A little caution before we jump in
It can get confusing starting on the journey to correct a possible hearing loss. One reason is that today there are so many more choices available to you than ever before. There are now online suppliers of hearing products, where you never need to leave your home or have an appointment at a clinic. Why are they so popular? The efficiencies of doing much of the discovery and ordering online help to keep the costs down.
So what is the average cost for a good pair of hearing aids? The AARP quotes a 2015 government report that says the average pair of hearing aids costs around $4,600.
Does Medicare pick up any of this? Don’t bet on it but it may. We are sorry to say that Original Medicare does not cover hearing aids or exams. Part C of some Medicare Advantage Plans may have some benefits to cover hearing but you will have to contact your plan to get more information.
Hearing and balance exams may be covered by Medicare Part B if ordered by your doctor or healthcare provider to determine if you need medical treatment but it still does not cover the cost of the actual hearing aids.
What if you don’t have the money and if your insurance does not pay for hearing loss?
Some of these resources may help:
- Hearing health care through VA health benefits
- Apply for hearing aid help through your local Lions Club
- The hearing aid project
- Hearing aid resources
If you cannot afford the high cost of hearing aids and cannot qualify for any financial assistance are there any low-cost alternatives to hearing aids? Yes, PSAPs (or personal sound amplification products) cost much less than hearing aids. In fact, the average cost of PSAPs ranges from between $100 to around $600.
So now is your problem solved with PSAPs? Not so fast because there is a lot more to consider to see if it is the right solution for you. Let’s start by defining what exactly PSAPs are, look at some pros and cons, and see how they compare to hearing aids before you decide.
What Is a PSAP?
You already know that PSAPs are a low-cost option compared to hearing aids but what exactly are they? The Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates hearing aids but does not regulate PSAPs because they do not consider them a solution for hearing loss and do not classify them as medical devices. Though both hearing aids and PSAPs amplify sound, the FDA looks at them as having different intended uses. Hearing aids are a solution for hearing loss where PSAPs are for people with more normal hearing to amplify sounds in certain situations. Examples could be when involved in recreational activities like bird watching or hunting.
PSAPs amplify sounds in the environment and do not correct hearing loss. They are easy to get and can be purchased over-the-counter (otc) and even online. Click here to see the PSAPs that are offered on Amazon.
The design of PSAPs (or “wearables”) is wide-ranging from a behind-the-ear type that look like traditional hearing aids, to headsets or neckbands. They are not custom fit but come in a one size fits all design.
Potential dangers of PSAP devices
Whenever anything is pushed into the ear there is always a danger of pushing earwax further into the ear canal and possibly impacting the wax. This can create a hearing issue that would require a medical professional to resolve.
Also, the volume controls of many PSAPs are capable of delivering a sound volume that exceeds that which a person can safely handle. A sudden increase in the volume to the highest level can be dangerous and do more harm than good to the user.
What Is a Hearing Aid?
Where a PSAP amplifies every sound and even sounds that you do not want to hear, hearing aids on the other hand can be made to amplify or mute certain sounds and minimize unwanted background noise.
Some hearing aids have adaptive noise reduction that provides less amplification to noise than to speech. They identify the frequencies or the time where noise is intense, relative to speech. At those times they apply less amplification.
As touched on earlier, hearing aids are medical devices regulated by the FDA to treat the medical condition of hearing loss.
Hearing aids are custom programmed by a hearing professional to address the patient’s specific hearing needs.
All ears are shaped about the same. WRONG! Hearing aids can be custom-molded to ensure the best fit possible.
How do you choose between a hearing aid and a PSAP?
If you suspect that you have hearing loss you should first discuss it with your doctor or audiologist. It is very important that you determine if you have a hearing loss because it can potentially bring about other health concerns as well. A hearing professional can best determine if you have a hearing loss and determine the specific hearing loss. If you do, they will let you know if it can be corrected or how to treat it.
A correctible temporary hearing loss for example is one that has been caused by excessive earwax (cerumen). In that case, your hearing professional can provide you with the treatment to fix it. Another potentially correctible form of hearing loss is one caused by a benign tumor or acoustic neuroma. It is a condition that can affect hearing by putting pressure on the nerve that travels from the ear to the brain. So if you blindly run out and simply purchase a PSAP because it was cheaper, you may neglect yourself of desperately needed medical treatment.
So, when should you choose a hearing aid? After an audiologist’s test determines that you have mild hearing loss to severe hearing loss.
How often should hearing tests be done? Healthy adults should have a hearing test at least once a decade. People over the aged of 60, should have one every year.
If you do not suspect that you have a hearing condition that impedes your life and if you are current with your hearing tests, a little help from a PSAP may be all that is needed. You may need a PSAP if you attend lectures or religious services and have a hard time hearing the speaker. Also, if you have difficulty hearing the TV at the volume that has been set by others and often request that it be increased.
Free online hearing tests
If you are due for a hearing test you are encouraged to make an appointment to discuss it with your doctor or audiologist.
If a hearing screening is needed to determine the need for hearing aids instead of a full hearing checkup, a free online hearing screening may be a convenient way to fill that need.
Are online hearing tests accurate? The National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine conducted a test to find out. The results are in the article “Reliability of the Home Hearing Test: Implications for Public Health“.
They call “Home hearing tests” HHTs and they say that they conducted this test to see if:
“there is a need to determine if the HHT can yield accurate and reliable data from older adults with varying degrees of hearing loss.”
Here is what they concluded:
“The HHT is an accurate and cost effective method of establishing pure-tone air conduction thresholds, when compared to manual audiometry. Therefore, the HHT can be used as a tool to acquire accurate hearing thresholds from older adults, in-group settings, without the use of a sound-attenuated booth or a certified audiologist.”
We hope that this article clears up some of the mystery around hearing aids and PSAPs and also reminds you of the importance of getting your hearing tested on a regular basis.
To email this article, click on the envelope.