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Hearing Loss: Should I Get Hearing Aids?

You may want to have a say in this decision, or you may simply want to follow your doctor's recommendation. Either way, this information will help you understand what your choices are so that you can talk to your doctor about them.

Hearing Loss: Should I Get Hearing Aids?

Get the facts

Your options

  • Try hearing aids. In most cases, you can try them for 30 days or longer and then return them if they don't help you.
  • Learn how to live with reduced hearing without the use of hearing aids.

Key points to remember

  • Some types of hearing loss can be treated and corrected so that you don't need hearing aids. See an ear, nose, and throat doctor to find out if your hearing loss can be treated and if hearing aids will help.
  • Hearing aids can help you hear better and feel connected to others.
  • Although it will take some time to get used to using hearing aids, many people do so and learn how to get the most out of them.
  • You can learn how to live with reduced hearing by paying attention to people's gestures, facial expressions, posture, and tone of voice. You might want to take a lip-reading class. These things can help whether you use hearing aids or not.
FAQs

What are hearing aids?

Hearing aids makes sounds louder. There are many different styles of hearing aids. And you can add special features to your hearing aids. But almost all hearing aids have these parts:

  • A microphone, to pick up sound.
  • An amplifier, to make the sound louder.
  • A speaker, to deliver the sound into the ear.

You can wear hearing aids behind your ear, in your outer ear, in your ear canal, or completely implanted in the ear. The kind of hearing aid you choose depends on many things, including your degree of hearing loss, your doctor or audiologist's advice, and what kind of hearing aid you want.

Most hearing aids use digital technology. They are programmed for your needs using a computer. Very few hearing aids use analog technology.

Also, external hearing aids come in different styles. Some are very small. The smallest ones can fit completely in your ear canal or be hidden in a small case behind your ear with a thin, see-through tube running into your ear canal. Larger styles fit in the outer ear. Each style of hearing aid has pros and cons. Work with your hearing aid provider to find the best kind of hearing aid for your needs.

How can you find out if hearing aids could help you?

If you think you have a hearing problem and are thinking about getting hearing aids, look for an ear, nose, and throat doctor (an otolaryngologist or otologist). He or she can check for other problems and find out the cause of your hearing loss. The doctor can also recommend possible treatments.

If the doctor finds that hearing aids would help, ask him or her to refer you to an audiologist. This specialist can help you choose the type of hearing aid that will work best for you. He or she can help you learn how to get the most benefit from your hearing aids.

What are the benefits of wearing hearing aids?

Permanent hearing loss can make you feel lonely or depressed or like you have lost your independence. Hearing aids can often help with these issues.

Hearing aids can help you hear better and feel connected to family, friends, and others. They can also make you safer when you drive or when you work around your home. Hearing aids may help with your job, hobbies, and daily activities such as talking on the phone. Hearing aids often can be programmed to mask tinnitus (a ringing in the ear).

Wearing hearing aids also shows courtesy to others, because you don't have to keep asking them to repeat what they just said. You can again enjoy talking with your family without extra effort.

Will it be hard to adjust to hearing aids?

It may take from several weeks to months for you to get used to your hearing aids. You may find that:

  • Sounds seem strange. It's good to remember that hearing aids will not make you hear like you used to. And nothing will ever sound completely normal. If noises are so strange or shrill that they are distracting you, tell your hearing aid provider before you leave his or her office.
  • You hear things you haven't heard in a long time. For example, you may hear background noises (rustling papers, clinking silverware) much more clearly.
  • You are more aware of sounds close to you. Your footsteps, heartbeat, or car motor may be much more noticeable. With time, your brain will get better at ignoring these sounds.
  • Your hearing aids can be uncomfortable. But they should not be painful. Before you leave the hearing aid provider's office with your new hearing aids, make sure they fit. Your hearing aids should not hurt your ear or be loose in your ear.
  • Sometimes your hearing aids will make a buzzing noise when you use a cell phone. This noise can be annoying, and it can make it hard to hear the person on the phone. If you use a cell phone, make sure your hearing aid provider knows. He or she can suggest hearing aids that work better with cell phones. And when you buy a new cell phone, buy one that is compatible with hearing aids.

Here are some general tips to help you adjust to your new hearing aids.

  • Start by wearing your hearing aids when you are talking to only one person. These are the easiest conversations to hear clearly. Slowly work up to conversations with more than one person.
  • Continue to pay attention to people's gestures, facial expressions, posture, and tone of voice. Your hearing aids won't help you catch every word that is said, especially in a loud place.
  • Wear your hearing aids. The more you wear them, especially at the beginning, the faster you will get used to them.

Why might your doctor recommend hearing aids?

Your doctor or audiologist may suggest hearing aids if:

  • You have a type of hearing loss that can't be helped by other treatment.
  • Using hearing aids will improve your quality of life.

Compare your options

Compare

What is usually involved?









What are the benefits?









What are the risks and side effects?









Try hearing aids Try hearing aids
  • You wear a hearing aid behind your ear, in your outer ear, in your ear canal, or implanted completely inside your ear.
  • Depending on what type of hearing aid you get, you can control it for loudness and/or different hearing situations.
  • Hearing aids won't restore normal hearing.
  • Hearing aids can help you hear better and feel connected to others.
  • Hearing better will make you feel safer when you drive or when you work around your home or on the job.
  • Hearing aids often can be programmed to mask tinnitus (a ringing in the ear).
  • Hearing aids can make it hard to pick out certain sounds or adjust to different listening situations.
  • It can take weeks or months to get used to hearing aids.
  • Hearing aids will feel odd in your ear at first and may cause some pain and tenderness in the ear canal.
  • Hearing aids can be expensive, and your insurance may not cover the cost.
Live without hearing aids Live without hearing aids
  • You learn to live with reduced hearing by paying attention to people's gestures, facial expressions, posture, and tone of voice. You can also learn to read lips.
  • You will not have to spend the money on hearing aids.
  • You will not have to spend time getting used to hearing aids.
  • You will continue to have reduced hearing.
  • You may feel left out of conversations and not connected to family and friends.
  • Your relationships with family and friends may be affected because you often have to ask them to repeat what they say, or because you always have the TV volume turned up very high.
  • You may not be as safe at work or when you drive because of your hearing problem.

Personal stories

Are you interested in what others decided to do? Many people have faced this decision. These personal stories may help you decide.

Personal stories about getting hearing aids

These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.

For some time I could not hear my family and friends talking to me as clearly as I used to. Sometimes I gave them an answer to their questions that left puzzled looks on their faces, as if I had said the wrong thing. My wife complained about how loud I kept the volume on the TV. So I decided I needed to get my hearing checked. The doctor said my hearing problem could be helped with hearing aids, so I decided to get them.

Sanjay, age 51

I talk on the phone a lot for my job. One day I realized I had been having trouble for some time hearing what people said. I kept asking clients to repeat what they just told me on the phone. My doctor said I had some hearing loss in my left ear, the one I use for the phone. He said hearing aids would help. But I decided not to get them for now. I don't like the way hearing aids look, and I can get a volume control for the phone or use my other ear.

Andria, age 59

My wife kept kidding me that I needed hearing aids because I would ask her what the characters on my favorite TV show just said. I began to think that I did need them, so I checked with my doctor. But after she cleaned the earwax out of my ears, I found I could hear much better and didn't need hearing aids after all.

Colin, age 45

I don't like change and didn't think I could learn to use hearing aids. I live alone, and I'm pretty set in my ways. But I realized I was missing out on what my grandchildren were telling me. My friends encouraged me to give hearing aids a try, and my doctor said it could help. It took some time for me to get used to wearing hearing aids, but I'm glad I made the effort.

Ruth, age 69

What matters most to you?

Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision, and show how you feel about the following statements.

Reasons to get hearing aids

Reasons not to get hearing aids

I need to hear better to do my job and other daily activities.

I hear well enough to get through my day.

More important
Equally important
More important

Paying attention to people's gestures and facial expressions isn't enough to help me understand what they're saying.

I can live with hearing loss by paying attention to people's gestures, facial expressions, posture, and tone of voice.

More important
Equally important
More important

My hearing problem is affecting relationships with my family, friends, and others.

I don't feel that my hearing problem affects my relationships with others.

More important
Equally important
More important

I am willing to take the time to adjust to using hearing aids.

I think it would be too hard to adjust to hearing aids and get them to work the way I want them to.

More important
Equally important
More important

My other important reasons:

My other important reasons:

More important
Equally important
More important

Where are you leaning now?

Now that you've thought about the facts and your feelings, you may have a general idea of where you stand on this decision. Show which way you are leaning right now.

Getting hearing aids

NOT getting hearing aids

Leaning toward
Undecided
Leaning toward

What else do you need to make your decision?

Check the facts

1.

No matter what is causing my hearing loss, only hearing aids can bring my hearing back.

  • TrueNo, that's wrong. Some types of hearing loss can be treated and corrected so that you don't need hearing aids.
  • FalseYou're right. Some types of hearing loss can be treated and corrected so that you don't need hearing aids.
  • I'm not sureIt may help to go back and read "Key points to remember." Some types of hearing loss can be treated and corrected so that you don't need hearing aids.
2.

Hearing aids will be very hard for me to get used to.

  • TrueNo, that's not true. Although it takes some time to get used to using hearing aids, many people do so and learn how to get the most out of them.
  • FalseYou're right. Although it takes some time to get used to using hearing aids, many people do so and learn how to get the most out of them.
  • I'm not sureIt may help to go back and read "Key points to remember." Although it takes some time to get used to using hearing aids, many people do so and learn how to get the most out of them.
3.

Getting hearing aids can help me feel happier, since I will be able to take part in my family's conversations.

  • TrueThat's right. Permanent hearing loss can make you feel lonely or depressed or like you have lost your independence. Hearing aids can often help with these issues.
  • FalseNo, that's not right. Permanent hearing loss can make you feel lonely or depressed or like you have lost your independence. Hearing aids can often help with these issues.
  • I'm not sureIt may help to go back and read "Get the Facts." Hearing aids can often help with issues like loneliness, depression, and loss of independence.

Decide what's next

1.

Do you understand the options available to you?

2.

Are you clear about which benefits and side effects matter most to you?

3.

Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?

Certainty

1.

How sure do you feel right now about your decision?

Not sure at all
Somewhat sure
Very sure
3.

Use the following space to list questions, concerns, and next steps.

Your Summary

Here's a record of your answers. You can use it to talk with your doctor or loved ones about your decision.

Your decision 

Next steps

Which way you're leaning

How sure you are

Your comments

Your knowledge of the facts 

Key concepts that you understood

Key concepts that may need review

Getting ready to act 

Patient choices

Credits

Credits
Credits Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Charles M. Myer, III, MD - Otolaryngology
You may want to have a say in this decision, or you may simply want to follow your doctor's recommendation. Either way, this information will help you understand what your choices are so that you can talk to your doctor about them.

Hearing Loss: Should I Get Hearing Aids?

Here's a record of your answers. You can use it to talk with your doctor or loved ones about your decision.
  1. Get the facts
  2. Compare your options
  3. What matters most to you?
  4. Where are you leaning now?
  5. What else do you need to make your decision?

1. Get the Facts

Your options

  • Try hearing aids. In most cases, you can try them for 30 days or longer and then return them if they don't help you.
  • Learn how to live with reduced hearing without the use of hearing aids.

Key points to remember

  • Some types of hearing loss can be treated and corrected so that you don't need hearing aids. See an ear, nose, and throat doctor to find out if your hearing loss can be treated and if hearing aids will help.
  • Hearing aids can help you hear better and feel connected to others.
  • Although it will take some time to get used to using hearing aids, many people do so and learn how to get the most out of them.
  • You can learn how to live with reduced hearing by paying attention to people's gestures, facial expressions, posture, and tone of voice. You might want to take a lip-reading class. These things can help whether you use hearing aids or not.
FAQs

What are hearing aids?

Hearing aids makes sounds louder. There are many different styles of hearing aids. And you can add special features to your hearing aids. But almost all hearing aids have these parts:

  • A microphone, to pick up sound.
  • An amplifier, to make the sound louder.
  • A speaker, to deliver the sound into the ear.

You can wear hearing aids behind your ear, in your outer ear, in your ear canal, or completely implanted in the ear. The kind of hearing aid you choose depends on many things, including your degree of hearing loss, your doctor or audiologist's advice, and what kind of hearing aid you want.

Most hearing aids use digital technology. They are programmed for your needs using a computer. Very few hearing aids use analog technology.

Also, external hearing aids come in different styles. Some are very small. The smallest ones can fit completely in your ear canal or be hidden in a small case behind your ear with a thin, see-through tube running into your ear canal. Larger styles fit in the outer ear. Each style of hearing aid has pros and cons. Work with your hearing aid provider to find the best kind of hearing aid for your needs.

How can you find out if hearing aids could help you?

If you think you have a hearing problem and are thinking about getting hearing aids, look for an ear, nose, and throat doctor (an otolaryngologist or otologist). He or she can check for other problems and find out the cause of your hearing loss. The doctor can also recommend possible treatments.

If the doctor finds that hearing aids would help, ask him or her to refer you to an audiologist. This specialist can help you choose the type of hearing aid that will work best for you. He or she can help you learn how to get the most benefit from your hearing aids.

What are the benefits of wearing hearing aids?

Permanent hearing loss can make you feel lonely or depressed or like you have lost your independence. Hearing aids can often help with these issues.

Hearing aids can help you hear better and feel connected to family, friends, and others. They can also make you safer when you drive or when you work around your home. Hearing aids may help with your job, hobbies, and daily activities such as talking on the phone. Hearing aids often can be programmed to mask tinnitus (a ringing in the ear).

Wearing hearing aids also shows courtesy to others, because you don't have to keep asking them to repeat what they just said. You can again enjoy talking with your family without extra effort.

Will it be hard to adjust to hearing aids?

It may take from several weeks to months for you to get used to your hearing aids. You may find that:

  • Sounds seem strange. It's good to remember that hearing aids will not make you hear like you used to. And nothing will ever sound completely normal. If noises are so strange or shrill that they are distracting you, tell your hearing aid provider before you leave his or her office.
  • You hear things you haven't heard in a long time. For example, you may hear background noises (rustling papers, clinking silverware) much more clearly.
  • You are more aware of sounds close to you. Your footsteps, heartbeat, or car motor may be much more noticeable. With time, your brain will get better at ignoring these sounds.
  • Your hearing aids can be uncomfortable. But they should not be painful. Before you leave the hearing aid provider's office with your new hearing aids, make sure they fit. Your hearing aids should not hurt your ear or be loose in your ear.
  • Sometimes your hearing aids will make a buzzing noise when you use a cell phone. This noise can be annoying, and it can make it hard to hear the person on the phone. If you use a cell phone, make sure your hearing aid provider knows. He or she can suggest hearing aids that work better with cell phones. And when you buy a new cell phone, buy one that is compatible with hearing aids.

Here are some general tips to help you adjust to your new hearing aids.

  • Start by wearing your hearing aids when you are talking to only one person. These are the easiest conversations to hear clearly. Slowly work up to conversations with more than one person.
  • Continue to pay attention to people's gestures, facial expressions, posture, and tone of voice. Your hearing aids won't help you catch every word that is said, especially in a loud place.
  • Wear your hearing aids. The more you wear them, especially at the beginning, the faster you will get used to them.

Why might your doctor recommend hearing aids?

Your doctor or audiologist may suggest hearing aids if:

  • You have a type of hearing loss that can't be helped by other treatment.
  • Using hearing aids will improve your quality of life.

2. Compare your options

  Try hearing aids Live without hearing aids
What is usually involved?
  • You wear a hearing aid behind your ear, in your outer ear, in your ear canal, or implanted completely inside your ear.
  • Depending on what type of hearing aid you get, you can control it for loudness and/or different hearing situations.
  • Hearing aids won't restore normal hearing.
  • You learn to live with reduced hearing by paying attention to people's gestures, facial expressions, posture, and tone of voice. You can also learn to read lips.
What are the benefits?
  • Hearing aids can help you hear better and feel connected to others.
  • Hearing better will make you feel safer when you drive or when you work around your home or on the job.
  • Hearing aids often can be programmed to mask tinnitus (a ringing in the ear).
  • You will not have to spend the money on hearing aids.
  • You will not have to spend time getting used to hearing aids.
What are the risks and side effects?
  • Hearing aids can make it hard to pick out certain sounds or adjust to different listening situations.
  • It can take weeks or months to get used to hearing aids.
  • Hearing aids will feel odd in your ear at first and may cause some pain and tenderness in the ear canal.
  • Hearing aids can be expensive, and your insurance may not cover the cost.
  • You will continue to have reduced hearing.
  • You may feel left out of conversations and not connected to family and friends.
  • Your relationships with family and friends may be affected because you often have to ask them to repeat what they say, or because you always have the TV volume turned up very high.
  • You may not be as safe at work or when you drive because of your hearing problem.

Personal stories

Are you interested in what others decided to do? Many people have faced this decision. These personal stories may help you decide.

Personal stories about getting hearing aids

These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.

"For some time I could not hear my family and friends talking to me as clearly as I used to. Sometimes I gave them an answer to their questions that left puzzled looks on their faces, as if I had said the wrong thing. My wife complained about how loud I kept the volume on the TV. So I decided I needed to get my hearing checked. The doctor said my hearing problem could be helped with hearing aids, so I decided to get them."

— Sanjay, age 51

"I talk on the phone a lot for my job. One day I realized I had been having trouble for some time hearing what people said. I kept asking clients to repeat what they just told me on the phone. My doctor said I had some hearing loss in my left ear, the one I use for the phone. He said hearing aids would help. But I decided not to get them for now. I don't like the way hearing aids look, and I can get a volume control for the phone or use my other ear."

— Andria, age 59

"My wife kept kidding me that I needed hearing aids because I would ask her what the characters on my favorite TV show just said. I began to think that I did need them, so I checked with my doctor. But after she cleaned the earwax out of my ears, I found I could hear much better and didn't need hearing aids after all."

— Colin, age 45

"I don't like change and didn't think I could learn to use hearing aids. I live alone, and I'm pretty set in my ways. But I realized I was missing out on what my grandchildren were telling me. My friends encouraged me to give hearing aids a try, and my doctor said it could help. It took some time for me to get used to wearing hearing aids, but I'm glad I made the effort."

— Ruth, age 69

3. What matters most to you?

Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision, and show how you feel about the following statements.

Reasons to get hearing aids

Reasons not to get hearing aids

I need to hear better to do my job and other daily activities.

I hear well enough to get through my day.

             
More important
Equally important
More important

Paying attention to people's gestures and facial expressions isn't enough to help me understand what they're saying.

I can live with hearing loss by paying attention to people's gestures, facial expressions, posture, and tone of voice.

             
More important
Equally important
More important

My hearing problem is affecting relationships with my family, friends, and others.

I don't feel that my hearing problem affects my relationships with others.

             
More important
Equally important
More important

I am willing to take the time to adjust to using hearing aids.

I think it would be too hard to adjust to hearing aids and get them to work the way I want them to.

             
More important
Equally important
More important

My other important reasons:

My other important reasons:

   
             
More important
Equally important
More important

4. Where are you leaning now?

Now that you've thought about the facts and your feelings, you may have a general idea of where you stand on this decision. Show which way you are leaning right now.

Getting hearing aids

NOT getting hearing aids

             
Leaning toward
Undecided
Leaning toward

5. What else do you need to make your decision?

Check the facts

1. No matter what is causing my hearing loss, only hearing aids can bring my hearing back.

  • True
  • False
  • I'm not sure
You're right. Some types of hearing loss can be treated and corrected so that you don't need hearing aids.

2. Hearing aids will be very hard for me to get used to.

  • True
  • False
  • I'm not sure
You're right. Although it takes some time to get used to using hearing aids, many people do so and learn how to get the most out of them.

3. Getting hearing aids can help me feel happier, since I will be able to take part in my family's conversations.

  • True
  • False
  • I'm not sure
That's right. Permanent hearing loss can make you feel lonely or depressed or like you have lost your independence. Hearing aids can often help with these issues.

Decide what's next

1. Do you understand the options available to you?

2. Are you clear about which benefits and side effects matter most to you?

3. Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?

Certainty

1. How sure do you feel right now about your decision?

         
Not sure at all
Somewhat sure
Very sure

2. Check what you need to do before you make this decision.

  • I'm ready to take action.
  • I want to discuss the options with others.
  • I want to learn more about my options.

3. Use the following space to list questions, concerns, and next steps.

 
Credits
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Charles M. Myer, III, MD - Otolaryngology

Note: The "printer friendly" document will not contain all the information available in the online document some Information (e.g. cross-references to other topics, definitions or medical illustrations) is only available in the online version.

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