Hearing loss is a common problem. In fact, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders reports approximately 37.5 million adults in the United States report hearing difficulties annually. Among the United States residents who have hearing problems, many have simple, easily corrected issues. For example, removal of wax from the ears can restore hearing for certain individuals. However, others have hearing issues that are more difficult to treat.
If you suffer from hearing loss that is not easily corrected by a process like wax removal, you may need hearing aids. The right hearing aids can make it easier for you to understand what is going on around you. You can communicate better with loved ones and strangers alike when you can understand what people are saying to you. However, purchasing the right hearing aid is sometimes easier said than done. There are many different types of hearing aids available for a wide range of prices. You may also require financial assistance to afford your hearing aids.
Types and Levels of Hearing Loss
The first thing to understand before purchasing hearing aids is the types of hearing loss. Each one is treated differently. The first type is conductive hearing loss. It occurs when sound is blocked from passing through the middle ear or the outer ear. Often, a hearing aid is not required for that form of hearing loss. Instead, surgery or medication can help restore the hearing.
Another form of hearing loss is sensorineural hearing loss. That refers to hearing loss that occurs when the inner ear or hearing nerve are not functioning properly. In some cases, a patient may have sensorineural hearing loss combined with conductive hearing loss. It is also possible for a patient to suffer from a disorder causing a more rare type of hearing loss, such as Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder.
To determine if hearing aids are needed, an auditory specialist must also test the level of hearing loss. Minor hearing difficulty may not require hearing aids. However, it may indicate the possibility of a future need. Levels of hearing loss are categorized as:
Other Hearing Loss Categories
The need for hearing aids is also assessed based on certain categories of hearing loss. For example, sudden hearing loss requires immediate treatment. Progressive hearing loss may begin at a mild level not requiring hearing aids. Eventually, the hearing loss may become severe enough to warrant a hearing aid assessment. Similarly, hearing loss can occur in only one ear (unilateral) or in both (bilateral). When present in both ears, the severity of the loss may differ or be approximately equal between the two ears. If it differs, only one ear may require a hearing aid or the patient may require two hearing aids with different types of calibration.
Common Hearing Aid Models
When you are ready to get a hearing aid, the next step is determining what model type you need. Modern technology has led to many available choices. A popular option is a hearing aid that fits completely inside your ear canal (CIC), making it virtually invisible. CIC hearing aids come in regular and mini designs. Other choices include:
In-the-Canal (ITC) aids are custom built to partially fill the canal.
In-the-Ear (ITE) aids come in half shell and full shell designs that fill or partially fill the area near the outside of the ear.
Receiver-in-Canal aids have two pieces. One sits in the ear canal, while the other is behind the ear. The two are connected by a small wire.
Behind the Ear aids are similar to Receiver-in-Canal aids, but they use tubing instead of thin wires to connect the two pieces.
Open Fit aids have domes that sit inside ear canals and are connected to separate pieces behind the ear.
In addition to the basic types of hearing aids above, some hearing aids include extra technology. For example, some include remote controls or wireless connectivity. Rechargeable batteries, directional microphones, and other available technological perks may impact the exact make and model of hearing aid you choose.
The Average Cost of Hearing Aids
If you need hearing aids, cost is certainly a concern. Reliable hearing aids can cost as much as approximately $6,000. However, according to data compiled in 2020, the average cost is approximately $2,500. Exact costs are calculated on a case by case basis, so the amount you must pay depends on your circumstances. The number of hearing aids you need, type you choose, and extra features you desire all impact the total cost.
Hearing Aid Grants
If you cannot afford the cost of hearing aids, there are many agencies available to help in various ways. Some of them offer hearing aid grants. Those grants can cover a portion of the cost or the entire cost for you. Agencies to contact regarding hearing aid grant options include:
- Your Area Agency on Aging (AAA) – (Sometimes Called a Council on Aging)
- Local Civic Organizations (Local Lions Clubs, Veterans Halls Etc.)
- State Agencies Offering Independent Living Assistance, Such as the Texas Health and Human Services Commission Independent Living (IL) Program
- Organizations Specializing in Hearing Assistance, Such as the Travelers Protective Association (TPA) or the Miracle-Ear Foundation
Other Ways to Cover Hearing Aid Costs
Grants are not the only options for reducing hearing aid costs. For instance, your insurance company may cover part of the cost for you. Although, hearing aid insurance coverage usually requires an extra fee. You can apply for a payment plan to avoid paying the entire cost of hearing aids at once. Other options include checking to see if your employment benefits include hearing aid cost assistance, purchasing refurbished hearing aids at a discount, or getting assistance through a hearing clinic operated by a local university. Such a clinic may offer lower rates due to supervised student staff members.
Get Hearing Aids as Soon as Possible
There are many ways to make hearing aids affordable, so do not put the process off. Get your hearing aids as soon as possible to start reaping the benefits right away. Once you can hear properly again, you can enjoy time with family and friends more. Phone calls, family dinners, trips to the movies, and more are all far more enjoyable when you can hear properly.