Please read our disclaimer.
Hearing aids are electrical devices that assist in optimizing perception of speech or other sounds.
In essence, you need a hearing aid if the cost/benefit ratio is reasonable. An "ideal" hearing aid candidate is someone with a mild-moderate bilateral hearing loss, who has experienced a noticeable communication handicap. Many individuals who have good hearing on one side can adjust reasonably well to any degree of hearing loss on the other side. Hearing aids are not indicated for an ear with minor hearing loss, and are also not very useful in an ear with profound hearing loss. In other words, hearing aids are usually most appreciated in people with mild to moderate hearing loss on both sides.
Be sure that you need a hearing aid. It is said that 2/3 hearing aids go unworn. Most states have a 30 day return policy.
|Minimal or no hearing loss||Minimal or no benefit (little to gain)|
|Moderate hearing loss||Good benefit|
|Profound hearing loss||Minimal or no benefit from conventional aid, consider cochlear implant if bilateral.|
Audiometric evaluation -- determine type (i.e. sensorineural, conductive or central), degree, and frequency slope. Determine word recognition score with and without amplification. The evaluation should be able to predict the amount of benefit of a hearing aid, in terms of speech comprehension.
Otologic evaluation -- determines whether medical or surgical treatment is possible (i.e. wax removal). Medical clearance is advisable before purchasing a hearing aid.
Organized by technology (and expense)
Organized by appearance and size
Organized by Binaural/Monaural
Hearing aids are typically not covered by Medicare or commercial insurance and pricing varies according to the manufacturer, vendor, and service arrangements. In the Chicago area, these were typical or "ballpark" prices, as of June of 1998.
|Hearing Aid Type||One ear||Both Ears|
|Conventional||700 (ITE or BTE)-1500$ (CIC)||1400-3000|
|Programmable||1100(ITE or BTE)-2000$ (CIC)||2200-4000|
|Digital||2100 (ITE or BTE)-2700$ (CIC)||4200-5400|
There are numerous brands and variants. In general, smaller devices, such as the CIC devices mentioned above, are more expensive, and newer/more complex circuitry is also more expensive. Compression circuitry in analog aides is more expensive (but definately a good idea). Greater user control is also usually more expensive. Bilateral aids are often but not always better (Baron, 2002), and in our opinion, usually it is best to be cautious and do one ear at a time.
In Illinois as well as in many other states, there is a 30 day tryout period, which is basically a legally mandated money-back guarantee for the hearing aid device itself. The dispenser is allowed to keep a fee for their services during the trial. As 2 out of every 3 hearing aids are not worn (at least often), and hearing aids are generally not covered by insurance and typically cost in the $1000's, we recommend that you think about this carefully. On the other hand, hearing is a very important sense.
There number of methods of obtaining a hearing aid. Probably the most common method is to visit a dispensing audiologist who can test your hearing, recommend an appropriate device, and assist in the maintenance. Hearing aids are also sold in department stores (such as Costco) as well as in other venues. We think that it is best to find a reputable source for your hearing aid, and also a source that will offer a reasonable selection of devices.
An exciting recent development is an ability to provide hearing to some bilaterally deafened individuals through implantation of a device which directly stimulates the hearing nerve (actually the spiral ganglion). Although this device is not generally considered as a "hearing aid", it performs the same purpose for individuals with severe hearing impairment involving both ears. At the time of writing of this section, 12/2002, there are three companies that make implants -- Clarion, Med-El, and Cochlear Ltd. Generally an electode is threaded into the cochlea, as shown to the right. For more details, see the Clarion web site. The picture to the right is from their web site.
Most neurotologists are able to perform this procedure. Cochlear implants do not completely substitute for a normally hearing ear,and at very best, may allow someone who was previously totally deaf to understand conversation on a telephone. Cochlear implant packages, including the device, surgery, and rehabilitation are much more expensive than hearing aids (roughly $45,000), but when one is indicated, they are generally covered by insurance, unlike the situation with hearing aids. A patient-contributed history is found here. Remarkable improvements in performance have been accomplished since 1980. Further information about cochlear implants can be found at the following sites:
There is also recent availability of a device that is implanted into the middle ear, in essence, implanting the speaker part of the hearing aid. This device seems promising for individuals who are unable to tolerate conventional hearing aids.