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The Sound Void: How Hearing Loss Sneaks Up on You

The Sound Void: How Hearing Loss Sneaks Up on You

When you come to your first appointment with us, we encourage you to bring a companion, someone who spends a lot of time with you. Why is that? Because they’re able to give us a different perspective on your hearing loss. In fact, your companion probably noticed your hearing loss — and how it was affecting you — before you did.

But how is that possible if you’re the one with hearing loss?

 

How Sound Works

To begin with, it helps to understand how sound works. Most people think hearing loss is a question of volume. But that’s only part of the story. Sound is a combination of frequency (also called pitch) and intensity (also called loudness).

Frequency

Frequency measures how fast (or how frequently) a sound wave vibrates. High frequency means a high pitch, like the notes on the right side of a piano, and low frequency means low pitch, like the notes on the left side of a piano.

Intensity

Intensity measures loudness. A whisper has low intensity, and a shout has high intensity.

Frequency and Intensity Together

Each sound is a combination of these two qualities.

  • A baby screaming has high frequency and high intensity.
  • A man shouting has low frequency and high intensity.
  • The sound of leaves rustling has high frequency and low intensity.
  • A rumble of thunder has low frequency and high intensity.

 

The Sound Void®

Knowing how sound works helps us understand Sound Voids. We use the term Sound Void to refer to any moment lacking in clarity. Sound Voids have a lot to do with why your companion probably picked up on your hearing loss before you did.

Sound Voids happen all the time: Allergies or a cold affect your ears, leading to increased chance of misunderstanding what people say. Even a buildup of earwax can lead to an increase in Sound Voids.

But Sound Voids are also common with noise-induced or age-related hearing loss. Early on in these types of hearing loss, when someone speaks to you, you miss the high-frequency sounds, such as s, sh, c, ch, p, f, and h. These sounds help you identify words. With those sounds missing, “cat” could be mistaken for “hat” and “pickle” for “fickle.”

With this type of Sound Void, the intensities aren’t the problem — it’s the frequencies. In other words, you can hear people speaking just fine, but sometimes you misunderstand them.

At this early stage, what is actually a hearing loss truly seems to you like a momentary lack of clarity. You assume someone mumbled a little, or there are more people than usual at the restaurant. Loved ones probably think the same thing.
 

The Sound Voids Increase

But as time goes on, the Sound Voids become more frequent, and those closest to you start to notice subtle signs: You turn up the volume on the TV or radio, you need statements repeated more often, and you get tired more easily while socializing in public venues.

Your companion, by this point, has started to wonder if you have hearing loss. Because you’ve developed coping skills, you probably haven’t truly realized how it’s affecting you or your loved ones.
 

The Sound Voids Take Over

Eventually, enough of your hearing is damaged that you’re not just missing frequencies — intensity is now a problem, too. You’re more likely to miss the low-frequency sounds of speech, the ones that provide volume, such as o, i, and j.

At this point, your companion has probably wondered aloud whether you have hearing loss, and you’ve started to realize how your hearing loss is affecting others. This is when many people consider getting their hearing tested.
 

The Hearing Evaluation

This is why the companion is such a key part of the hearing evaluation: They’ve witnessed the early Sound Voids, the gradual behavior changes, how your hearing loss affects those around you, and your realization that you might have hearing loss. Their outside observations are an important complement to your internal observations.

Why Should You Bring a Companion?

Hearing Care Q & A

Question:
Why Do You Encourage Us to Bring a Companion?

Answer:
The simple answer is that everyone benefits, including your audiologist.

 

Let’s unpack some of the reasons for this:

  1. Hearing loss affects your companion, too
    Once someone suspects they have hearing issues, they’ll wait, on average, seven years before getting a hearing evaluation. One reason is they don’t think it affects the people around them.

    But a study by The National Council on Aging had surprising findings: After study participants with hearing loss began using hearing aids, their family members reported better relationships at home, better feelings of self-worth, better relationships with children or grandchildren, and even better physical health.

    Inviting a loved one shows you recognize that it affects them. It also shows you respect their insight, thoughts, and feelings about this important step you’re taking.

  2. Your companion provides a complementary perspective
    Whether it’s a spouse, a good friend, or a niece, your companion spends a lot of time with you, and their perspective will be a valuable complement to yours. They definitely notice things you don’t, such as how often and how much you turn up the TV. Your companion will also have their own questions based on their experiences with you, which can inform the discussion in ways you’d never have considered otherwise.
  3. Your companion learns more about you
    No matter how close you and your companion are, you probably haven’t discussed in detail how your hearing loss affects you. Sitting in the appointment with you provides them an intimate window into your world. Also, the audiologist can provide your companion a simulation of hearing loss, helping them understand better what you experience day to day.
  4. Your companion is an extra set of ears
    A typical new-patient appointment lasts 60–90 minutes — that’s a lot of information! We explain how hearing works, your specific type of hearing loss, and the best options for moving forward. If we decide together that hearing technology is the best solution, we’ll discuss different styles of hearing devices as well as accessories.

    Having a companion with you means you can focus on what’s being said while they take notes. Alternatively, you can both take notes and compare them afterward; you’re each sure to jot down things the other didn’t.

  5. Your technology can be tailored to the voice you hear the most
    If we decide technology is the best solution, you can bring whoever you’re around the most — a sibling, spouse, a child — to the fitting appointment so we can optimize the technology for their voice.
  6. Your companion can be involved in financial considerations
    Many people want to consult their significant other about major medical decisions. If your significant other is in the office with you, they can be a part of the conversation from the start and ask their questions directly.
  7. Your companion helps us, too
    For us to truly understand your situation and, therefore, truly be of optimal benefit, we depend on the perspective of someone close to you. They know where you thrive, where you struggle, what noises you don’t even realize you’re missing, and how your hearing loss affects others in your life who may not have the heart to tell you how its affecting them. Your input and their input are two sides of one coin, and each is crucial to our understanding of your listening lifestyle.

Destigmatizing Hearing Loss: It Affects People of All Ages

Hearing Loss Affects People of All Ages

When you think about eyeglasses, what do you think of? Most likely your own pair or those of loved ones. If you’re more fashion-minded, you might even think about that funky pair you saw recently on one of your favorite celebrities. You definitely don’t think of old age.

But what about when you think of hearing aids? Probably a different story.
 

A PR Problem

In the United States, 14 million people 12 years or older have a visual impairment. Thirty million people 12 years or older have hearing loss in both ears — that’s one out of every eight people.

Both eyeglasses and hearing aids correct a sense impairment — so why are eyeglasses a fashion statement, but it takes, on average, seven years for someone to even get their hearing tested after noticing a hearing loss?
 

Hearing Loss Affects All Age Groups

The idea that hearing loss is something that happens to people in their old age simply isn’t true. Significant numbers of people across all generations experience some degree of hearing loss.
 

Children
  • 2 to 3 of every 1,000 U.S. babies are born with a detectable hearing loss
  • 1 in 5 U.S. teens has some degree of hearing loss
  • 1 in 8 U.S. kids ages 6 to 19 has hearing loss from using earbuds to listen to music at unsafe volumes
  • Over 90 percent of U.S. children born with hearing loss have parents with no hearing loss>/li>
Young adults

According to a World Health Organization report, 50 percent of millennials risk hearing loss because of damaging volumes via personal audio devices; 40 percent do so via noisy entertainment venues such as concerts.

Adults
  • About 1 in 7 U.S. adults ages 20 to 69 has hearing loss
  • 22 percent of U.S. adults are exposed to dangerous noise levels at work
  • About 1 in 10 U.S. adults experiences tinnitus (a ringing, pulsing, or buzzing only they can hear)
  • About 90 percent of tinnitus cases have accompanying hearing loss
Service members
  • 3 in 5 returning service members experience hearing loss
  • Among both active and veteran service members, hearing loss and tinnitus are the most reported health issue
  • 50 percent of all blast-induced injuries result in permanent hearing loss
  • Hearing loss among service members has become a big enough problem that the Department of Defense spearheaded an interactive course that provides early and ongoing hearing loss-prevention training

 

Normalizing Hearing Loss

Clearly, hearing loss is even more prevalent than vision problems. And it leaves no age group untouched. But the stigma remains, such that only 1 in 5 people who could benefit from hearing technology actually uses it.

But there’s a growing online trend of people discussing their lives with hearing loss — many of them millennials or slightly older — in an attempt to remove the stigma of hearing loss and hearing aids.

  • Living With Hearing Loss is written by Shari Eberts, who was recognized as a HearStrong Champion for her tireless work to change the stigma surrounding hearing loss.
  • The Invisible Disability and Me is written by a woman with a cochlear implant who hopes to raise awareness of and support those who’ve experienced sudden sensorineural hearing loss.
  • Cosmopolitan magazine’s brand connection to millennial women is so strong that it launched a Cosmo Millennial Advisory Board staffed with millennials who are experts in their fields; Cosmopolitan regularly features articles about life with hearing loss, covering topics from dating with hearing loss to becoming a NASA engineer despite having been born profoundly deaf.
  • The Twitter page Normalize Hearing Loss is “on a mission to normalize hearing loss and hearing aids and other tech the way we’ve normalized glasses,” and encourages users to include @NormalizeHL or #NormalizeHearingLoss in their tweets.

 

Hearing Tech for Today’s Connected Culture

What’s more, the hearing technology of today is a far cry from the hearing aids of 50 years ago. The digital tech of today is sleek and discreet, minimizes background noise, improves speech clarity in complicated sound environments, and focuses on what’s in front of you rather than taking in and amplifying all sounds equally.

Plus, hearing devices are becoming as connected as everything else. You can stream audio wirelessly from your mobile device to your hearing aids, geotag the hearing aid settings for your favorite locations, even hear a phone call in both ears simultaneously — and control it all on the sly with a smartphone app!


Sources:
Fang Ko et al. Prevalence of Nonrefractive Visual Impairment in U.S. Adults and Associated Risk Factors, 1999-2002 and 2005-2008. JAMA: 2012;308(22): 2361–2386. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Quick Statistics About Hearing. Accessed March 6, 2019. Hearing Loss Association of America. Hearing Loss Facts and Statistics. Accessed March 6, 2019. Hearing Health Foundation. Hearing Loss and Tinnitus Statistics. Accessed March 6, 2019.

May Is Better Hearing Month – Spring Into It With Less Noise, More Joy!

Ahhh, spring! As power tools whir, ball games bloom, and concerts sprout, are your ears protected from the louder sounds of the season?

Some noises pack a bigger punch than your ears should take, so for Better Hearing Month this May, we’re sharing three quick tips to keep harmful volumes at bay.


TURN DOWN THE SOUND

Planning a hearty run in the fresh air with favorite tunes in your ears? It’s tempting to crank up the beats, but MP3 players can reach an ear-splitting 105 decibels. Better bet: Enjoy the sounds but turn them down to 50 percent maximum volume or lower.

GUARD YOUR EARS

Cutting that spring grass can feel so satisfying, but the noise of a gas mower can blow past the danger threshold of 85 decibels. Hearing protection such as earplugs or earmuffs help soften loud sounds and can be customized to your ears, so keep them on hand when using power equipment.

LIMIT YOUR EXPOSURE

Spring concerts, sports, and festivals abound, so help keep your hearing sound by wearing hearing protection and taking breaks from the festivities. Permanent hearing loss can result even from a single exposure to loud noise, making it important to give your ears a helpful rest from excess volumes.


Did you know?

  • An estimated one-third of hearing loss among children and adults worldwide is connected to noise exposure.
  • Excess noise can destroy the inner ear’s tiny, irreplaceable hair cells, which are crucial to healthy hearing.
  • Loud sounds can lead to tinnitus, a common and potentially debilitating problem of buzzing, humming, or ringing in the ears.
  • Quality hearing protection can curb noise intensity while letting music and other audio sound just as good.

As the season showers you with sound, make this the month to start protecting your hearing. Contact our caring team today to learn more about custom hearing protection for the whole family.

Does Your Heart Health Affect Your Hearing Health?

Easy Ways to Boost Heart Health

The human body is complex. So complex, in fact, that some things you read about it might seem downright far-fetched. For example, your heart health affects your hearing health.

The Heart–Hearing Link

That might sound a little squirrelly, but it’s supported by more than six decades of research. How are they connected?

Your inner ear is where sound waves get translated into a language — electrical impulses — that your brain understands. Structures critical to this translation process depend on nourishment from tiny blood vessels. When your heart doesn’t work well, those structures don’t get enough blood and, therefore, don’t work like they should, leading to hearing loss.

The connection is so strong that, in the event of a heart attack, it’s recommended that you get a hearing test to catch hearing loss early. It’s also been suggested that every hearing care patient’s history include detailed information about heart health, such as history of heart disease, hypertension, heart attacks, or heart surgery due to coronary blockage.


Keep Your Heart Healthy

There are plenty of easy ways to improve your heart health. Instead of a list of don’ts, we’ll keep it positive. Here are three easy things you can do to head toward heart health.

  1. Stand up

    The scientific community is starting to recognize just how unhealthy sitting for a big portion of the day really is. Simply put, sitting for long periods is linked to heart disease. Stand up from time to time. It helps more than you realize. It’s not a matter of making sure you’re exercising enough — per Dr. Erin Michos, associate director of preventive cardiology at Johns Hopkins, “Even if you’re doing 30 minutes per day of physical activity, it matters what you do the other 23 hours of the day.” Dr. Michos finds reasons to get up and move every hour, such as going down the hall to a colleague’s office to ask a question instead of asking via email.

  2. Make every meal a rainbow

    To reduce risk of heart disease, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada recommends 7 to 10 servings of vegetables and fruit every day. Practically all of them are low in calories, fat, and sodium, and many are rich in vitamin C or beta-carotene, both of which reduce plaque buildup in your arteries. To understand what the foundation means by “serving,” here’s Health Canada’s current serving-size guide.

  3. Keep the fats — but only the healthy kind

    It’s never a good idea to cut out all fat. Your body needs certain fats. According to the American Heart Association, the heart-healthy approach is to focus on unsaturated fats (poly or mono), heavily limit saturated fats, and cut out artificial trans fats, hydrogenated oils, and tropical oils entirely.

    What does that mean, exactly? Easy ways to load up on the good stuff are adding fish and avocado to your diet, eating nuts in moderation, and steering toward oils that are low in saturated fat, such as avocado, grapeseed, olive, and sesame oils.

How Prevalent Really is Hearing Loss Among Americans and Canadians?

How many people in your life have hearing difficulties? One person? Two people? A handful? No one? The actual number is quite possibly more than you think, because hearing loss — the inability or reduced ability to perceive sounds that enter the ear — is much more common than many realize.

In the United States and Canada together, for example, millions of people live with hearing loss. Numbers may vary per organization, government agency, or study, but:

In both countries, hearing loss also represents one of the top chronic physical conditions — even, in the case of the United States, ahead of diabetes or cancer. It’s a growing concern affecting children and adults, including approximately 34 million youth worldwide. In fact, it’s one of the most common birth defects in Canada and possibly the most common one in the U.S.
 

The good news?

Most hearing loss can be effectively managed with solutions such as hearing aids, helping you stay connected to the people, places, and experiences that matter most.
 

The bad news?

Only a fraction of those who could benefit from hearing help actually seek or receive it, making hearing loss an undertreated issue.
 
Even worse, hearing loss not only impacts communication but can go hand in hand with other problems such as social isolation, depression, diabetes, dementia, heart disease, and risk of falls.


FEBRUARY IS HEART MONTH

Did you know? Like hearing loss, cardiovascular disease — including heart disease and stroke — is a global public-health challenge. It’s the No. 1 killer worldwide, with nearly 18 million deaths annually per World Health Organization estimates, and is linked to hearing loss.

Precisely how cardiovascular disease and hearing loss are connected isn’t yet conclusive in all cases, but researchers have found, for example, that those with heart disease are 54 percent more likely to experience a hearing loss — even more so if they’ve suffered a heart attack.

Some risk factors such as age, gender, and family history can’t be helped, but healthy choices such as the following can make a difference in helping prevent either condition:

  • Avoiding tobacco
  • Following a healthy diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Getting regular hearing and overall checkups

Take it to heart, and spread the word!

Hearing Aids: 5 Fun Facts on What These Powerful Devices Can Do

Some individuals might not realize how far technology has come to make communication easier than ever. We’ll provide you with some facts about hearing aids.

Did you know? Fewer than one out of three adults 70 and older who could benefit from hearing aids actually uses them, per the U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, and the rate plunges to just 16 percent among those 20 to 69.

The reasons for these stark statistics may vary, but what’s clear is that disabling hearing loss — a serious public health issue affecting approximately 466 million people worldwide — is undertreated on a global scale.

Some individuals who need hearing help might not realize how far technology has advanced to make communication easier and more empowering than ever, even in some of the most challenging listening situations.

Check out these five fun facts you may not have known about hearing devices:

  1. Like Elephants, They “Remember”

    Want the same great listening experience at your favorite — but noisy — food spot every time you get together with family and friends? Options vary across different product lines, but some AGX® Hearing devices offer a “restaurant” setting that cuts background noise, or you can create your own geotagged “memory” with sound settings tailored to specific locations for a consistent experience.

  2. Built-In Mics Put You in Control

    When a room or other venue contains competing sounds, you need a way to focus on the audio you actually want to hear. You can use your AGX hearing aid’s directionality function to focus the device’s microphones on the conversation in front of you, for example, versus the noise or other sounds behind you.

  3. They Play Well With Other Devices

    Hearing impairment can make it difficult to track who’s saying what in group discussions — for instance, a brainstorming session at work. A wireless Bluetooth® microphone, set in a central spot during the conversation, can send speech directly to your hearing aid! During more personal gatherings, your conversation companions can take turns placing the mic on their lapel while speaking.

  4. You Can Stream Like a Champ

    Speaking of playing well with other devices: Many hearing aids today let you transmit audio from your television, stereo, or smartphone to your hearing tech — whether streaming directly or with the help of a wireless accessory called a “streamer” that clips to your collar. Laugh along with your favorite TV comedy series, enjoy the latest tunes, or video chat on your smartphone with clarity and confidence.

  5. They Make Good Fitness Buddies

    Some cutting-edge hearing aids not only offer great sound, speech clarity in noise, and audio streaming from your smartphone but also track brain and body health using artificial intelligence. With the AGXs liv, for example, you control your programs, settings, and streaming while the Thrive™ Hearing app records your health data and provides three wellness scores, helping you track your fitness goals.

 


Want a closer look at what today’s modern technology can do for your hearing health and enjoyment? Contact us to schedule your FREE demonstration today! Our caring team can’t wait to show you how far hearing aids have come.
 

Get That Gym Workout — Without Hurting Your Ears | Protecting Your Hearing

Making Moves — and Protecting Your Hearing, Too! Planning to bust some moves at the gym as part of your 2019 goals? You’re not alone. Excess noise and good hearing health don’t mix. Read on for four easy tips.

Planning to bust some moves at the gym as part of your 2019 goals? You’re not alone. As a tried-and-true strategy for losing weight, feeling more fit, or simply stepping up physical activity for overall wellness, working out is a perennially popular New Year’s resolution, and exercise classes can be a fun way to fit the bill.

The catch? Whether it’s cycling, kickboxing, step aerobics, dance, or another high-energy track, these classes often crank up the music to harmful levels — well above the danger threshold of 85 decibels — giving your ears a workout you didn’t bargain for. It can lead to instant or gradual hearing loss that could be permanent.

To protect your hearing while getting into the exercise groove, here are four things you can do:

Speak Up

Turning down the volume in the first place goes a long way toward reducing the risk of noise-induced hearing loss. If the music seems too loud, consider asking the instructor before class begins or during a cool-down break to lower the volume. Better yet, explore different gyms and fitness studios and their approach to noise management before choosing the facility for your needs.

Wear Earplugs

Keeping earplugs in your car or gym bag helps ensure you’ll have a pair on hand. They’re small enough to fit in your ear but effective enough to help soften the loudest sounds while still allowing you to hear. Inexpensive varieties are available at most pharmacies. Consider a customized set from your local audiologist to help ensure a secure fit during high-intensity exercise.

Keep Your Distance

The closer you are to the sound source, the bigger the burden on your ears, so try to pick a spot as far away from the speakers as possible. That can be harder to do in a smaller room — especially if speakers are along the wall and the ceiling, too — but every bit of space between you and the epicenter of the noise can make a difference.

Take a Break

Keeping your noise exposure to 15 minutes or less amid 100-plus decibel levels and no more than a minute amid 110-plus decibel levels — per public-health recommendations — might seem a tall order during your favorite aerobics session. Frequent or prolonged noise exposure, however, increases the chance of lifelong hearing damage, so consider leaving class for a water break or an alternate activity during the loudest moments.

We’re here to support you in your wellness goals. For custom hearing protection or more tips on keeping your hearing safe while working out, contact our caring team today!

Online Hearing Tests: Can They Help?

Several online or app-based home hearing tests have been developed. Researchers have been studying how well work compared to a professional hearing test.

From blood-pressure kiosks in retail stores and vision exams online to home kits that test for HIV, blood-sugar levels, colon cancer, and more, the do-it-yourself approach to health screening continues to expand as the demand for greater convenience and consumer empowerment grows. Even online hearing tests are a part of the DIY mix, but do they work? What role can they play in ensuring your optimal hearing health?

Let’s take a closer look, including the pros, the cons, and the bottom line for keeping your hearing in top shape.

Some Pros

Imagine being able to accomplish anything and everything from the comfort of your own home. Sounds pretty convenient, right? We’re not quite there on a global scale, but quality online hearing tests could help you take a first step toward better hearing health without even leaving the house.

People take an average seven years to make a provider appointment after suspecting they may have a hearing loss, so imagine how much sooner they might seek professional help if they could make that first move — a hearing test — at home. It’s simple, free, discreet, relatively quick, and can potentially estimate your current hearing ability.

Several online or app-based home hearing tests have been developed, and researchers have been studying how well they compare to similar tests given in a hearing-care professional’s sound booth. Results have varied, depending on factors such as the specific DIY platform tested.

Some Cons

Even the most reliable online hearing test — one that potentially could determine your basic hearing threshold and indicate your degree of hearing loss — can be misinterpreted without the expertise to understand what the findings mean or how and why you have the potential impairment.

For example, a hearing loss could be caused by something as simple as a foreign object in your ear canal, or it could be a sign of issues in the areas of your brain that process sound. In either case, you may be unaware of the underlying problem, but heading to a big-box retailer to buy hearing aids won’t solve it.

Online testing also doesn’t provide the comprehensive evaluation you need for a more complete look at your hearing wellness:

  • Some online hearing screenings may use the pure-tone air-conduction threshold test, for instance, in which each ear is played a series of sounds through earphones, and you indicate whether you can hear each respective tone. The test measures the quietest sound you can reliably hear at least 50 percent of the time — the threshold. This important data, however, only scratches the surface. It doesn’t explain how well you hear speech, how well you understand it, or whether the hearing loss is due to an injury in your ear.
  • In addition to a battery of important tests that measure elements such as pure-tone air and bone conduction, speech and word recognition, tympanometry and acoustic reflexes, comfortable listening levels, the threshold of discomfort, and more, professional examinations include an inspection of your ears and an intake of your medical and hearing-health history.

The Bottom Line

A reliable home hearing test can serve as an important wake-up call in your hearing health. If you’re on the fence about hearing care, it’s an easy way to find out whether you potentially have hearing loss, which is best addressed by a trained, licensed professional.

Keep in mind, however, that a home hearing test shows you a symptom — it doesn’t pinpoint the underlying problem or provide solutions for your unique needs. An audiologic evaluation gathers nuanced data about not only your auditory system but ways to improve your specific hearing difficulties.


Your auditory system is complex, and so is the combination of people and environments that creates your unique listening lifestyle. If you’re noticing difficulty communicating in your everyday activities or took an online test that indicated potential hearing loss, don’t wait. Contact our caring team for a comprehensive evaluation today.

Self-Fitting Hearing Aids: Reasons to Consult a Hearing Care Professional

Self-Fitting Hearing Aids: Key Reasons to Consult a Hearing Care Professional Instead

Self-Fitting Hearing Aids are new to the market, but they still have a ways to go in matching the effectiveness of clinician-fitted hearing devices.

Have you heard of self-fitting hearing aids (SFHAs)? Can they help if you have a hearing loss? What exactly are they, and how do they differ from traditional hearing devices fitted by a hearing care expert? What’s the best action to take if you need hearing help?

With hearing loss posing a serious public-health challenge worldwide — it’s a chronic problem affecting millions of women, men, and children — technology continues evolving to improve sound clarity, expand compatibility with other smart devices, and increase accessibility to a wider reach of people.

So where do self-fitting hearing aids fit into the equation of better-hearing options? Let’s take a look.

What Are Self-Fitting Hearing Aids?

Definitions of SFHAs can vary slightly across experts. In the simplest terms, they’re sound-amplifying devices designed to let the user measure their own hearing loss, appropriately install the devices in their ears, and program them for optimal hearing in various listening environments without the prescription or assistance of an audiologist, medical doctor, or other specially trained hearing expert.

Can These Self-Fitting Devices Help Me?

As a relatively newer product category, self-fitting hearing aids may ultimately prove a welcome addition to the range of treatment options. They still have a ways to go, however, in matching the effectiveness and satisfaction of clinician-fitted hearing devices.

One recent study, “Outcomes With a Self-Fitting Hearing Aid,” compared user-driven and provider-driven fittings of a single self-fitting product. Researchers uncovered no significant hearing-aid-performance differences between the two groups but saw that cognition plays a big role. Those “with poorer cognitive function consistently exhibited more difficulty in handling the” self-fitting devices, wrote the study’s authors.

It’s important to note that self-fitting hearing aids require access to, familiarity with, and the ability to understand how to operate and adjust the devices, which could prove challenging for some patients struggling with manual dexterity, visual acuity, cognitive issues, or inability to navigate or access computers or apps. Seeking professional assistance could make all the difference in user satisfaction.

Passage of the federal Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 will eventually bring even more self-treating options to the market, but when it comes to addressing the full spectrum of hearing loss and integrating environmental variables such as background noise, FDA-approved, provider-fit hearing aids are the recommended approach.

What Should I Do if I’m Having Hearing Difficulty?

Did you know? An estimated 466 million children and adults around the globe live with disabling hearing loss, per the World Health Organization, but the good news is that nearly all hearing impairment can be effectively managed to keep you communicating your best.

An important first step is recognizing some of the potential signs and symptoms of hearing loss:

  • The perception that everyone seems to be mumbling
  • Trouble understanding speech in noisy environments
  • Frequent need to turn up the TV or have words repeated
  • Tinnitus — a buzzing, ringing, clicking, or humming in the ears
  • Difficulty conversing on the phone or understanding women’s and children’s voices

Untreated hearing loss has been linked to numerous other health complications such as cognitive decline, diabetes, depression, hypertension, social withdrawal, and more, making early treatment important to improving quality of life.


If you are experiencing listening problems or it’s been a while since your last hearing test, don’t wait. Schedule an evaluation with our expert team today. We’re here to help!