FAQs About Hearing Loss

How can I recognize hearing problems?

Most of the time hearing problems begin gradually without discomfort or pain. What's more, family members often learn to adapt to someone's hearing loss without even realizing they are doing it.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine whether you have hearing loss.

  1. Do I / they often ask people to repeat themselves?
  2. Do I / they have trouble following conversations with more than two people?
  3. Do I / they have difficulty hearing what is said unless facing the speaker?
  4. Do I / they struggle to hear in crowded places like restaurants, malls and meeting rooms?
  5. Do I / they have a hard time hearing women or children?
  6. Do I / they prefer the TV or radio volume louder than others?
  7. Do I / they experience ringing or buzzing in my ears?
  8. Does it sound like other people are mumbling or slurring their words?

If you answered yes to several of these questions, chances are you suffer from hearing loss.
Hearing loss symptoms fall into several different categories - social, emotional and medical.

Social symptoms

How often do you or your family member...
  • Require frequent repetition in order to understand speech?
  • Have difficulty following conversations with more than two people?
  • Think other people's voices sound muffled?
  • Have difficulty hearing in noisy situations?
  • Have trouble hearing children and women?
  • Turn the TV or radio to high volume?
  • Answer or respond inappropriately in conversations?
  • Experience ringing in your/their ears?
  • Read lips or depend on other people's facial expressions during conversations?


Emotional symptoms

How often do you...
  • Feel stressed from straining to hear what others are saying?
  • Feel annoyed at people because you can't hear or understand them?
  • Feel embarrassed to meet new people because you may misunderstand what they're saying?
  • Feel nervous about trying to hear or understand?
  • Withdraw from social situations that you once enjoyed because of difficulty hearing?


Medical symptoms

Do you...
  • Have a family history of hearing loss?
  • Take medications that may have an effect on hearing loss?
  • Have diabetes, heart, circulation or thyroid problems?


Have you...
  • Been exposed to very loud sounds over a long period?
  • Experienced a single exposure to explosive noise?

The average time between the onset of hearing loss and getting help is five to seven years. Don't wait to get help.

Are there different types of hearing loss?

There are three types of hearing loss including: sensorineural hearing loss, conductive hearing loss and mixed hearing loss. Most people lose at least some degree of their hearing as they age, and by the time they reach age 65 and older, one in three people has some type of hearing impairment.

Sensorineural hearing loss
The most common type of hearing loss, it occurs when inner ear nerves are damaged and do not properly transmit sound signals to the brain. It is the most common type of hearing loss caused by the withering of the hair cells in the inner ear due to age, noise damage or medications. Without healthy hair cells the ear cannot detect sounds properly.

Conductive hearing loss
Conductive hearing loss is typically the result of obstructions in the outer or middle ear, which prevent sound from entering the middle ear. Voices and sounds may sound faint, distorted or both. Most conductive hearing loss cases can be treated medically or surgically.

Mixed hearing loss
Mixed hearing loss is a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss.

If I had hearing loss, wouldn't my doctor have told me?

Only 13 percent of physicians routinely screen for hearing loss. Since most people with hearing impairments hear just fine in quiet environments (like your doctor's office), it can be very difficult for your physician to recognize this problem. Only a trained hearing professional can determine the severity of your hearing problem, whether or not you could benefit from a hearing aid, and which type would be best for you.

Questions to ask your hearing professional

What are the most common causes of hearing loss?

There are several causes. The main ones include excessive noise, genetics, birth defects, infections of the head or ear, aging, and reaction to drugs or cancer treatment. Each type of hearing loss has different causes.

Each type of hearing loss may have several different causes. Exposure to loud noise is a common cause of both hearing loss and tinnitus. Infections are also a common cause, as are birth defects, genetics and reaction to drugs, especially chemotherapy or drugs used for cancer treatment.

Here are the different causes of each type of hearing loss.

Causes of sensorineural hearing loss:
Aging
Injury
Excessive noise exposure
Viral infections (such as measles or mumps)
Shingles
Ototoxic drugs (medications that damage hearing)
Meningitis
Diabetes
Stroke
High fever or elevated body temperature
Ménière's disease (a disorder of the inner ear that can affect hearing and balance)
Acoustic tumors
Heredity
Obesity
Smoking
Hypertension

Causes of conductive hearing loss are typically "obstructions" such as:
Infections of the ear canal or middle ear resulting in fluid or pus buildup
Perforation or scarring of the eardrum
Wax buildup
Dislocation of the middle ear bones (ossicles)
Foreign object in the ear canal
Otosclerosis (an abnormal bone growth in the middle ear)
Abnormal growths or tumors

Are there hearing aids for single-sided hearing loss?

Yes, hearing aids are available for those with single-sided hearing loss.

The Starkey CROS System delivers solutions for:
  • Those who are unable to hear in one ear and have normal hearing in the other ear (CROS)
  • Those with little to no hearing in one of their ears, and a hearing loss in their better ear (BiCROS)

Doesn't hearing loss only affect old people?

Hearing loss can occur at any time, at any age. In fact, most people with hearing loss (65%) are younger than age 65! There are 6 million people in the U.S. ages 18-44 with hearing loss, and around 1.5 million are school age.

Are there operations or medications I can take for hearing loss?

Only 5 percent of hearing loss in adults can be improved medically or surgically. The vast majority of Americans with hearing loss (95 percent) are treated with hearing aids.

Most Americans with hearing loss can be treated with hearing aids. Medical treatments and surgical procedures are helpful for only 5 percent of adults with hearing loss.

Hearing aids cannot cure hearing loss but they CAN help you hear better again.

Hearing is a complex process that starts with the ears and ends in the brain where information is received, stored and "decoded" into something we understand.

When you add hearing aids to boost hearing, the brain suddenly registers long-lost sounds. Adjusting to amplification requires time, endurance and patience. You are essentially retraining your brain to interpret sounds, focus on some and filter others out - just as you did naturally when your hearing was normal.

Hearing aids can improve your ability to hear and communicate with the world around you, but they cannot "cure" your hearing loss - just as glasses do not "cure" your nearsightedness or farsightedness. They are tools to help you manage the problem, and while they can contribute significantly to an improved quality of life, they are not perfect. Even with successfully fitted hearing aids, you may still have difficulties hearing well in some situations. You will find ways to adapt to your new hearing aids, including watching people more closely as they talk and keeping background noise to a minimum when possible.

Who treats hearing loss?

  • Audiologists are professionals with master's degrees, Au.D.s or Ph.D.s in audiology, which is the study of hearing. They specialize in testing, evaluating and treating hearing loss. An audiologist may also fit hearing aids.
  • Hearing Aid Dispensers are trained in fitting and dispensing hearing aids. Hearing Aid Specialists are often state-licensed and board-certified to test for hearing loss and to fit consumers for hearing aids.
  • Otolaryngologists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of ear, nose, throat, head and neck disorders. They are also known as ENT doctors.

If I think I have a hearing problem, what do I do?

You should make an appointment with a hearing professional like an audiologist, hearing aid specialist or ENT for an evaluation, consultation and hearing test. Many hearing care professionals offer this evaluation at no charge.

Won't wearing a hearing aid make me stand out?

While you are no doubt concerned about appearance, compensating for a hearing loss by asking people to repeat themselves, inappropriately responding to people (or not responding at all), or even withdrawing from social situations is more obvious than wearing a hearing aid.

Today's hearing aids are small, discreet and more stylish than ever. Some are even invisible. And, chances are that once you have a hearing aid, your quality of life will improve so much that cosmetics won't be as much of an issue for you.

While hearing aids have helped millions of people around the world improve their hearing experience and quality of life, there are still some misconceptions about them. Don't let these common myths keep you or someone you care about from getting help to overcome hearing loss.

How will a hearing aid improve my quality of life?

Research on people with hearing loss and their significant others has shown that hearing aids play a significant factor in a person's social, emotional, psychological and physical well-being.

More specifically, treatment of hearing loss has been shown to improve:
  • Communication in relationships
  • Intimacy and warmth in family relationships
  • Ease in communication
  • Earning power
  • Sense of control over your life
  • Social participation
  • Emotional stability

How do hearing aids work?

At their most basic, hearing aids are microphones that convert sound into electrical signals. An amplifier increases the strength of the signal, then a receiver converts it back to sound and channels it into the ear canal through a small tube or earmold. A battery is necessary to power the hearing aid and to enable amplification.

Will a hearing aid restore my hearing?

While no hearing aid can restore your hearing to normal (except in cases of very mild hearing loss), hearing aids are designed to let you hear soft sounds that you could not hear before, and prevent loud sounds from becoming uncomfortably loud for you. They are also designed to improve your ability to understand speech, even in noisy environments.

Hearing is a complex process that starts with the ears and ends in the brain where information is received, stored and "decoded" into something we understand.

Will I be able to hear in noisy places?

While no hearing aid can filter out all background noise, our advanced hearing aids are designed to reduce some types of background noise so that you can enjoy conversation and improve communication in places like restaurants, business meetings and social gatherings.

How do I know which hearing aid will be best for me?

There are several factors that will determine which hearing aid will be the right one for you. They include the nature and severity of your hearing loss, your lifestyle and the activities you regularly enjoy, your job, your eyesight and dexterity, and the size and shape of your outer ear and inner ear canal. You can start with our Hearing Aid Finder Tool, though ultimately your hearing professional should advise you as to the best choice for you.

Is there an adjustment period to wearing hearing aids?

Yes. Most people need an adjustment period of up to four months before becoming acclimated to - and receiving the full benefit of - wearing their hearing aids. However, you should expect to notice obvious benefits during this trial period. Remember, your hearing professional is there to help. Do not be afraid to call or visit to discuss your concerns.

1. Be realistic.
Remember that your hearing loss has been gradual; over the years you have lost the ability to hear certain sounds in the speech spectrum and normal sounds of the environment, such as traffic and wind noise, the hum of machinery and other background noises.

2. Practice.
When you begin to wear hearing aids, these sounds will be restored but your brain will need practice and reeducation in order to selectively focus on and filter sounds. Some sounds may even startle you at first. Know that your brain will acclimate to these sounds again over time.

3. Be patient.
It takes time to adapt to hearing aids. Wear them as much as possible at first to become more skilled at recognizing sound direction and to learn which hearing aid settings work best for you in different situations.

4. Rest.
The adjustment period may be tiresome. It's a lot like retraining a muscle that hasn't been used in a while. But the benefits will be worth it after you've made the adjustment..

Will I need a hearing aid for both ears?

Two-ear hearing (called "binaural") is better than one. If you have hearing loss in only one ear, you may be fine with one hearing aid. Age and noise-related hearing loss tend to affect both ears, but your hearing profile for each ear is probably different. If there is a loss in both ears, you will probably benefit more with a binaural solution. Today, about two-thirds of new users opt for dual hearing aids, and as a group they report a higher level of satisfaction than purchasers of a single hearing aid.

How much do hearing aids cost?

The price of a hearing aid will vary depending on the specific model and features you need, and how effective it is in various noise environments. Whatever the final cost, most hearing professionals do offer financing plans. You should also check to see if you qualify for free hearing aids or discounted hearing aids from your employer, union, the Veterans Administration, insurance provider, HMO or local charity (such as Lions Club).

Is there a connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline?

There appears to be a connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline according to research conducted and published by a team of physicians at Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging.

According to the study, "older adults with hearing loss are more likely to develop problems thinking and remembering than older adults whose hearing is normal."

What new features do today's hearing aids have?

Hearing and activity tracking
Livio AI is the first-ever hearing aid to feature integrated sensors and artificial intelligence that allows you to track physical activity and cognitive health as measured by hearing aid use.

Rechargeable hearing solutions
Starkey offers rechargeable hearing solutions that are powered by a lithium-ion battery.

Full, rich sound quality
Our latest hearing aids provide better sound quality for both speech and music.

Personalized listening experience
We all have a unique perspective of sound. By customizing the relationship of soft sounds to loud sounds for each individual, your hearing professional can greatly enhance listening comfort with today's hearing aids.

Comfortable sound and conversation in every environment
A new advanced operating system identifies the environment you are in and automatically focuses on preserving speech. This makes hearing and understanding easier, no matter what the noise source.

Enjoy the conversation, enjoy the music!
Our hearing aids now have the ability to tell the difference between music and speech, and can automatically change settings to let you hear and enjoy music.

Music the way you like it!
Music and speech are very different. For the first time, music can be processed with all its richness and nuance to provide the best sound quality and listening experience.

Enjoy hearing your phone calls
Use your iPhone to hear phone calls directly through your hearing aids without an intermediate device. With our smartphone compatible hearing aids, imagine putting your phone to one ear and hearing the call in both ears. Improve your ability to hear, understand and connect with your world!

You have the control in your hand
Use the Thrive™ Hearing Control app or TruLink® Hearing Control app on your smartphone to quickly and easily control and personalize sound quality to your liking, no matter the setting.

Your hearing aid knows where you are
Imagine a hearing system so smart it can tell when you are at your favorite restaurant, in a place of worship, or at work, and then automatically adjust sound quality to that environment. This feature is available with smartphone compatible hearing aids.

Invisible options
Hearing aids continue to get smaller and more powerful. Many styles, including wireless options, rest comfortably inside your ear canal, where they are virtually invisible to others.

Everyone enjoys TV at a comfortable volume
Plug our wireless TV Streamer or SurfLink Media 2 streamer into your TV or stereo, and you can stream TV, music, or the game straight from the source to your hearing aids. No one else needs to hear it if they don't want to, or if you don't want them to.

Portable, personalized wireless accessory
Our SurfLink Mobile 2 works with your hearing aids to talk on your cell phone, listen to music or just do better at the card game!

Durable, dependable hearing aids
Our hearing aids come with Surface Nanoshield, our leading water, wax and moisture repellent. Surface Nanoshield protects hearing aids from the elements that cause them the greatest challenges, so you can wear them more and repair them less.

Customizable tinnitus relief
Starkey's hearing aids feature our advanced Multiflex Tinnitus Technology. This technology allows you and your hearing professional to customize a soothing sound stimulus designed to help manage your tinnitus.

How does hearing loss affect my overall health and wellness?

Hearing loss can occur for a number of reasons. As people age, they may begin to lose their hearing as a result of the natural aging process. Your hearing health contributes to your overall well-being and quality of life. Begin your journey to better overall health today.