Once you’ve been diagnosed with a hearing loss, you may be concerned that wearing a hearing aid will make you look old. Truth is, hearing aids have changed dramatically in recent years and are lighter, smarter, and less detectable than ever before. Just as importantly, they are more effective than devices of the past and can open the door to a new world of vastly improved sound—a world that enhances your social and professional interactions.
The Ear Institute at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai (NYEE) has been fitting adults and children with hearing aids for the past 30 years. If a professional hearing test shows the need for an amplification device, our large team of highly experienced and skilled audiologists is prepared to work closely with you. Today’s hearing aids offer numerous options in terms of style, size, special features, and how they’re placed in your ear, and our specialists will help you find a device that meets your unique hearing, lifestyle, and cosmetic needs.
To ensure you have the widest field of choices, we work with six major manufacturers of hearing aids, and give each patient a 45-day trial period with their new device. And because cost is often a significant factor in the purchase of a hearing aid, we make sure our devices are competitively priced.
Above all, we are committed to building relationships with our patients. After fitting your hearing instrument we continue to make all necessary changes and adjustments to ensure you get maximum results.
In addition to the hearing impaired, people who are routinely exposed to noise also seek our professional help. This group includes musicians, music lovers, and those who work in noisy environments. We offer them custom hearing protection options as well as hearing aids.
FAQ About Hearing Aids
Patients faced with hearing loss can vastly improve their quality of life with proper hearing aid devices. Below are frequently asked questions about hearing loss and how hearing aid technology can help improve your hearing.
How do I get a hearing aid for myself or someone else?
If you suspect that you or a family member has hearing loss, ask your primary care physician to refer you for an evaluation with an ear, nose, and throat specialist (an ENT, or an otolaryngologist), such as the expert team at NYEE. The ENT will help to rule out any treatable diseases that may be causing hearing loss, provide a referral to an audiologist for a hearing test, and provide clearance for a hearing aid, if needed.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires that a licensed physician examine and provide medical clearance for hearing aid use within six months of the purchase of a hearing aid (unless a waiver is signed).
How is hearing loss detected?
If the ENT suspects hearing loss, he or she will refer you for a formal hearing test, performed by an audiologist, which is a necessary part of obtaining a hearing aid. The hearing test will assess how well you hear (at different pitches and volume levels) and your ability to understand words.
I was diagnosed with hearing loss…now what?
Once hearing loss is identified, and any treatable disease are ruled out, the audiologist will counsel you on the type of hearing loss that you have and the degree. The audiologist will use the results of your hearing test as the basis for the consultation. Patients will work closely with their audiologist to select a hearing aid that best fits their particular condition, lifestyle, and budget, and maximizes their ability to hear and communicate in different environments.
How is a hearing aid fit for my needs?
Today’s modern digital hearing aid technology offers many choices, and our audiologists will help determine the most appropriate device. At NYEE’s Hearing Aid Dispensary, all hearing aid styles—using the latest digital Bluetooth technology—are available, including in-the-ear, in-the-canal, micro in-the-canal, and open ear fittings. The dispensary also provides hearing aid fittings for special needs, including bone anchored hearing aids and implantable hearing aids.
How does a hearing aid work?
A hearing aid is like a miniature PA (public address) system designed for personal use. It takes an acoustic signal of low intensity (soft sound) and retransmits it at higher intensity (loud sound). The amplified sound is sent into the ear canal towards the ear drum and inner ear.
Will I get help with my new hearing aid?
Yes. Members of our audiology team will help the hearing aid user learn to use their hearing instrument to its fullest capacity. It is the policy of NYEE's Hearing Aid Dispensary to offer each patient a 45-day trial period with a new hearing instrument. This policy allows the audiologist to make all necessary changes or adjustments in the new amplification system as the patient uses the hearing aid in various listening situations.
If a person simply cannot adjust to their device within the 45-day trial period, the hearing aid may be returned for a refund (minus a pre-determined service fee).
Will my hearing be back to normal with a hearing aid?
Unfortunately, hearing aids can’t restore normal hearing. But today’s sophisticated technology can greatly improve your hearing by amplifying soft sounds, as well as improving understanding in various listening situations, such as the car, golf course, and noisy environment.
Is a single hearing aid adequate, or are two preferable?
For most people, binaural (two) hearing aids are recommended when diagnosed with bilateral hearing loss, except in special circumstances. Two aids result in:
- Improved ability to identify where sound is coming from
- Enhanced ability to hear well in the presence of background noise
- Faster sound processing technology, which allows the user to hear speech sounds all around (a better stereo balance of sound)
Hearing Aid Technology
Current hearing aid technology offers numerous options in terms of budget, style, fit, and even color. At NYEE’s Hearing Aid Dispensary, patients have the opportunity to get a device that fits their unique lifestyle and needs with the help of our experienced audiologists. The dispensary offers each patient a 45-day trial period with a new hearing instrument, and will help patients with any adjustments to maximize the effectiveness of the new amplification system.
Wireless Hearing Aids
Modern hearing aid technology helps patients experience better connections to people, information, and entertainment. By using wireless connectivity you can get more out of your hearing instruments with greater ease and comfort, including:
- Connection to mobile phone, tablet, computer, music player, or other Bluetooth-enabled devices, as well as TV and landline phones
- iPhone and smartphone compatibility
Other optional hearing aid features that may improve your ability to hear in specific situations include:
- Connection to multiple devices
- Noise reduction
- Personalized listening experience
- Remote controls
- Wireless streaming
- Apps to adjust your hearing aids
Hearing Aid Styles
NYEE’s Hearing Aid Dispensary carries a wide variety of hearing aid options from six top manufacturers. Hearing aids vary greatly in size, special features, and how they are placed in the ear. Because cost is often a significant factor in the purchase of a hearing aid, our devices are competitively priced, affording our patients a variety of options that fit both their lifestyle and budget.
The receiver-in-canal (RIC), also referred to as receiver-in-the-ear (RITE), is one of the most popular hearing aids. As the name suggests, the receiver (speaker) portion of the device is located inside the ear canal, while the body of the hearing aid remains on top of and slightly behind the ear. RIC design allows the body of the device to be much smaller and lighter. And since the speaker is inside the ear, closer to the eardrum, the sound quality is better. RIC hearing aids come in a variety of designs and colors to blend with the wearer’s hair color or skin tones. This variety, combined with the device’s size, makes the receiver-in-canal hearing aid an elegant and discrete choice.
Other common types of hearing aids include:
In-the-Canal (ITC): In-the-canal hearing aids fit in the ear opening and the ear canal. Since the components of the aid are encased in the device, it is less visible in the ear. The sound is conducted into the ear by the receiver in the canal.
Completely-in-Canal (CIC): Completely-in-the-canal hearing aids are designed for a deep fit inside the ear canal for minimum visibility. The design offers better cosmetic results, as well as greater comfort to people with active/outdoor lifestyles requiring the use of head gear.
Invisible-in-the-Canal (IIC): Patients looking for an “invisible” hearing aid can take advantage of a custom-fitted hearing aid style. An ear impression is taken and the devise is sculpted to match the unique contours of your ear canal. The resulting product fits farther into the ear canal than other styles, so it's completely invisible when worn.
Noise Protection Devices
The NYEE’s Hearing Aid Dispensary is a leader in providing customized ear protection to musicians, vocalists, sound engineers, and other professionals at risk for hearing loss due to professional noise exposure. Patients considering professional noise protection devices will meet with our audiologists for a consultation to determine personal noise-risk factors and to discuss available hearing protection options. The dispensary works with the finest manufacturers and offers top-of-the-line products that combine performance, best fit, and quality for superior noise protection. We specialize in:
- Professional in-the-ear monitors
- Personal listening earphones
- Custom molded noise and musician earplugs
Travel Tips for the Hearing Impaired
Travel is an important part of our lives. But for the more than 20 million people in the U.S. with hearing loss, travel can be especially difficult.
There are a number of common problems that come up when traveling with a hearing impairment, including the following:
- Inability to hear or understand airline boarding and in-flight announcements
- Difficulty making reservations
- Inability to hear hotel room telephones, someone knocking on the door, or warning signals such as smoke alarms
- Difficulty using public telephones, hotel phones, cell phones, etc.
- Inability to hear or understand scheduled events such as planned activities, tours, museum lectures, and live performances
- Lack of oral and/or sign language interpreters
- Lack of accommodations for hearing dogs
What Arrangements Can be Made?
Try to make all travel arrangements in advance. Once transportation arrangements have been made, request written confirmation to ensure that information is correct. Always inform the ticket representative that you are hearing-impaired.
In addition, follow these helpful guidelines:
- If possible, meet with a travel agent to allow the opportunity for lip reading, or if necessary, confirm travel plans in writing.
- Travel information and reservation services are also available on the Internet. Be sure to print copies of important information such as confirmation numbers, reservations, and maps. Keep copies of travel arrangements, including confirmation numbers, easily available.
- Arrive early at the airport, bus terminal, or train station. Tell the agent at the boarding gate that you are hearing-impaired and need to be notified in person when it’s time to board.
- Check the display board repeatedly while waiting in the terminal to confirm your flight destination and departure time, as there may be delays or the departure gate may change. Confirm the flight number and destination before boarding.
- Inform the flight attendant that you are hearing-impaired and request that any in-flight announcements be communicated to you in person. Consider reserving aisle seats so that you may easily communicate with the flight staff.
- Do not be afraid to ask for help from fellow travelers—most are more than willing to offer assistance.
How Should Hearing Aids be Handled when Traveling?
If you wear a hearing aid, be sure to pack extra batteries and tubing. These may be difficult to obtain in some places.
Strongly consider taking a dehumidifier for drying your hearing aids each night to prevent moisture problems, especially if your destination has a warm, humid climate.
To prevent loss, avoid storing your hearing aid equipment in checked luggage. Keep an extra set of batteries in a separate piece of luggage to prevent total loss of hearing aid use.
What Other Resources are Available?
Many major airlines and transportation companies have Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD) services to assist passengers.
In addition, you could make use of the following helpful resources:
- Hand-held personal communication devices (e.g., cellular phones and smartphones) provide the ability to send and receive text messages without the need to access public resources. Ask your travel agent or check your reservation website to see if this option is available.
- All public telephones should now have a “blue grommet” attachment to the handset indicating it is compatible with the “T” switch or telephone program in hearing aids. Some public phones have an amplifying headset, or you can purchase a pocket amplifier from your audiologist or hearing aid dispenser. Cellular phones have solved many of these problems. All manufacturers have models that are also compatible with your hearing aid. You can search the Internet by typing in “HAC phones” (hearing aid compatible) to get more information.
- Smartphones often have applications for travelling. Such programs or email programs can store reservation information. Some applications offer real-time alerts for changes in flight plans, and others have maps that can provide directions.
What Other Devices are Helpful?
Telephone amplifiers and induction couplers can be attached to public or hotel phones and can help increase the volume of the telephone. Induction couplers also make the telephone compatible with your hearing aid telecoil. Telephone manufacturers produce handsets such as the G6 and G66, which plug easily into any modular telephone. Using your own compatible cellular phone, however, not only eliminates these problems, but is also less expensive.
In addition, you could make use of the following helpful devices:
- There are small, portable visual alert systems available that flash light when the telephone rings or fire alarm sounds. These can be transported and easily installed in hotel rooms. In the U.S. they should be provided if you ask.
- FM listening systems can provide direct amplification in large areas using radio frequency. They can help the hearing-impaired traveler listen to lectures, tours, etc., by simply having the speaker use a transmitter microphone that broadcasts the presentation over the radio waves to the receiver.
- Portable infrared systems can be used with hotel televisions and radios. These transmit sound via invisible infrared light to a listener’s receiver.
- Portable wake-up alarms can be used to flash a light or vibrate a bed or pillow. A cellular phone can also work as a vibrating alarm.
- Portable TV band radios can be tuned to compatible TV channels and listened to through an earphone. You can set the volume to suit yourself and watch TV without disturbing others, or you can turn on the closed captioning (CC) feature of the TV.
Will I Need to Take My Hearing Aids Out for Security Screening?
In most cases, hearing aids worn on the ears will not set off the alarms during security screening at airports. Keeping the hearing aids on will allow you to communicate with the security officers during screening, if necessary. It is ok to ask a security officer if it would be advisable to take your hearing aids off. However, body worn hearing aids and personal listening devices may contain enough metal parts that they should be packed in your carryon bag. The security scanner will not harm your hearing aids or other related devices.
How Can My Hotel Help Me?
Be sure to carry printed copies of lodging reservations, dates, and prices. Once you arrive at your hotel, follow these practices:
- Inform the receptionist at the front desk that you are hearing-impaired. This is very important in case of emergency.
- Certain major hotel chains now provide visual alerting devices to help the hearing-impaired traveler recognize the ring of the telephone, a knock on the door, or a fire emergency alarm.
- Contact the hotel in advance to make the necessary arrangements.
There are many things that hearing-impaired people can do to help make their travels safe, comfortable, and enjoyable. Don’t avoid travelling because of hearing loss. Help your trip run smoothly by planning ahead and informing your fellow travelers, transportation hosts, and hotel clerks that you are hearing-impaired.