BPT -- When it comes to startling health statistics, here are several you may not have heard: 36 million American have a hearing loss, yet only one out of every four people who could benefit from a hearing aid actually wears one, according to the National Institutes of Health's National Information Center on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Millions of Americans "miss or misunderstand" much of everyday conversation.
"People who experience hearing loss are often like Joni Mitchell's song 'Big Yellow Taxi,' " says Dr. Kathy Landau Goodman, chair of the Audiology Awareness Campaign. " 'You don't know what you've got till it's gone.' We often take our hearing for granted until we have difficulty hearing and communicating with our family, friends and coworkers. Yet searching for a quality, cost-effective solution can be confusing."
The first step for finding the right hearing aid is to see an audiologist. Audiologists hold doctoral degrees and are uniquely qualified to evaluate hearing loss and communication needs such as hearing in noisy environments like restaurants, in business meetings, church services, lectures, or just listening to the TV or an iPod. An audiologist can prescribe, program, fit and customize a hearing aid's high tech capabilities to improve your listening and communication experiences.
"Today's hearing aids are quite amazing," Goodman says. "They are natural sounding, fashionable and they work. There is no reason you should miss out on what could be the most important conversation of your life. Consumers have numerous options for purchasing hearing aids, and an audiologist can help you find the right solution for your communication challenges."
No best model or brand
Finding the right hearing aid is not about the model or brand -- or even price. While it may not be necessary to pay a lot to find the hearing technology that works well for you, keep in mind that rock-bottom-prices often come with poorer quality. It is not just about a product -- being fitted with hearing aids is a process.
Modern hearing aids are sophisticated high-tech digital devices, with capabilities and options that vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Every ear is unique.
Every brain deciphers sound differently. There is no "one size fits all." What works for your friend may not work for you. It's important to work with an audiologist that can help you select and optimize the hearing aids to meet your needs.
Finding the right hearing professional
Having a hearing test and getting fitted for hearing aids are the next steps, but it's also important to get counseling on how to use your hearing aids most effectively in different listening situations. You'll need adjustments to get the settings just right, and audiologists can manage this for you. Remember, an audiologist who carries several brands is more likely to help you find the best hearing aids for your communication needs. Your audiologists should have:
* Well-established credentials and all applicable licenses.
* Satisfied clients who are willing to give a recommendation.
* Courteous support staff.
* Convenient office hours.
* A convenient location.
* Multiple brands of hearing aids.
* Hearing assistive technologies such as listening devices for phones or televisions.
* Services beyond the sale of hearing aids, such as communication training and auditory training.
The nonprofit Audiology Awareness Campaign, which provides the public with information on hearing loss, is sponsoring the sixth annual "Listen Up America Week, National Hearing Screening Week" May 13 to 17, 2013. In communities throughout the country, audiologists will offer free hearing screenings. Call 888-833-EARS (3277) or visit www.audiologyawareness.com to find an audiologist in your area.