October is National Audiology Awareness Month and National Protect Your Hearing Month, possibly two national observations you have not hear much about. As an Audiologist, I am always looking for ways to increase public awareness of the field of Audiology and the importance of hearing protection. This past Sunday there was a story featured on the CBS television show “Sunday Morning” regarding over-the-counter hearing devices Watch the full video.
I have many reactions to this piece.
First off, I do think that there is a place for new competitors in the hearing aid market place. The big six manufacturers do control the pricing of the products which Dr. Frank Lin talks about it in this video. More competition in the realm of quality hearing aid products are needed to address the fact that only 20% of those who need hearing aids currently are fit with them. I have dispensed PSAPs (Personal Sound Amplification Products) to patients of mine. It is and has been available, but patients must have realistic expectations of this type of product.
Secondly, I am pleased that this video touched on the fact that the price of hearing aids includes the cost of services that go along with fitting the device not just the device itself. It goes without notice with current patients that the audiologist explains how to place the device CORRECTLY in the ear, completes real-ear measurements to ensure the hearing aid is amplifying correctly to the specific patient’s level of hearing loss, and follow up cleaning appointments that come after the fitting. Many times patients come into my office reporting the hearing aid is not working when just simply removing wax from filters or cleaning the hearing aid microphones are all that is needed to make the hearing aid work again. A clean and working hearing aid is better than a hearing aid that sits in the drawer.
This brings me to my third point, the importance of a qualified audiologist. My patients can attest to the fact that after every cleaning appointment they come to, the hearing aid sounds exponentially better than when they walked in the door. Dr. Frank Lin, however, did not take this into account when he talks about self-diagnosing and self-fitting a hearing aid.
I want to highlight another example of audiology care. I sent my nephew a pair of custom ear protection and he couldn’t figure out how to correctly place them in his ear. My nephew Facetimed me so that I could explain step-by-step how to place the pieces in his ear. Without these instructions, he would have not been getting the true noise attenuation that he needs. Hearing aids are even more complicated because if they are not properly placed, the hearing aid will whistle uncontrollably. I know you have probably experienced this with your grandparent or loved one with amplification
Finally, in closing, it is so important not to self-diagnose a hearing loss. This may make matters even worse. If I am having trouble with shortness of breath and arm pain, I am not going to assume I am having a heart attack without doing further stress testing. I am not going to purchase a heart monitor. I am going to go to my doctor and discuss my noticed symptoms and do stress testing to examine my heart more fully. My biggest concern is that a self-diagnoses of hearing loss will lead to more dissatisfaction for amplification that isn’t correct for the patient’s hearing loss.
Please comment below with your response to the video or ask any questions that you may have.