realize how important good hearing is when it comes to staying connected to the world around you, including those you love? If you’re like most people, you don’t. But there’s a good chance you’re already suffering some of the consequences.
Hearing loss is now the third most chronic condition in the United States — affecting over 48 million — or 1 out of 7 Americans. Because of this, more research has been done to understand hearing loss and how it affects you. Hearing loss does not mean you can’t hear in terms of volume, it means you have trouble understanding what people say due to a lack of clarity. Study after study shows that untreated hearing loss has negative effects on your mental sharpness, health, relationships, income, and how others perceive you.
Since we truly believe it’s essential for everyone to hear well to live well, we’ve pulled together the most important information you need to know so you can take action now.
In this guide we cover four major topics:
From morning to night, your brain relies on your sense of hearing to keep you aware, informed and engaged with your environment. When you have hearing loss, your brain needs to fill in the gaps to compensate for what your hearing is missing. That puts a strain on other brain functions making it harder to follow the conversation, come up with appropriate responses and ask thoughtful questions. Once you feel behind in a conversation, it can feel impossible to catch up — making you feel embarrassed, frustrated and exhausted and put you at risk for bigger problems down the road.
Hearing plays a big role in the moments that really matter to you — like hearing your baby’s coos, laughing with friends, or connecting with a new client. Imagine all the moments that are still to come, but you’re only able to experience a fraction of it.
It’s now crystal clear that untreated hearing loss has a negative effect on your quality of life. The choice is in your hands — you can either invest in a solution or pay the price of hearing loss.
It got to a point where I was saying "Huh?" all the time. So I was constantly missing out on conversations with people I love. Now I can hear everything and participate fully again thanks to my new hearing aids. – Jimmy, TX
One of the most common things we hear from customers is, “I can hear when somebody talks to me, but I can’t understand what they’re saying.” This is because hearing loss typically affects the higher pitched sounds responsible for understanding speech — consonant sounds like H, K, P, F, S, TH, CH and SH. For example, you might confuse, “What time is it?” with “What kind is it?” And as a result, everyday activities like watching TV or talking with your family can become less enjoyable and more exhausting. Fortunately, hearing aids amplify the specific frequencies or pitches you struggle with to provide the clarity you are missing.
Because it’s gradual and you don’t experience physical pain, you may not see how hearing loss is affecting your quality of life. But in a survey of 2,300 adults over the age of 50, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) debunks the myth that untreated hearing loss is harmless. Researchers found that people with untreated hearing loss reported feeling excluded, embarrassed, lonely and depressed because of communication problems in social situations.
In another survey, 7 out of 10 people said that hearing aids not only improved their relationships, but that they also had more energy.
Because good communication and quick thinking is important to your career success, hearing loss is proven to lead to problems in the workplace, too. Unfortunately, you may be perceived as disinterested or less competent if you don’t respond appropriately, which can lead to lost opportunities and lower wages. But when it's easier to understand what someone is saying while you’re wearing hearing aids, your brain can put more energy toward critical thinking, communication, creativity, and collaboration — resulting in career success.
Since 2009, EuroTrak has surveyed over 175,000 people with hearing loss and hearing aids and found:
91% of hearing aid wearers reported an improvement at work and $44,000 of higher earnings throughout their remaining working years.
According to a 25-year study by the University of Bordeaux, hearing loss is associated with accelerated cognitive decline. In addition, multiple studies by Dr. Frank Lin at Johns Hopkins show clear associations between hearing loss and brain health. Even mild levels of untreated hearing loss are connected to increased risks of cognitive decline and dementia. Fortunately, studies also show that using hearing aids early reduces the risk of cognitive decline and dementia associated with hearing loss. Dr. Lin explains that hearing loss requires the brain to constantly put more energy into processing degraded sound, which leaves less energy for other tasks like memory, thinking and balance. That’s why getting hearing aids sooner rather than later is key.
The most common hearing loss is sensorineural, which is often the result of excessive noise exposure or aging, or a combination of the two. Since hearing loss is a gradual decline for most people, it’s often overlooked until it starts having a real impact on your quality of life and the people you care about start pointing it out. There’s also a good chance you’re making it worse by continuing to increase the volume on your phone, TV, radio, or headphones. This is why untreated hearing loss will only worsen over time. Fortunately, studies have shown that hearing aids are the only proven way to slow down the progression of hearing loss and stimulate brain activity.
Hearing aids aren’t one-size fits all. No two ears and level of hearing loss are the same. That’s why it’s important to have a professional assess your hearing loss and determine the best medical-grade hearing aids for your individual needs. The most important thing is for you to do something, because any medical-grade hearing aids are better than none at all. A tailored solution will focus on these 5 things:
Your hearing loss is as unique as your fingerprint. Therefore, one of your first steps is to get a comprehensive hearing evaluation to determine the type and extent of your hearing loss. The evaluation includes an examination of the ear canal to rule out other medical conditions and helps determine the best hearing aid styles for your needs. You might be surprised to learn that the severity of your hearing loss does not affect the price you pay, but it often impacts the styles available to you.
Everyone perceives sounds differently and has specific preferences. For example, some people love classical music while others prefer hard rock and the next group loves techno. You may prefer sharper sounds, while someone else likes softer sounds. A good hearing professional can fine-tune your hearing aids to meet your specific hearing preferences to ensure you’re happy with your hearing.
As a general rule, the more active you are, the more value you’ll see in higher technology levels. When you’re in more challenging listening environments, you’re exposed to more background noises. Sophisticated hearing programs filter out the noise so you can clearly hear and understand speech.
To determine the appropriate level of technology, you’ll want to ask yourself the following questions:
By answering these questions, an expert can help guide you toward the best hearing aid technology level to make sure that every moment counts.
I was at a restaurant having wine with my friend, and I could hear a table of people across the room speaking clearly. I was like, holy cow, this is what I’ve been missing! – Helen, IN
Hearing aids look nothing like they did even 5 years ago. There are smaller, sleeker designs, many of which won’t even be noticed when you’re wearing them. And with the surge in Bluetooth-enabled devices like earpods, more and more people — some who don’t even have hearing loss — are wearing devices in their ears to improve sound. You’ll want to ask yourself:
It’s good to work with a provider that has many options for you to choose from.
So, what should you spend on hearing aids? The short answer is get as much technology as you can afford. Then, no matter the situation, you’re in control and your hearing doesn’t slow you down. But as mentioned before, any medical-grade hearing aids are better than no hearing aids at all.
A good pair of hearing aids will last a minimum of five years. Monthly payment plans can also make them more affordable. Below is an investment breakdown of hearing aids based on technology level. It shows the yearly, monthly and daily costs over the lifetime of the devices and how affordable they can be. Whether you invest $1, $2 or $3 per day, the most important thing is to do something about your hearing now.
While I found my hear.com hearing aids to be very affordable, there should never be a price limit on your health. – Paul, HI
Everyone wonders, what is the best hearing aid? There actually is no "best" hearing aid. Consumer Reports says, "The best hearing aid for you depends on several factors, including the type and severity of your hearing loss, your lifestyle and your manual dexterity. However, a hearing aid that one person likes might not work for someone else. Therefore, we've identified the two biggest factors that can make a difference for you: Advanced technology to create the most effortless, comfortable experience possible, and how well your hearing aids are personalized by a trained professional.
The best hearing aids are only as good as the person that programs them. Your audiogram (explained below) shows the results of your hearing test and provides the amplification you require at different frequencies. But how you experience certain sounds is very personal.
Your hearing evaluation and audiogram
This is the first step to personalizing your hearing aids. A licensed professional will conduct a comprehensive hearing test with you to produce an audiogram that explains your specific hearing loss. Your audiogram will act like your prescription; it will be used to program your hearing aids with the amplification needed at each frequency or pitch.
Personalized fine-tuning based on your feedback
The next step is often overlooked, but is critical to ensure you’re happy with your hearing aids long term. How you experience different sounds is very personal and only you know what you like or don’t like. Some people prefer a sharper tone, and some softer. Think of it like food... everyone’s palate is different, which is why there's a salt shaker on every table. Every person has their ideal "saltiness." So even if two people have the same hearing aids with similar settings, they’ll still experience sounds differently. That’s why it’s important to provide detailed feedback to your hearing care professional so they can fine-tune your hearing aids to your exact preferences.
Today’s hearing aids are like powerful, mini-computers. Not only can they be the size of a coffee bean, but they need to be extremely fast to deliver real-time amplification as fast as your ears can pick it up, with no delay.
While most now feature modern technology conveniences like smartphone controls, Bluetooth connectivity and rechargeability (no batteries!), the technology has continued to advance beyond what anyone could have imagined. Every second, they can scan your environment over 10,000 times and process over one billion operations — anything less than that you’ll hear echoes. This enables hearing aids to run sophisticated algorithms that can deliver a natural, comfortable hearing experience, even in the most challenging environments. The more active you are, the more value you will see in higher levels of technology, so your hearing aids work smarter to make your hearing effortless.
Improved speech understanding is what hearing aids are optimized for. Advanced features incorporate narrow directionality, echo adjustments, and spatial configurators to deliver the highest level of speech clarity in the most challenging environments. For example, HD speech algorithms identify and amplify speech separately from other sounds which gives you more contrast to better understand speech.
Background noise makes it difficult to follow a conversation and to understand every word. Higher levels of technology have more sophisticated algorithms that can better identify background noise and filter it out (instead of making it louder). In addition, these algorithms can identify and enhance speech to make it easier for you to understand people in all types of environments.
It’s critical to determine where sounds are coming from and what you should listen to. Modern hearing aids have acoustic and motion sensors to identify where sounds are coming from in 3D. Then, in a split second, sophisticated programs allow the brain to decide who and what to listen to, and how to switch attention when needed.
Your hearing is influenced by your environment. Modern hearing aids scan your surroundings over 10,000 times a second and take your movement into consideration, before automatically adjusting their programs to deliver an optimal, natural sound experience based on any environment (without you having to figure it out). For example, when you sit in a car, the hearing aids will shift their focus to the side instead of the front.
We hear our own voice differently because of where the sound is produced. Modern hearing aids provide the most natural experience by processing the wearer’s own voice instantly and independently from all other voices and sounds.
Binaural processing enables two hearing aids to communicate wirelessly and mimic your brain’s ability to process information from both ears. It allows both audio processing and data exchange between the hearing aids to operate synchronously and deliver better performance.
Tinnitus and hearing loss often go hand in hand, with approximately 80% of people suffering from tinnitus also having hearing loss. While tinnitus doesn’t cause hearing loss, the perceived sound can be distracting and make it hard to concentrate on other sounds. Therefore, tinnitus therapies provide different static noise types and ocean wave signals to lend some relief.
To make your hearing aids even easier to use, many include the benefits of wireless connectivity and rechargeability. With wireless connectivity, you can stream phone calls, music or a podcast directly to your hearing aids with no additional devices needed. And fully charged, today’s rechargeable devices will last all day and are more energy efficient, environmentally friendly, and easier on your wallet too.
Customers who are primarily focused on cost often end up with an inferior solution that can’t be personalized or adjusted over time. Therefore, they continue to struggle as their problems get even worse, ultimately resulting in them investing more money into a better solution. Here are the most common mistakes to avoid:
I first ordered cheap hearing aids from another online company and they broke all the time and didn’t really work. I finally talked to hear.com and I am so happy I did. The difference in service and quality is drastic. – Greg, MI
Once you find the best solution for you, your hearing aids will be the most-used device you own. You’ll wear them from morning till night, racking up 12 to 16 hours per day. You’ll also use them with other devices like your phone, TV and radio to improve those experiences as well. With this amount of use, it makes sense to invest accordingly to ensure you are satisfied. If you settle for a cheaper solution to save some money, there’s a good chance they won’t meet your needs or expectations, and honestly, you won’t use them.
Breaking down the costs on a monthly and daily basis shows that hearing aids are not just affordable, but actually a small investment compared to what you spend on other day-to-day expenses, such as cars, entertainment, or the gym.
Like many others, you may be thinking, “My hearing loss isn’t that bad yet.” This is not a good reason to delay getting hearing aids. Once your hearing has deteriorated, you can never get it back. It’s best to act early to preserve the hearing you have and take advantage of the most discreet designs while you still can. Hearing aids are the only proven way to preserve and protect the hearing you have left.
As mentioned before, when you’re working harder to hear, you’re paying the price in other ways, which could lead to even bigger problems down the road. To stay mentally sharp and healthy, your brain should be effortlessly gathering information from your senses. This allows you to put your brainpower towards activities like processing, thinking and memory. One study by the American Journal of Audiologists showed that new hearing aid wearers improved working memory, selective attention and brain processing speeds. And additional studies show that hearing aids reduce the risks of cognitive decline and dementia associated with hearing loss — think about it as a fitness program for your brain.
Good communication is essential to your quality of life and the people you care about. It’s critical to understand your spouse, kids, grandkids, clients and boss — and for them to connect with you. Relationships can suffer when communication is difficult. An investment in your hearing will have an immediate and direct impact on your life, and on the most important people around you.
The only way to understand what a difference medical-grade hearing aids can have on your life is to “hear it for yourself.” With a no-risk trial, you have 45 days to try the devices for yourself in your everyday life. If you’re like most of our customers after 45 days, you’ll wish you did it sooner. If you’re not satisfied, you can try different hearing aids or you can return them for a full refund.