Hearing Aids FAQs

  • How do I know if I have a hearing loss?
  • Where should I go for a hearing evaluation?
  • What is a hearing exam?
  • What will I learn from a hearing evaluation?
  • Will hearing instruments help me on the telephone?
  • Will hearing instruments eliminate all my communication problems?
  • Are all hearing instruments the same?
  • What are the basic styles of hearing instruments?
  • What are digital hearing instruments?
  • How expensive are hearing instruments?
  • Does Gundersen Audiology offer hearing aids?
  • Do I have to buy the hearing instrument from the audiologist who evaluates my hearing?
  • Will my health insurance pay for any of the costs for getting hearing instruments?
  • Do I need one hearing instrument or two?
  • How well do hearing instruments work in the presence of background noise?
  • What if I buy a hearing instrument that does not help me?
  • Hearing instrument tips

  • How do I know if I have a hearing loss?

    You may have a hearing loss if:

    • You often ask people to repeat what was said.
    • You hear voices when people are talking, but you have to strain to understand the words. This problem may occur frequently or only with certain people or certain situations.
    • You do not laugh at jokes because you miss too much of the story.
    • You frequently complain that people mumble.
    • You need to ask other about the details of the meeting you just attended.
    • Your family and friends say you play the radio or TV too loudly.
    • You cannot hear the doorbell or the telephone.
    • You find that looking at people when they talk makes it easier to understand.
    • You start withdrawing from social situations and events.

    If you often have any of these symptoms, you should have a hearing evaluation.

    Where should I go for a hearing evaluation?

    A good place to begin with is an audiologist. An audiologist is a hearing care professional who specializes in preventing, identifying and assessing hearing problems and the need for non-medical rehabilitation. This professional typically has a Doctor of Audiology (Aud) degree and a certificate of clinical competence from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. In most states, an audiologist must have a license to practice.

    An audiologist can:

    • Give you a thorough hearing evaluation.
    • Recommend and, in most cases, provide appropriate hearing instruments.
    • Suggest other options to improve your hearing.
    • Teach you to maximize the benefits of your hearing instruments.
    • Refer you to an appropriate physician if needed.

    What is a hearing exam?

    Audiologists at Gundersen provide comprehensive diagnostic audiologic (hearing) services for infants, children and adults. We use "sound proof" audiometric booths, the latest hearing test techniques and state-of-the-art equipment to get the most accurate hearing test possible.

    A quality hearing exam is critical for the best treatment and outcome. The hearing test determines the type of hearing loss, configuration and degree of hearing loss and often influences what type of treatment is needed.

    What will I learn from a hearing evaluation?

    The audiologist will measure your hearing at different "pitches" and evaluate your understanding of speech. After testing both ears, the audiologist will determine and explain the type and degree of your hearing loss.

    If you show a pattern of hearing loss that may be correctable by medical or surgical means, the audiologist will refer you to a physician who specializes in diseases of the ear (call an otolaryngologist or ENT doctor, meaning a specialist in the ears, nose and throat). Your audiologist also may suggest you contact your primary care doctor (family medicine practitioner, internal medicine specialist or, for a child, pediatrician).

    About 5 to 10 percent of adult hearing problems may be medically or surgically treatable. The percentages are much higher in children.

    If your problem cannot be corrected medically or surgically, more testing may be done to determine the best type and model of hearing instrument for you. If you have a hearing loss in both ears, the audiologist can tell you if you should use one or two instruments. Once the testing is finished, the audiologist will discuss various options available to improve your hearing.

    Federal guidelines prohibit fitting any hearing instruments unless the buyer has first received a medical evaluation from a licensed physician. However, if you are at least 18 years old, you can sign a form that says you are fully aware of your rights, but choose not to have a medical evaluation. You can then buy hearing instruments without seeing a physician. However, we do NOT encourage adults to waive this medical examination. For those younger than 18 years of age, waiver of the medical evaluation is not permitted.

    Will hearing instruments help me on the phone?

    Some hearing instruments work better than others with the phone. Certain styles of hearing instruments (especially those that are very strong) may result in feedback or whistling when placed close to the phone. Because of this, your audiologist may recommend a special "telephone circuit" be incorporated into the amplifier of the aid. This circuit allows the aid to be used with the phone without feedback or without hearing other room noises. A telephone circuit also may allow the instrument to be used with special sound systems (often called a Loop system) that are currently in many theaters, churches and auditoriums. Some individuals may require the use of an amplifier on the telephone, as well as a telephone circuit on the hearing instrument in order to communicate effectively. Some cell phones may not work well with hearing aids, but new technology enables better connection with cell phones. Cell phone manufacturers are now required by law to make several models that are hearing aid compatible. When buying a new cell phone, be sure to ask which models are hearing aid compatible.

    New technology is now available in most hearing aids which provides connection between hearing aids and Bluetooth-enabled cell phones and other devices (i.e. computers, televisions, personal music players, etc). Not only does this enable hands-free cell phone conversations, it also routes the desired signal to both hearing aid simultaneously so wearers can listen using both ears for optimum hearing. Be sure to ask your audiologist about this new technology.

    Will hearing instruments eliminate all my communication problems?

    Hearing instruments do not restore normal hearing. It may take several months to adjust to your hearing devices. With hearing instruments, you will hear some sounds you have never heard before or haven't heard for a long time. Your own voice may sound louder. Sometimes speech sounds will sound different than the way you think they should. You will need to learn how to "tune out" or tolerate background noise.

    Hearing instruments should help you hear better, but listening in noisy environments may still be difficult. The recent advances in technology, along with appropriate follow-up care, are allowing better hearing in difficult listening situations, but loud background noise will pose challenges. Remember, even people with normal hearing experience greater difficulty listening in the presence of background noise.

    Are all hearing instruments the same?

    All hearing instruments work similarly and have similar parts. These include:

    • A microphone to pick up sounds.
    • An amplifier to make sound louder.
    • A miniature loudspeaker (receiver) to deliver the louder sound into the ear.
    • Batteries to power the electronic parts.

    Some hearing instruments also have ear molds (ear pieces) to control the flow of sound into the ear and help hold the hearing instruments in place.

    Hearing instruments also differ in design, amount of power, ease of handling and availability of special features. Your audiologist will advise you on what best meets your needs.

    What are the basic styles of hearing instruments?

    Behind-the-ear (BTE) instruments
    BTE instruments: Includes electronic that sit behind the ear, along with a molding that is in the ear. The two pieces are connected by a small tube, or small tubing with a very thin wire in it. There are many sizes of BTEs, depending on the degree of hearing loss and other listening needs. An Audiologist will help determine which size and style is most appropriate for the person's needs.

    Completely-in-canal (CIC) instruments
    CIC instruments are the smallest hearing instruments available and fit entirely in the ear canal. These instruments may not be suitable for those with severe loss or problems with dexterity.

    Canal instruments
    Canal instruments are larger than CICs. They are contained in a small case that fits into the canal. They may not be suitable for those where retention or feedback is a problem.

    In-the-ear (ITE) instruments
    All parts, which are a bit larger, are contained in the outer part of the ear. This style is usually suitable for virtually all degrees of hearing loss.

    Other types of instruments are available for people who only have hearing in one ear. These are known as CROS or Bi-CROS hearing aids. The individual wears devices on both ears, but the device on the poorer ear transmits sound to the better hearing ear.

    Another hearing instrument is the Baha (bone anchored hearing assisted device). A Baha is a surgically implanted device designed to assist people with usable hearing in only one ear and/or for those unable to wear conventional hearing instruments. They, too, represent a small portion of hearing instruments available. If you have any questions or your audiologist thinks they may help you, they can be discussed in detail.

    What are digital hearing instruments?

    Almost all hearing instruments fitted today are digital. They differ from conventional analog hearing instruments in that they process sound in a digital, rather than analog, manner. That means that the sound entering the hearing aid is converted into a digital code and processed accordingly. This allows the hearing instrument to process the signal in ways that were previously no possible with conventional analog instruments. Again, this give the audiologist great flexibility in adjusting the hearing instrument for the individual's particular needs.

    Digital technology allows the hearing instruments to have such features as automatic directional microphones, multiple memories, feedback suppression and noise reduction programming, all of which may make the hearing instrument more comfortable to use in the presence of background noise and other acoustic situations.

    The decision about which style and level of technology of hearing instruments will be best suited for your particular type of hearing loss can be made after a thorough discussion with your audiologist.

    How expensive are hearing instruments?

    Hearing instruments vary in price, depending on style, electronic features and local market conditions. Most quality hearing instruments cost between $1,300 and $2,800 each.

    Price should not be the only consideration in buying amplification. Among other questions to ask when buying are:

    • Is a trial period offered with a hearing instrument?
      Gundersen offers a 45-day trial period.
    • Is there a charge for the trial period?
      Many audiologists will charge for the hearing instrument trial period. Ask the audiologist what the trial fee is.
    • What kind of warranty is provided with the hearing instrument?
      A minimum of one year should be offered.
    • What follow-up services are provided when buying a hearing instrument?
      Ask the audiologist if there is a charge for any needed adjustments and/or follow-up visits.

    Does Gundersen Audiology offer hearing aids?

    Gundersen offers the latest, most up to date, hearing aid technology. We have provided hearing aid related services to the Tri-state Region for over 35 years. Our audiologists are licensed by the state of Wisconsin and are all certified with the American Speech Language and Hearing Association. We offer a variety of styles of hearing aids including: Behind the Ear (BTE), In-the-Ear (ITE), and Completely-In-Canal (CIC) hearing aids. We work with a variety of hearing aid manufacturers and can choose the best style, model and manufacturer of hearing aid for each individual.

    Do I have to buy the hearing instrument from the audiologist who evaluates my hearing?

    Our audiologist will provide you with a thorough hearing evaluation. If you need hearing aids you can buy them from any dispensary but many people prefer using the same hearing professional for all services. At Gundersen Audiology we offer a wide selection of hearing instruments, at many price points, including the latest in digital technology. Our products are custom fit and offer features such as frequency compression (better speech clarity), feedback (squeal) control, background noise control, and smaller, discreet styling. To learn more, talk with your audiologist.

    Will my health insurance pay for any of the costs for getting hearing instruments?

    Some healthcare plans will cover the cost of the hearing test, hearing instrument evaluation and even the hearing instruments. Check with your health insurance company or your benefits officer to find out exactly what your policy covers.

    Medicare does not cover the cost of hearing instruments, but in most cases will cover the cost of testing as long as the patient is examined by a medical doctor.

    Do I need one hearing instrument or two?

    Most people with significant hearing loss in both ears do better with two hearing instruments. However, wearing two hearing instruments may not be the best solution for everyone. Your audiologist can help you decide whether you need one or two.

    Two-eared, or binaural, hearing generally results in better sound localization and clarity of speech both in quiet and in noise.

    How well do hearing instruments work in the presence of background noise?

    The biggest concern of hearing instrument users, especially new ones, is hearing conversational in the presence of background noise. No hearing instrument can completely eliminate the background noise problem. This is because the ability to separate conversations relates more to the nature of hearing loss than to the nature of how the hearing instrument works.

    Some instruments contain software that attempts to selectively amplify the speech, but not noise. Research to date has shown that while this feature probably makes listening in certain noisy situations more comfortable, it may not improve the ability the consistently understand speech.

    Directional microphones are another way hearing instruments may make it easier to hear in noisy environments. The hearing instrument is constructed with two microphones: one amplifies sounds coming from the front of the wearer and the other amplifies sounds from behind the wearer. The hearing instrument can control which microphone is used so that sounds from the front are amplified to a greater degree than those from the back. Depending on the direction and type of noise, directional microphones can significantly improve the ability to understand speech in the presence of competing sounds.

    Your audiologist will make sure your hearing instruments are appropriate and adjust them specifically for your needs. Realizing that even with hearing instruments you may have trouble with background noise in certain situations should make it easier to adjust to them.

      New technology is helping hearing aid users listen easier in a wide variety of environments; many of which were previously very difficult environments or situations. Recent advances in technology heave led to Bluetooth accessories and Loop systems.

      Bluetooth: The majority of new hearing instruments are now available with Bluetooth technology. This technology uses radio frequencies to allow devices to communicate without cables or wiring. Bluetooth essentially create a tiny wireless network between multiple devices and allows sound from these devices (e.g. cell phone, music players, television, computers, etc.) to travel directly to the hearing instruments.

      Loop System: A Hearing Loop uses Induction Loop Technology to transmit sounds directly to a hearing aid's built-in wireless T-coil receiver. An Induction Loop consists of a loop of wire around the perimeter of an area, and the input to the induction loop can be any sound source that users inside the looped area wish to hear more clearly. This may include sound sources such as a television or stereo, a public address or sound reinforcement system, a dedicated microphone, etc.

    What if I buy a hearing instrument that does not help me?

    Most states (including Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa) have laws that require a trial period for hearing instrument sales. Gundersen provides a 45-day trial period.

    If you decide to cancel your purchase during the trial period, there may be a non-refundable fitting charge. You should be given a written contract explaining your rights, costs and terms of agreement. You should discuss these policies with your audiologist.

    Hearing instrument tips

    Hearing loss doesn't have to mean missing out on life. A properly fitted hearing instrument with appropriate instruction on how to use the device can help millions of people. The following step-by-step approach will help you find out if a hearing instrument will help you.

    • See a certified and licensed Doctor of Audiology (AuD) to find out the type and extent of any hearing loss.
    • Rule out any medical or surgical treatment for the hearing loss by contacting your personal physician or an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist.
    • Get a professional hearing instrument evaluation from a certified audiologist.

    When purchasing the recommended hearing instruments, make sure you:

    • Buy the recommended hearing instruments making sure you:
      • Know why the hearing instruments were chosen.
      • Receive a trial period.
      • Know what kind of warranty comes with the instruments.
      • Receive quality follow-up care.
      • Carefully read any sales contract before signing.
    • Attend all follow-up care sessions and follow the professional advice given to you.
    • Keep your expectations for improvement realistic.
    • Report all problems you have with communication, even if they seem minor. A simple adjustment in a hearing instrument can make a big difference in terms of communication. If there are situations that still are hard for you, ask your audiologist about techniques and/or listening devices that can be used with your hearing instruments to improve communications.
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