This expert says beware of online and over-the-counter hearing aids


As we or our loved ones get older, hearing loss is something that many of us will experience.

In fact, one in six people over the age of 18 report having hearing problems, or about 37.5 million American adults, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D, chairman of the Hearing Center at the Hollins Communications Research Institute, said that there are many different causes of hearing loss, including genetic factors, but the most common source of hearing loss is too much exposure to sounds.

“As we’ve looked at our case loads over time, we’re finding more and more people with hearing loss at a younger age,” Webster said, adding that it could be attributed to things like headphones. and loud music.

Recognize a problem

Hearing loss can be progressive, which means other people might notice a problem before you do. If someone keeps asking you to turn off the television or if you have trouble following conversations, it may be a sign that you are suffering from hearing loss.

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But how do you know if it’s time to see a professional?

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders offers a 10-question quiz that can help you determine if it’s time to schedule a professional hearing assessment.

The questions are:

  1. Do you get frustrated when talking to family members because you have trouble hearing them?

  2. Do you sometimes feel embarrassed when meeting new people because you have trouble hearing?

  3. Do you have difficulty hearing television or radio at levels loud enough for others?

  4. Do you have difficulty hearing when visiting friends, relatives or neighbors?

  5. Do you have trouble hearing your family or friends when dining out together?

  6. Do you feel that some hearing difficulty is limiting your personal or social life?

  7. Does a hearing problem cause you to attend church services less often than you would like?

  8. Do you have difficulty hearing when someone is speaking in a low voice?

  9. Do you have a hearing problem that causes you to argue with family members?

  10. Do you feel restricted or limited by a hearing problem?

Did you answer “yes” to three or more questions? If so, it could indicate a hearing problem, which means it’s time to consider seeing a professional.

Regular hearing exams can help you stay on top of potential hearing problems so that you can continue to enjoy socializing and hearing all of the wonderful sounds in life. (Image provided by The Hearing Center.)

Some problems

Before you think you should rush out to buy an over-the-counter device that promises to help you hear better, there are some important things you should know.

First of all, always consult a professional who will perform a detailed hearing test on you. He or she can recommend the best device for your needs, as well as ensure the proper fit and adjustment for optimal hearing clarity.

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There are issues that can arise when people go straight to buying a quick buy hearing aid when they start to experience hearing loss.

For example, one problem is that a patient may simply have a build-up of wax which is causing them hearing problems. If you avoid having a professional look on your ears and go straight for a hearing aid online or over the counter, the care of your ears is being ignored, Webster said.

Another problem that can lead to hearing loss is a perforated eardrum. A sting can occur from infection, pressure, or by putting objects in the ear, even cotton swabs.

Understanding hearing

Webster hasn’t emphasized enough the importance of taking care of our ears and hearing, especially when the patient has real hearing loss.

“I think people oversimplify hearing and hearing loss. It’s a pretty complex question, ”said Webster. “People can buy amplifiers that can help them, but if they raise them too hard for too long, they can run the risk of further injuring their hearing. You may be able to hear well, but you can turn it up so high that you start to damage your hearing further.

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Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., of the Hearing Center at the Hollins Communications Research Institute. (Image provided by The Hearing Center.)

He likened it to checking our vision, noting that the assessment of our ears and hearing is even more nuanced than an eye exam.

“When you have your eyes checked, a small number of measurements are taken to fit glasses or contact lenses. It’s pretty straightforward. But hearing is much more complex, ”said Webster. “When we do an in-depth hearing assessment in our clinic, we will take approximately 24 to 25 hearing measurements, using different tools and pathways. “

He went on to explain that hearing does not work on a straight line or on a linear scale, but rather is non-linear.

“You have to be very, very careful how the measurements are done because if you don’t understand nonlinear math you might not be helping in the right way,” Webster said. “The hearing system covers such a wide power range. You can hear at a threshold in very quiet rooms, as well as in rooms with a lot of sound. You can hear very light sounds to sounds thousands of times higher than the minimum we can hear. “

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He pointed out that, for this reason, it is so important to pay attention to taking care of your ears and hearing, and to let a professional guide you in your specific needs.

“The technology required to provide effective hearing assessments and adjustments is quite sophisticated,” said Webster. “The detailed measurements taken by a hearing care professional during a hearing assessment can really help improve hearing across the sound spectrum. “

He said that many items that people can buy online now are $ 15 hearing aids that were purchased in China and are sold in the United States for $ 100 or more.

Some of the instruments that come from online sources, Webster added, have no precision capability to match the instrument to the details of the patient’s hearing loss. This is perhaps in addition to having to have an online hearing test – as opposed to a test performed by a professional, in person, which is much more reliable. Additionally, the device might not perform as well and could potentially present a risk of further damage to the patient’s ears, among other issues.

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The long term

The initial hearing test and assessment is just the start of a patient’s hearing care.

One of the most important things that the Hearing Center offers to clients is the aftercare service. The non-profit center also offers free hearing assessments as a service to the community.

“Hearing can change over time, so we track that for our clients and make adjustments to their hearing aids,” said Webster. “In addition, we have a very good retention rate when people buy hearing aids from us.

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“We are researching hearing and new ways to try to assess hearing and hearing loss. We are continually trying to understand hearing in its most basic way. With this approach, we better help people who are hard of hearing. “

A note regarding hearing aids and the FDA

The issue of quick buy hearing aids is advancing within the United States Food and Drug Administration.

“In 2017, when Congress approved over-the-counter hearing aids, it passed them on to the FDA. Last month, the FDA released a proposal to allow the sale of over-the-counter hearing aids to people with mild to moderate hearing loss, ”Webster said.

It will likely be late 2022 or beyond before the action takes place, he added.


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