Should You Buy Hearing Aids Before Having a Hearing Test?
The short answer is no, absolutely not. Getting a hearing assessment is the first step on your journey to better hearing health and there is really no way around it. The types and causes of hearing loss are numerous and without a proper assessment and diagnosis, buying hearing aids will most likely just be a waste of your time and money.
Do not attempt to purchase hearing aids without having a full understanding of your hearing loss, as well as any medical issues affecting your ability to hear.
Why are hearing tests necessary?
Buying a hearing aid without having a hearing test is like purchasing a car without having a driver’s license. You’ve missed an essential step! You might have a beautiful car sitting in your garage, but if you fail your driving test, you’ll not be able to use it, or worse, you take it for a spin and crash.
Rather than buying a hearing aid without a hearing assessment, undergo a hearing evaluation that determines which hearing aid can help you overcome your hearing loss. Just imagine if there was a driving test that told you what car suits your skills, needs and preferences best! There would probably be a lot less car accidents…
Determining the cause and type of your hearing loss
You will need a comprehensive diagnostic hearing test by an Audiologist to diagnose the type and degree of your hearing loss. Some types of hearing loss are not suitable for the traditional hearing aids you might wish to buy.
And some types of hearing loss can be improved by surgery. Following a hearing test and audiogram interpretation by an Audiologist it may be recommended that you see an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat specialist).
The auditory system is complex and although our ears may detect the sound, it is really the brain that processes the sound. Some people may do a hearing test and find that, at first glance, their hearing is within the normal range or not as severe as they thought. This is where a full hearing test and professional audiogram interpretation is vital.
A full diagnostic hearing test can also indicate the need for more extensive tests to eliminate medical causes of hearing loss. Not all hearing loss is caused by old age (indeed that in itself is not necessarily a reason for hearing loss) or noise exposure.
Hearing loss that is asymmetrical (worse in one ear than the other), accompanied by vertigo (a feeling of rotational spinning with or without nausea), aural fullness (a feeling of blocked ears) or asymmetrical tinnitus (ringing worse in one ear than the other), should always be investigated further.
Are your ears blocked?
Firstly, you want to make sure your hearing loss is not just due to ear wax occlusion. Your GP or Audiologist (a hearing care professional) can check your ears for wax and this can be removed by syringing or suction but often needs to be softened first, so it is easy and not painful to remove.
You can also find out why your ears may be blocked and how to unblock your ears in a post we’ve recently shared.
Do you have tinnitus?
If a person has tinnitus, they may experience a constant noise or ringing in the ears. In such cases, the appropriate hearing aid can help decrease the perception of those sounds. Conversely, an age or noise-related hearing loss may require a much different type of hearing aid. In any case, a hearing test is required to determine which device best suits you.
There are many types and styles of hearing aids and they come in many different levels of technology. Not every hearing aid is suitable for every type and level of hearing loss. The type of hearing loss is taken into consideration by your Audiologist before recommending a hearing aid.
Are free hearing tests and hearing screens offered in shopping centres enough?
The answer is no. A hearing screen gives an indication of your hearing levels across a limited range of sound frequencies (pitches of sound) but will not tell you which part of your auditory (hearing) system (that is the outer, middle or inner ear) is affected.
A full diagnostic hearing test differs from a hearing screen
A full test will include testing of word recognition. This is a more complex task than simply hearing beeps on a hearing screen and gives an idea about the likelihood that hearing aids will be of benefit to you.
Further testing of your auditory processing abilities may be required, the results of which may indicate that other treatment options (either alone, or in conjunction with hearing aids) may be what is right for you. Alternatively, it may be that a Cochlear implant assessment is required.
You’ve had a full hearing assessment and have been diagnosed with hearing loss, can you just buy any hearing aids you like?
Hearing loss is not one size fits all and your Audiologist will be able to interpret your audiogram for you. For example, some people have hearing loss in the low pitches of sound, and some have hearing loss worse in the high pitches of sound and others have even hearing loss across all the pitches of sound.
These types of hearing loss are suitable for different styles of devices. An In-The-Canal (ITC) style of device is not generally suitable for people with good low pitch hearing as they block the ear too much, and can cause what is known as occlusion and a feeling of walking around with fingers in your ears.
Learn how to read and understand your audiogram results: We know it can be tricky to decipher your audiogram, that’s why we’ve created a quick and easy audiogram guide!
Dexterity and management issues
Dexterity and management issues can also determine which style of hearing device is best for you. Someone with dexterity issues may not be able to manage a very small device or small batteries or may not be able to manage insertion of a standard hearing aid that goes behind the ear.
These issues are best to be discussed with an Audiologist to find the right device for you.
Your Audiologist may recommend rechargeable devices or may suggest moulds to go in your ear to fit your ear canal perfectly. The degree of your hearing loss will also determine which device is best for you.
A device that is perfect for a mild to moderate hearing loss may not have the ability to amplify sound sufficiently for someone with a severe to profound hearing loss. Your Audiologist uses information about your health and lifestyle, as well as through interpretation of your audiogram to recommend a style of device that is right for you.
Selecting a hearing aid that is right for you
Once a style of device has been recommended the level of technology of that device needs to be selected too. Most hearing devices come in a range of technology levels. That is, the computer chip inside the hearing aid has more or less sophisticated software and hearing aid features. These technology levels usually determine the price of the aid.
A basic hearing aid may well be sufficient for someone with a very basic lifestyle, for example, someone who lives alone, rarely socialises and just needs a bit of help with the TV, phone and one-on-one conversations in quiet.
However, someone who attends lots of meetings and socialises a lot in noisy environments would likely benefit from a higher level of technology. Buying an aid that is of the wrong technology level could be a waste of money as it might not be able to meet your needs.
Not all hearing aids are compatible with accessories which may benefit you.
For example, someone with dexterity issues may require a remote control to change the volume on their hearing aids. Whereas, someone who attends meetings or goes to the theatre might need other options like a compatible microphone or a telecoil.
Test your hearing aid before you commit
Determining which aid is right for you is a complex decision and the first step is a comprehensive hearing test from an Audiologist who can interpret your audiogram and determine your degree and type of hearing loss.
They will discuss your health and lifestyle needs and recommend hearing aids specifically for your hearing loss, lifestyle and health situation. The right hearing aid can be life changing but the wrong aid will probably just end up in the drawer.
At Attune Hearing, we provide education on the advantages and disadvantages of different hearing aid models, and offer a free one week trial of the hearing aids of your choice, backed up by complete audiological support.
Not happy with your hearing aid? Don’t worry! All hearing aid purchases come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Get in touch with us today to schedule a comprehensive hearing assessment with Australia’s only accredited hearing healthcare provider and start your journey to better hearing health. We can’t wait to support you along the way.