For many years I have suffered with hearing loss. When I decided to get hearing aids, Dr. Phon explained the whole process to me. He provided step-by-step care which proved to be wonderfully successful. I can now understand the speaker at meetings. I can now enjoy conversations in noisy restaurants with my family. I hear well in church and enjoy TV shows. Dr. Phon’s excellent work has dramatically improved my life.

- Margaret Yates

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the symptoms of hearing loss?

You might be experiencing some level of hearing loss if:

  • You having difficulty following conversations involving more than two people
  • People sound like they are mumbling
  • You have trouble understanding children and women
  • You need to turn the TV or radio up to a high volume
  • You respond inappropriately in conversations
  • You need to ask people to repeat themselves
  • You feel stressed from straining to hear
  • You feel embarrassed to meet new people
  • You feel annoyed with others because you can't understand them
  • You feel isolated because you no longer want to participate in the social situations you once enjoyed

What causes hearing loss?

Hearing loss is caused by:

  • Excessive exposure to loud noise
  • Accumulation of ear wax
  • Genetics
  • Medications (ototoxic drugs like antibiotics or those drugs used in chemotherapy and radiation)
  • Infections
  • Head trauma
  • Medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, poor circulation, aging or thyroid problems.

What is an audiologist?

An audiologist is a hearing health professional who hold masters or doctoral degrees from accredited universities with special training in the prevention, identification, assessment, and nonmedical treatment of hearing disorders. By virtue of their training audiologists are the most qualified professional to perform hearing tests, refer patients for medical treatment and provide hearing rehabilitation services including hearing aids. In addition audiologists are educated and skilled in the diagnosis and treatment of dizziness and ear noises such as tinnitus.

What is a hearing aid?

A hearing aid is a small electronic device that you wear in or behind your ear. It makes some sounds louder so that a person with hearing loss can listen, communicate, and participate more fully in daily activities. A hearing aid can help people hear more in both quiet and noisy situations.

A hearing aid has three basic parts: a microphone, amplifier, and speaker. The hearing aid receives sound through a microphone, which converts the sound waves to electrical signals and sends them to an amplifier. The amplifier increases the power of the signals and then sends them to the ear through a speaker.

How can hearing aids help?

Hearing aids are primarily useful in 1) improving hearing and 2) speech comprehension of people who have hearing loss that results from damage to the small sensory cells in the inner ear, called hair cells. This type of hearing loss is called sensorineural hearing loss and can occur as a result of disease, aging, or injury from noise or certain medicines.

Hearing aids magnify sound vibrations entering the ear. Surviving hair cells detect the larger vibrations and convert them into neural signals that are passed along to the brain. The greater the damage to a person's hair cells, the more severe the hearing loss, and the greater the hearing aid amplification needed to make up the difference. However, there are practical limits to the amount of amplification hearing aids can provide. In addition, if the inner ear is too damaged, even large vibrations will not be converted into neural signals. In this situation, hearing aids may have a limited effect.

Consultation with St. Louis ENT doctors
The staff at Audiology Center of St. Peters regularly consults with ENT doctors.

How can I find out if I need hearing aids?

If you think you might have hearing loss and could benefit from wearing hearing aids, call Dr. Phon at the Audiology Center or visit your family physician. If the initial examination indicates a need for an ear specialist then you may be referred to an otolaryngologist. An otolaryngologist is a physician who specializes in ear, nose, and throat disorders and will investigate the cause of the hearing loss.

How do hearing aids work?

Most hearing aids available today are digital. Digital aids convert sound waves into numerical codes, similar to the binary code of a computer, before amplifying them. Because the code also includes information about a sound's pitch or loudness, the aid can be specially programmed to amplify some frequencies more than others. Digital circuitry gives an audiologist more flexibility in adjusting the aid to a user's needs and to certain listening environments. These aids also can be programmed to focus on sounds coming from a specific direction. Digital circuitry can be used in all types of hearing aids.

Which hearing aids will work best for me?

The hearing aids that will work best for you depend on the kind and severity of your hearing loss. If you have a hearing loss in both of your ears, two hearing aids are generally recommended because two aids provide a more natural signal to the brain. Hearing in both ears also will help you understand speech and locate where the sound is coming from.

You and your audiologist should select a hearing aid based on four primary considerations:

  • Your level of hearing loss. The style of hearing aids that will work best for you is determined by your level of hearing loss...mild, moderate or severe/profound.
  • Your lifestyle. Your activity level will also play a role in determining the hearing aids that are the most appropriate for you. For example, if you have a very active lifestyle and go to concerts, restaurants and meetings frequently, you will need more technologically-advanced hearing aids than someone who lives a more sedate lifestyle.
  • Your personal preferences. We will work closely with you to find the hearing aids that will meet your cosmetic or technical requirements (i.e. cell-phone compatibility) without losing sight of your hearing and communication needs.
  • Your budget. Price is also a key consideration because hearing aids range from hundreds to several thousand dollars. Similar to other equipment purchases, style and features affect cost. However, don't use price alone to determine the best hearing aid for you. Just because one hearing aid is more expensive than another does not necessarily mean that it will better suit your needs.

A hearing aid will not restore your normal hearing or, if you are of a more "mature" age, allow you to hear as you did when you were a teenager! With practice, however, a hearing aid will increase your awareness of sounds and their sources and improve your ability to understand conversations. You will want to wear your hearing aid regularly, so select one that is convenient and easy for you to use. Other features to consider include parts or services covered by the warranty, estimated schedule and costs for maintenance and repair, options and upgrade opportunities, and the hearing aid company's reputation for quality and customer service.

What questions should I ask before buying a hearing aid?

Before you buy a hearing aid, ask your audiologist these important questions:

  • What features would be most useful for meeting my lifestyle requirements?
  • What is the total cost of the hearing aids? Do the benefits of newer technologies outweigh the higher costs?
  • Is there a trial period to test the hearing aids? (Most manufacturers allow a 30- to 60-day trial period during which aids can be returned for a refund.) What fees are nonrefundable if the aids are returned after the trial period?
  • How long is the warranty? Can it be extended? Does the warranty cover future maintenance and repairs?
  • Can the audiologist make adjustments and provide servicing and minor repairs? Will loaner aids be provided when repairs are needed?
  • What instruction does the audiologist provide?

How can I adjust to my hearing aid?

Hearing aids take time and patience to use successfully. Wearing your aids regularly will help you adjust to them.

Become familiar with your hearing aid's features. With your audiologist present, practice putting in and taking out the aid, cleaning it, identifying right and left aids, and replacing the batteries. Ask how to test it in listening environments where you have problems hearing. Learn to adjust the aid's volume and to program it for sounds that are too loud or too soft. Work with your audiologist until you are comfortable and satisfied.

You may experience some of the following problems as you adjust to wearing your new hearing aids.

  • My hearing aids feel uncomfortable. Some individuals may find hearing aids to be slightly uncomfortable at first. Ask your audiologist how long you should wear your hearing aids while you are adjusting to them.
  • My voice sounds too loud. The "plugged-up" sensation that causes a hearing aid user's voice to sound louder inside the head is called the occlusion effect. It is very common for new hearing aid users. Check with your audiologist to see if a correction is possible. Most individuals get used to this effect over time.
  • I get feedback from my hearing aids. A whistling sound can be caused by hearing aids that do not fit or work well or are clogged by ear wax or fluid. See your audiologist for adjustments.
  • I hear background noise. Hearing aids do not necessarily completely separate the sounds you want to hear from the ones you do not want to hear. Slight adjustments can help correct this problem. In addition, there are technologically-advanced digital hearing aids that are designed to "put background noise in the background."
  • I hear a buzzing sound when I use my cell phone. Some people who wear hearing aids or have implanted hearing devices experience problems with the radio frequency interference caused by digital cell phones. Both hearing aids and cell phones are improving, however, so these problems are occurring less often. When you are being fitted for new hearing aids, take your cell phone with you to see if it will work well with the hearing aids. Conversely, when buying a new cell phone, make sure you try it out while wearing your hearing aids!

How can I care for my hearing aid?

Proper maintenance and care will extend the life of your hearing aid. Make it a habit to:

  • Keep hearing aids away from heat and moisture.
  • Clean hearing aids as instructed. Ear wax and ear drainage can damage hearing aids.
  • Avoid using hairspray or other hair care products while wearing hearing aids.
  • Turn off hearing aids when they are not in use.
  • Replace dead batteries immediately.
  • Keep replacement batteries and small aids away from children and pets.

Can I obtain financial assistance for hearing aids?

Hearing aids are generally not covered by health insurance companies, although some do. For eligible children and young adults ages 21 and under, Medicaid may pay for the diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss, including hearing aids.

Medicare does not cover hearing aids for adults; however, diagnostic evaluations are covered if they are ordered by a physician for the purpose of assisting the physician in developing a treatment plan. Since Medicare has declared the cochlear implant a prosthetic device and not a hearing aid, Medicare will cover the costs of the cochlear implant if other coverage policies are met.

Call 636-441-7470 today to make an appointment for your hearing test!

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