Getting a Hearing Aid
University of Utah Health audiology providers offer a variety of hearing aids. Our doctors work with patients to select a device that is best for their needs.
Before you ever put on hearing aids, you’ll receive counseling to prepare you for this change in your lifestyle. Counseling is a necessary step to ensure you have realistic expectations, and is crucial for long-term success. While hearing aids will undoubtedly improve your communication abilities, it is important to understand they are not a cure for hearing loss, and do have certain limitations. Learning what to expect beforehand will help you achieve the maximum benefit from your devices.
Fitting Your Hearing Aids
Your audiologist will check the physical fit to make sure they are comfortable. They will then be programmed and adjusted based on your hearing loss and lifestyle needs. The hearing aids will be placed in your ears and turned on, allowing your audiologist to measure the volume levels to ensure that you are hearing the full range of sounds properly.
Your audiologist will then discuss care and maintenance of your hearing aids. You will learn how to use them correctly and make adjustments for different hearing environments, insert and remove them, change the batteries and clean and care for them properly. You will also learn tips and strategies for better communication.
Real-ear measurements are a way for audiologists to verify that hearing aids are amplifying sound appropriately for an individual patient's hearing loss. What are real-ear measurements? Real-ear measurements, sometimes called probe microphone measurements, is the gold standard used to determine whether or not a hearing aid user is receiving the precise level of amplification needed at every frequency in order to achieve the best hearing improvement possible.
During real-ear measurements, a thin probe microphone is inserted into the ear canal alongside the hearing aid. The audiologist obtains readings of the exact sound levels the user is receiving from the hearing aid while listening to various recorded speech samples. The audiologist can then precisely adjust the sound levels to match target amplification levels based on the hearing aid user's hearing loss across the speech frequencies.
Performing this verification is considered "best practice and evidence-based practice." A survey performed by the Hearing Review indicated that only 34% of audiologists surveyed across the United States perform real-ear measurements. At the University of Utah, we will always strive to provide the highest level of care, something that is unfortunately not found in all hearing aid practices around the Wasatch Front.
A follow-up visit will be scheduled a few weeks after your initial fitting. During this appointment, your audiologist will fine-tune and adjust your hearing aids as needed and answer any questions you may have. It may take a while to adjust your hearing aids to their maximum effectiveness, so additional fitting appointments may be needed. With the guidance of your audiologist, you will decide to keep, exchange, or return the device(s) for a refund of the device's cost minus a $250 fitting fee.
Examples of Hearing Aid Styles
Here are some examples of the hearing aids we have available:
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Hearing Aid Accessories
Hearing aids today accommodate a number of accessories to customize the performance for individual lifestyle needs. Deciding which, if any, will benefit you can be tricky. You may want to speak with your audiologist to learn more about any particular product. Some of the more popular hearing aid accessories include:
- Wireless accessories. Utilizing Bluetooth® technology, wireless accessories enable you to hear better in situations where there is a lot of background noise or distance between you and the speaker. These include wireless microphones, remotes and television headsets.
- Transmitters and receivers. These are helpful in educational situations (a teacher’s words are transmitted directly into the student’s ears) and for children. Transmitters and receivers work together to overcome background noise, distance and reverberation, and contribute to a better learning experience.
- Power adapters and cords. These add versatility by allowing direct input from various audio sources (FM systems, MP3 players, TVs and computers). Available with both monaural and binaural cords.
- Earwax filters. Filters prevent earwax, a leading cause of damage to electronic components, from entering the hearing aid. This helps prolong the life of the instrument and provides you with clear, natural sound.
- Cleaning kits. Keeping your hearing aids clean can result in a longer life for your instruments. Cleaning kits give you a leg up on keeping your device in prime working condition. They typically include a wax removal brush and pick, a tube and vent cleaner, battery door opener and battery replacement magnet.
- Charging stations. For those with rechargeable hearing aids, a charging station is essential. Instead of having to fiddle with the battery compartments, users can simply place their hearing aids in the cradle for a few hours to get a full day’s worth of listening time.
Alerting devices hook up to telephones, alarm clocks, doorbells and other electronic devices. They alert you through a loud sound or flashing light, making you aware of an incoming phone call, a visitor at the door, etc.
Most hearing aids use disposable zinc-air batteries that are color- and number-coded for easy replacement. The type of battery needed depends on the style and size of your hearing aids and includes: 5 (red), 10 (yellow), 13 (orange), 312 (brown) and 675 (blue). On average, batteries last five to seven days depending on the size and style of your hearing aids, your degree of hearing loss, the amount of time your hearing aids are used and your listening environment.
Most drugstores carry replacement batteries; they can also be purchased from the University of Utah Hospital Pharmacy or ordered online.
Rechargeable hearing aids are one of the top most requested features that hearing aid users are asking for. They free users from having to deal with the tiresome task of changing the batteries, performing daily battery tests and always carrying around extra batteries. Rechargeable batteries are also environmentally friendly as they save users from throwing away nearly 100 hearing aid batteries per year.
The benefits of rechargeable batteries are plentiful:
- Your charger can be your devices’ overnight home so you don’t have to worry about losing them.
- You don’t need to worry about having extra batteries on hand.
- You will save time and money by not having to purchase disposable batteries.
Many rechargeable batteries can provide up to 24 hours of hearing from a single charge. The hearing aid may also include a fast-charging option, which gives uses a few hours of immediate use.
Assistive Listening Devices
Assistive listening devices (ALDs) are portable systems that help individuals with hearing loss communicate more effectively. Unlike hearing aids, which amplify sounds, ALDs work by separating speech from background noise. This allows the person with the hearing impairment to hear more clearly.
Some ALDs are used in conjunction with hearing aids, while others work as standalone devices. ALDs are useful in a number of situations, primarily those involving distance, poor acoustics and noisy backgrounds.
There are several different types of ALDs available, for both large facilities and personal use. Some focus on amplifying speech, while others utilize computer programs to convert text to speech. Some of the different types include:
FM systems rely on radio signals to transmit amplified sounds directly to your hearing aid. They consist of a microphone, transmitter and receiver, and are used in a variety of public places such as classrooms, restaurants, movie theaters and churches.
The microphone is worn by the person speaking (or placed in close proximity to the sound source) and the signal is broadcast from the transmitter to the receiver, which is tuned to a specific frequency.
Personal amplifiers are essentially small FM systems used in smaller, more intimate settings where radio signals are less effective; they are often used when watching television, traveling by car or spending time outdoors.
The microphone is built directly into the unit, and is often directional, allowing you to aim it in the direction of the sound source in order to pick up the signal most effectively.
Infrared systems work on the same principle as FM systems, but use infrared light instead of radio waves to transmit sound. The transmitter converts sound signals into light and beams those to the receiver, which then translates the light signal back into sound.
An advantage to infrared systems is the fact that their signal is unable to pass through walls as it does with FM systems, eliminating competing broadcasts that might hamper the listener and preventing confidential information from being disseminated. They are particularly useful in courtrooms and large movie theaters.
Hearing loop, or induction loop, systems utilize electromagnetic energy to transmit sound directly to your hearing aid or cochlear implant. They consist of a sound source (public address systems are popular), an amplifier, a loop of wire and a receiver or telecoil (t-coil), a tiny wireless receiver built into many devices.
When you are in close proximity to the loop, you will receive clear sound free of background noise. Hearing loops can be connected to all types of audio sources, and are often set up in public facilities such as airports, churches and lecture halls.