While wondering how to start my discussion of the hardware and technology available, the first thing I thought of is the bizarre delivery system and health care model that “serves” the hard of hearing. (HOH)
Operability for the HOH depends on two things: Finding the right hardware for your hearing loss and second, you have to USE the hardware. I should add that includes knowing/learning HOW to use the hardware you have. I will talk about how hard it is to hear when your hearing aids are in the drawer on a future post.
Broadly, this is the current environment for acquiring hardware to help you hear. One path is through an ENT doctor to an audiologist. This might include an additional stop for an MRI to make sure your hearing loss is not being caused by a tumor. (This is especially suspect in cases where the loss is different for each ear. That was my case.) Now you begin your long term relationship with your audiologists. He or she is a health care provider trained to evaluate your hearing and to prescribe the hardware (hearing aids) that best fit your need. You do not pay them for this service. This is the bizarre part. Your audiologist fundamentally makes a living on commissions from the hearing aids and other hardware they sell you.
It’s as if you could go to your primary care physician anytime you wanted and not have to pay them.
Your doctor would be making a living on a commission for the drugs that are prescribed ..or the pacemaker they implanted. Literally. This has always struck me as a dysfunctional model. I would highly prefer a model where mitigating my hearing loss took precedence over hardware sales. This is not a condemnation ..I have worked with some very dedicated audiologists. Just think there is a better system.
The second basic path has always sort of been around, Personal Amplification Devices (PAD’s) However now the FDA last year approved the sale and marketing of Over The Counter Hearing Aids as a less costly alternative to traditional hearing aids. It’s a huge market and some very legitimate sound companies like BOSE have jumped in. However, fundamentally we are still talking about an amplification system and not a sound processor, which is integral to modern hearing aids. OTC aids typically will not have that; they will not have telecoils (more on that later , as well J ) ; they will not be programmable to fit the frequencies of one’s hearing loss. Etc. You do not need them fitted by an audiologist.
I think the last is the fatal flaw and that there are going to be a whole lot of disappointed people who find that the OTC they bought really doesn’t help that much day to day.
The next posts under Hardware will discuss what I have tried, and what I use now to function with hearing loss. Also, I will be discussing telecoils and hearing loops; and auxiliary hardware that integrates with hearing aids.