Customized Service for Your Hearing Loss

Common Questions

What is an Audiologist?
How much do hearing aids cost?
Will insurance cover hearing aids?
What if I can't afford hearing aids?
What kind of hearing aids do I need?
Will a hearing aid return my hearing back to normal?
What causes hearing loss?
Are hearing aids helpful in noisy situations?
How much noise is too much?
Do you offer sign language classes?
What do I do if I have ringing in my ears (tinnitus)?
How can I find open captioned movies?
What other resources are available to me?
How can I find real time captioning?
Why don't people who need hearing aids wear them?


What is an Audiologist?

An audiologist is a health professional with either a graduate degree in audiology ( M.A. or M.S.) or a doctorate of audiology (AuD). They also have completed a nine-month internship following graduate school and have passed a comprehensive exam. This qualifies them to obtain the Clinical Certificate of Competence (CCC-A) from the American Speech Language Hearing Association. In Colorado, anyone who dispenses hearing aids must also be registered with the Department of Regulatory Affairs.

Audiologists are specially trained to diagnose the type and degree of hearing loss and to provide the rehabilitative help for those with hearing impairment.

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How much do hearing aids cost?

Hearing aids vary in cost depending on the type of technology (analog, programmable or digital) and also the style. Very tiny hearing aids that fit down inside the ear canal generally cost more than larger styles. Hearing aids with more powerful circuits are sometimes more expensive than the mild to moderate models. Price ranges for a single hearing aid can vary from $750 to $2,900. Length of the warranty can also affect the cost of the aid.

Will insurance cover hearing aids?

In general, the answer to this is no. However, occasionally insurance policies do have hearing aid coverage and some have at least a partial benefit—for example, $500 per ear every 5 years. It's best to check with your individual policy to be sure. Medicare does NOT cover hearing aids.

What if I can't afford hearing aids?

We do offer a financial assistance program at the Center. First you need to schedule an appointment for a hearing test and hearing aid evaluation. If you have had a hearing test done elsewhere within the last 6 months, you can bring a copy of it and we won't have to do a new hearing test.

Once the hearing test is complete, you will sit down with the audiologist and discuss what type of hearing aids will work best for your hearing loss. At the end of the appointment, you will be given the financial assistance application to take home, fill out and attach the required documentation. Return the application to the Center when it is complete. Our controller will process the application and contact you by mail, usually within 2 weeks, to let you know how much assistance you qualify for and what your cost will be. If you decide to order the hearing aids, we will have you schedule an appointment for ear impressions. At this appointment, half of your cost for the hearing aids will be due. The other half is due at the time of the fitting.

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What kind of hearing aids do I need?

The best hearing aid is the one that you will wear and use on a consistent basis. Each person must be evaluated as to type and degree of hearing loss, lifestyle needs, limitations from vision or dexterity issues, cosmetic preferences, etc., to determine the most appropriate solution for their particular problem and needs.

Often, there is more than one choice. That's why the trial period is so important. It gives the patient and the audiologist time to evaluate what is working and what isn't. If one type or style of hearing aid is not working well, another option will likely be available.

For more information about different styles and types of hearing aids, click here.

Will a hearing aid return my hearing back to normal?

Unlike glasses for vision problems, hearing aids do not "correct" hearing loss. Hearing aids are a tool. They are amplifiers which provide additional volume in the areas of the frequency range that show hearing loss. Hearing aids will help, but they will not restore hearing to the way it used to be. Depending on the type of hearing loss and the amount of damage to the ear, hearing aids provide different amounts of assistance. A hearing aid will not necessarily make sounds clearer or more distinct. Individuals using hearing aids may still need to continue to use other cues (like lip-reading, for example) in order to communicate effectively. A hearing aid will not do all the work for you.

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What causes hearing loss?

There are a variety of reasons individuals have hearing loss, however, there are two broad categories:

  1. Conductive hearing loss, which results from damage or disease in the outer or middle ear
  2. Sensorineural hearing loss, which is caused by damage or disease of the inner ear (cochlea) or auditory nerve.

Conductive losses can often be improved or corrected with medicine or surgery. Some causes of conductive loss include ear infections, Eustachian tube dysfunction, perforated eardrum, otosclerosis (an abnormal bone growth in the middle ear) or cholesteatoma (a type of skin cyst located in the middle ear).

Generally the only help for sensorineural hearing loss, at least at this time, is a hearing aid or cochlear implant. The most prevalent causes of sensorineural hearing loss are aging and exposure to loud noise.

Other ways the inner ear can be damaged include: genetic/hereditary disorders, Meniere's Syndrome, acoustic neuroma (tumors), viruses that attack the inner ear, and severe head injury. Certain medicines are toxic to the ear and can cause sensorineural loss.

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Are hearing aids helpful in noisy situations?

Hearing aids are amplifiers and will, in general, increase the volume of the sounds to which the user is exposed. Hearing aids have something called a "frequency response." The frequency response delineates what frequencies or "pitches" will be made louder and by how much.

When an individual is fit with hearing aids, the goal is to provide volume where it is needed and less, or none at all, where it is not needed. The sounds of our world are made up of a variety of sounds, some of which will be amplified more than others by the hearing aids.

Hearing poorly in background noise is a familiar complaint of those with hearing loss. Often, hearing aids seem to only exacerbate the situation, because the devices are amplifying all sounds in the targeted frequency response, some of which are the "noise." This is particularly true when the background noise is comprised of many conversations, like a group of people talking at once.

Some of the issues surrounding hearing better with hearing aids in background noise are due to the individual's adaptation to the hearing aids themselves. Even people with normal hearing have some difficulty when trying to converse in a noisy situation. It is important to try to focus on what you are trying to hear, rather than focus on the noise. New users of hearing aids often feel quite overwhelmed with sounds in the beginning, but as the brain adapts to the new, amplified signal, listening in background noise can improve.

Digital hearing aids can be of some help, but generally the research shows that a digital processor will not necessarily help someone to understand better in background noise. However, the individual will often be more comfortable in noisy situations when using digital hearing aids.

To date, directional microphones are the single technology that seems to make a significant difference with hearing conversations in noisy backgrounds. Hearing aids with this type of microphone arrangement have a front or forward microphone and an additional back microphone. The directional microphone mode is activated with either a remote control device or a switch on the hearing aid. Some of the advanced digital products have an "automatic" mode in which the second microphone is activated automatically when the user is exposed to background noise. The two microphones allow for a cancellation-type effect of sounds as they enter the front and back microphones. Noises and sounds behind the hearing aid wearer are reduced, allowing for better audibility for sounds coming from in front. Type and severity of hearing loss, and appropriate use of the directional microphone mode can affect how much improvement an individual might obtain. Directional microphones can be used on both behind-the-ear and in-the-ear styles.

Currently, NO hearing aid can "eliminate" background noise or guarantee that a person with hearing loss will be able to communicate "perfectly" in noisy situations. Be wary of anyone or any hearing aid device that makes these claims.

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How much noise is too much?

Sound Level
(decibels)

Noise Source

180 Rocket Launching Pad
140 Firecracker, Gunshot Blast
130 Live Rock Music, Jack Hammer
120 Jet Plane, Car Stereo at Loudest Volume
110 Shouting in Someone's Ear, Dance Club
100 Garbage Truck, Snowmobile, Helicopter
90 Lawnmower, Motorcycle, Average Factory
80 Hair Dryer, Noisy Restaurant, Alarm Clock
70 City Traffic, Barking Dog
60 Normal Conversation, Dishwasher
50 Rainfall, Average Home, Refrigerator
40 Rustling Leaves, Quiet Room or Office
30 Soft Whisper, Quiet Library

purple square
green square
= Threshold of pain
= Hearing damage risk level for continuous exposure
= Safe noise levels

Don't risk permanent loss of your hearing! Practice safe hearing and wear protection.

Just how loud are various noises? Click Here for a useful noise level chart

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Do you offer sign language classes?

No, we don't, but Front Range Community College does. Call them at 303-404-5550 or visit www.frontrange.edu. The Colorado Free University also offers some informal classes, including a mom and baby sign class. You can find out more at: www.freeu.com/

What do I do if I have ringing in my ears (tinnitus)?

Tinnitus is a catchall term used for any type of head/ear noise (ringing, buzzing, hissing) that does not come from an external source. It is frequently heard as a complaint or symptom of those with hearing loss. The exact cause is really not known and, generally, there is not a "cure" for tinnitus. Some of the many things that seem to cause tinnitus to occur are: exposure to loud noise, head and/or neck injury, presence of earwax, certain type of ear diseases (otosclerosis [an abnormal bone growth in the middle ear], Meniere's Syndrome, etc.), and certain drugs or medicines (aspirin is known to cause tinnitus).

Severity of tinnitus varies greatly. Many people have tinnitus but have learned to cope with it and find it fairly easy to ignore. Others experience more difficulty and find it hard to be in quiet environments and some have trouble sleeping. Although there is no cure for tinnitus, there are some remedies individuals have found to be helpful.

The first thing to do if you have tinnitus is to make an appointment for an audiological evaluation. This is particularly important if the tinnitus is only in one ear or only on one side of the head. The audiologist can examine the ear for wax and determine if hearing loss is present. The audiologist may determine that more rigorous testing is needed, and/or further examination by an ear specialist. If it is determined the tinnitus is not a sign of a more serious problem, some of the following might be recommended or suggested:

  • Hearing aids: If a hearing loss is found, hearing aids can often be helpful for tinnitus. Some people find the tinnitus reduced or eliminated when the hearing aids are worn.
  • Maskers: Tinnitus maskers are sometimes recommended for more severe cases, and when a hearing aid is not indicated. There are also hearing aid/masker combinations. The maskers are similar in size to a small hearing aid and emit a soft, white noise into the ear, to "mask" the tinnitus.
  • Sound Machines: These can be very effective for those having difficulty sleeping or focusing attention in quiet environments. Machines or radios that make ocean or waterfall-type sounds, fans, heaters, etc., can all provide some relief.
  • Tinnitus Retraining Therapy: This often-successful therapy works at refocusing the brain's attention to the tinnitus.

Reducing coffee, nicotine and stress can also be helpful. Use of certain over the counter drugs and herbal remedies to reduce tinnitus has been inconclusive.

For more information, contact the American Tinnitus Association. The ATA puts out a quarterly newsletter (Tinnitus Today) that will help you keep current on what is happening with tinnitus research. You can visit the American Tinnitus Association (ATA) on the web at www.ata.org or give them a call at 1-800-634-8978.

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How can I find open captioned movies?

You can find open captioned movies by visiting www.insightcinema.org
If you know of an upcoming movie you would like to see captioned, go to the website above to see if it is playing anywhere else. If it isn't playing in Colorado, please write to InSight Cinema and request that the movie be shown in Colorado, and indicate the theatre where you would like to see it.

What other resources are available to me?

Associations:

Hearing Aid Manufacturers:

Support Organizations:

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How can I find real time captioning?

There are a number of good captioning services available in Denver:

The following web site is a good resource for captioning services: http://www.hearinglossweb.com

Additionally, some interpreters provide captioning as do some court transcribers.

Why don't people who need hearing aids wear them?

According to the MarkeTrak V Hearing Aid Industry Market Tracking Survey: "Why my hearing aids are in the drawer: The consumers' perspective", the top 10 reasons consumers report for not wearing their hearing aids are:

  1. Poor benefit
  2. Background noise
  3. Fit and comfort
  4. Negative side effects
  5. Price and cost
  6. Don't need help
  7. Hearing aids are broken or no longer work
  8. Sound quality
  9. Unspecified
  10. Volume control adjustments

You can find the complete study printed in The Hearing Journal, February 2000, Vol. 53, No. 2, pg. 34-42.

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