Steps to Take

Before the purchase:

When looking for a hearing aid, explore your options to understand what type of hearing aid will work best for you. Also:

Get a checkup. See your doctor to rule out correctable causes of hearing loss, such as earwax, an infection or a tumor, and have your hearing tested by a hearing specialist (audiologist).

Seek a referral to a reputable audiologist. If you don’t know one, ask your doctor for a referral. A good audiologist works with you to find a hearing aid that best fits your needs and desires. This person takes an impression of your ear canal, chooses the most appropriate aid and adjusts the device to fit well. Be cautious of free consultations and people who sell only one brand of hearing aid.

Beware of mail order hearing aids–Most of these do not provide local service, which is necessary if you want to receive hearing aids that fit and are programmed properly. Ask your GP who can assist you in finding a reputable clinic or audiologist in your area and provide one-on-one support throughout the process.

Ask about a trial period. A hearing aid should come with an adaptation period. It may take you a while to get used to the device and decide if it’s useful. Have the seller put in writing the cost of a trial and whether this amount is credited toward the final cost of the hearing aid.

Think about future needs. Ask whether the hearing aid you’ve chosen has residual amplification so it will still be useful if your hearing loss gets worse.

Check for a warranty. Make sure the hearing aid includes a warranty that covers both parts and labor for a specified amount of time. Purchase an extended warranty–Since hearing aids are worn everyday and exposed to humidity and a variety of temperatures, extended warranties help insure your investment.

Beware of misleading claims. Hearing aids can’t restore normal hearing or eliminate all background noise. Beware of advertisements or salespeople who claim otherwise.

Plan for the expense. The cost of hearing aids varies widely — from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. Professional fees, remote controls and other hearing aid options may cost extra. Talk to your audiologist about your needs and expectations. If cost is an issue, good instruments are still available at reasonable prices. If you’re a veteran, you may be able to get your hearing aid at no cost. Some private insurance policies cover part or all of the cost of hearing aids, but you need to check your policy to be sure. Medicare doesn’t cover the cost of hearing aids. Take advantage of any tax breaks–Find out if you can deduct it as a medical expense or use your medical savings account at work. This could potentially lower the cost of your hearing aid by as much as 30%.

After the purchase: Breaking in your hearing aid

Getting used to a hearing aid takes time. Your listening skills should improve gradually as you become accustomed to amplification. The sound you hear is different because it’s amplified. Even your own voice sounds different when you wear a hearing aid.

When first using a hearing aid, keep these points in mind:

Hearing aids won’t return your hearing to normal. Unlike corrective eyewear that restores your vision to normal, hearing aids can’t restore normal hearing. They can improve your hearing, however, by amplifying soft sounds and reducing loud background noises.

Allow time to get used to the hearing aid. It may take several weeks or months before you’re used to the hearing aid. But the more you use it, the more quickly you’ll adjust to amplified sounds.

Practice using the hearing aid in different environments. Your amplified hearing will sound different in different places, so it’s a good idea to practice using your hearing aid in various environments. You may also consider joining a support group for people new to hearing aids.

Go back for a follow-up. Most providers include the cost of one follow-up visit in their fee. It’s a good idea to take advantage of this for any necessary adjustments and to ensure your new hearing aid is working for you as well as it can.

Though it may be awkward at first, over time you’ll likely adjust to the device and enjoy your enhanced ability to hear and communicate in a variety of situations. By wearing your hearing aid regularly and taking good care of it, you’ll likely notice significant improvements in your quality of life.