Hearing aids are expensive. Once you’ve purchased a pair of hearing aids, you want that investment to last as long as possible. The truth of the matter, though, is that the average life expectancy of hearing aids, according to most manufacturers, is five to seven years. It’s been my experience that a five to seven year life span is generous at best. Although it’s true that you can extend the life of your hearing aids with regular care and maintenance, in general you can plan to replace each pair every three to five years and only every seven years if luck is on your side.
So, how do you know when it’s time to replace your hearing aids?
If you’ve been wearing the same hearing aid for more than a few years, it may be time to discuss new technology with your hearing healthcare provider. Hearing aid technology improves rapidly. In fact, most of the top manufacturers will release a significantly improved product over their previous generation product approximately every 18 months. Most recently, technology improvements have generally focused on improved hearing in background noise, smaller packaging and wireless connectivity. There have also been some amazing advancements for those who experience ringing in the ears, called tinnitus, and for single sided deafness. If you are unhappy with the sound quality of your hearing aids or if you feel they aren’t able to handle the listening situations you are most commonly exposed to, it’s possible that new technology advancements will be able to help. The best thing to do is to talk with your audiologist about what’s new in hearing aids. She will be able to provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision.
Another reason to replace your hearing aids is if they have started to need more repairs. Hearing aids have mechanical working parts. These parts will stop working at some point and must be replaced in order to return the hearing aid back to working condition. With an older hearing aid, especially those over five years old, repairs become more frequent and this can become cost prohibitive. In addition, older hearing aids may only receive a 90-day or 6-month warranty on a repair. If the hearing aid stops working again and the hearing aid is not covered under warranty, you’ll have to pay another repair charge. In an older hearing aid, saving money you would have spent on a repair and investing it into a new, more advanced technology may be the better long-term solution.
If you are thinking that it might be time to replace your hearing aids, talk with your audiologist. It’s our pleasure to be able to work alongside you to decide when or if it’s time to look into new hearing aids. We’ll discuss with you the pros and cons of replacement and the associated costs. And, in most cases, you can listen to some of the new technology while you’re in the office and decide what’s best for you. Call the office to make an appointment. We’d be glad to help.
Just a few short years ago, behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids were not the style of choice for those who require hearing aids for improving their hearing. In fact, less than 20% 1 of people who wore hearing aids prior to 2000 chose the behind-the-ear style. Who could blame them? The old-style BTE’s were large, bulky and not very aesthetically pleasing to the eye. These issues enhanced the stigma that hearing loss is an old-person’s ailment and a handicap. Technology advancements have improved the number of BTE wearers to more than 60% 2 and with better, smaller choices, surveys indicate that more people with milder hearing losses are now benefiting from hearing aids1.
Along with having a smaller case size, today’s behind-the-ear hearing aids are more stylish and functionally versatile. The first miniature BTE wasn’t much to look at with very few case color choices. Although it was smaller than its ancestors were, it was very limited in terms of its offerings for user controls. In other words, it had very few bells and whistles. It was smaller for sure, which made it more aesthetically appealing, but the functionality limited how the wearer could manipulate sound in the environment. As the number of manufacturers who offer miniature BTE’s increases and the types of technology and sound processing available in the hearing aids expands, satisfaction with the BTE has improved. In fact, overall satisfaction ratings are significantly higher (85% vs 76%) than the traditional custom styles, even though there are no significant differences in perceived benefit or value1.
With technology advancements, behind-the-ear hearing aids are an exceptional choice for nearly anyone, no matter the degree of hearing loss or configuration. If you are experiencing hearing loss, whether you’ve worn hearing aids in the past or not, talk to your hearing healthcare provider about the new BTE to see if it is a good option for you.
1 Kochkin S: MarkeTrak VIII Mini-BTEs tap new market, usersmore satisfied. Hear J 2011:64(11):17-24
2 Kirkwood D: Resilient hearing aid industry records rising sales despite a troubled economy. Hear J 2009;62(12):11-16.
April of last year introduced a newcomer to the US hearing aid marketplace. You may have heard of the company before, since they have actually been around for a long time, and are well known in the acoustics and consumer electronics industries. You may even have a TV with the same name. Who is this “new guy on the block”? It’s Panasonic. That’s right. Panasonic is not just a TV, stereo and phone manufacturer anymore. The truth is, although Panasonic is just now entering the US market, their first hearing aids entered the Japanese marketplace in 1959. What that means for consumers is a new choice in hearing aid instrumentation with a company that has an already established and long-standing track record. Bottom line: Panasonic hearing aids are a high quality instrument from a trusted manufacturer, designed to deliver the convenience, performance and styles consumers have come to expect from a leading manufacturer.
The instrumentation offers some of the same “high end” technology benefits that the well-known manufacturers offer, such as adaptive directional microphones, wind noise suppression and feedback control. The casing designs are user-friendly and discreet—exactly what consumers are looking for. The JZ series is an interesting concept designed to offer best sound quality and advanced features in a body-worn case that can be manipulated by loved ones or caregivers. This means that if dexterity or vision is an issue or if a loved one is in need of continuous care, a family member or caregiver can instantly know what is happening in the hearing aid. Although there are only three models offered at the moment, Panasonic’s brand recognition and trusted electronic product lines assure that consumers can count on this manufacturer being a forerunner in the hearing aid industry in the years to come.
When you’ve discovered that you have permanent hearing loss and the only solution is amplification, the next step is finding the best solution that will provide you with the greatest benefit. But getting the best benefit from hearing aids isn’t just about the sound quality or the “bells and whistles” the technology provides. The greatest benefit truly is in the changes you’ll see in what really matters: connecting to life and connecting to people.
Enhance Your Quality of Life
Untreated hearing loss can cause you to pull away from the things you love the most. You may not want to be involved in group situations anymore because it’s too difficult to hear and understand. Or, you might not do some of the things you love to do because you know you’ll have trouble hearing. Removing yourself from the daily activities you enjoy can cause depression, anxiety, isolation, and a host of other unpleasant emotions. The truth of the matter is, hearing aids improve the lives of those with hearing loss. Once you’ve decided to move forward with trying hearing aids, you can look forward to increased confidence, a greater sense of independence and easier communication.
Although hearing aids do not “fix” hearing loss, they can significantly improve your ability to hear and understand voices and other sounds in both quiet and noisy situations. This is helpful in personal, professional and social settings where the ability to hear clearly is important. How well you hear in different situations will depend on the type and severity of your hearing loss. We know that you hear with your ears, but you understand with your brain. Working with an experienced audiologist will make sure that you find the right choice for the type of hearing loss you have.
I can’t tell you how many times a patient has said, “if my wife isn’t with me to interpret, I miss the punch line every time!” There’s nothing worse than sitting with friends, enjoying a great glass of wine and you have to “fake” a hardy laugh at a joke you didn’t hear. While everyone laughs and enjoys themselves around you, you have to smile and nod, like you haven’t missed a thing. How frustrating! But, hearing aids will lessen your dependence on others. They will also give you a better sense of control over the events in your life.
Hearing loss can be a barrier to communicating effectively. Hearing aids can improve the relationships you share with family and friends. Your spouse can attest to the frustration it causes when you don’t hear clearly. You can decrease the effect your hearing loss has on others simply by wearing hearing aids.
You’ll feel more confident in professional and social situations when you can detect sounds at normal volume levels. When you don’t have to strain to hear and when you know you are hearing what others do, you can relax and enjoy yourself. Hearing aids can decrease the amount of energy it takes to listen and understand effectively.
Let’s face it: no one wants to wear hearing aids. But when you have taken the time to find the best solution for your hearing loss, social situations and listening environments, you’ll find that not only does the investment improve your hearing, it improves your quality of life. And that’s the best benefit of all.
Have you ever noticed that all new hearing aid technology is “revolutionary” or “improved” or “best in class”? Have you also noticed that advertisements all look fairly similar and use the same terms to describe their latest and greatest technology advancement, no matter who is doing the advertising? It gets tiring for Audiologists to hear the same thing about hearing aids every time something new comes out, too. And it becomes increasingly more difficult to explain the differences to our patients. It’s true that hearing aid technology changes rapidly. But are they really that different? Are they worth the investment of your time and hard-earned money? Every once in a while, a new hearing aid arrives that truly does deserve all the accolades. One such instrument is the Phonak Ambra, a digital hearing aid that is truly best-in-class.
Phonak, a Swiss company, actually launched the Ambra in October of 2010. Since then, it has received quite a bit of attention from patients and Audiologists alike. The Ambra has quite a number of innovative features that are intended to improve the wearer’s listening experience, no matter the environment. The goal is to provide ease of use while also improving sound quality and increasing the ability to hear in noise which then improves quality of life.
One of the more amazing features of this instrument is its ability to communicate from one hearing aid to the other. When two hearing aids are worn simultaneously, they communicate wirelessly with each other and “share” information about the listening environment. Each hearing aid also has a dual microphone system which allows it to selectively and automatically focus on sounds from most any direction. This allows the hearing aid to be very precise in its ability to distinguish important sounds, such as speech, from other background sounds that might make listening difficult.
Another feature speaks to one of the more common complaints people with hearing loss have: being able to hear on the phone. When using a telephone, the Ambra automatically picks up the sound wirelessly from the telephone. The sound is then wirelessly transmitted to both ears for an experience that is similar to hearing in high definition stereo. It makes sense that this works well. We all know we hear better with two ears. This feature is akin to listening to someone on speaker phone, without the interference from ambient noises. Patients often report that while using this feature, they have the strange experience of hearing the person on the other line like “they are inside my head.” But more importantly, hearing with both ears helps to improve speech understanding! The duo-phone feature is truly an amazing improvement in technology.
The feature list of the Ambra is impressive and continues with echo elimination, feedback cancellation, wind noise reduction and of course, exceptional noise reduction capabilities, Probably one of the more fascinating of the noise reduction features is called Zoom Control. This feature is often reserved for use in the car or when the person of interest is off to one side. With a push of a button, the wearer can zoom to the left or right, front or back, picking up the sound coming in to one ear and streaming it effortlessly to the other ear. This essentially eliminates background noise interference from the ear that is facing away from the communication partner. Patients have truly been amazed at how much better they can hear in the car!
The Ambra is available in the full range of models from the smallest completely-in-the-canal style to the powerful behind the hear versions. The most popular style of hearing instrument is the miniature behind the ear model, which delivers the sound to the ear by way of a receiver in the ear canal. Because the Ambra is available in so many models, most anyone experiencing hearing loss can benefit from this technology. Call our office today for a free, no-obligation demonstration of the Phonak Ambra and hear what you’ve been missing!