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Where has the “wow” gone?

By Noreen Gibbens, Au.D.
Lead Audiologist

I was on a chat recently with a group of people with hearing loss. It was an “Ask the Audiologist” event. One of the questions posted was from a person who had been wearing hearing aids for many years. His most recent set was about 5-7 years old, and he had just gone through trying about 4 newer sets. His comment was “Why don’t the newer ones sound any different?” Of course, I think his real question was “Why don’t they sound any better?” I also had an experience with a patient recently who was wearing a similar set of aids, and she said “The new ones do not seem all that different”. I was not surprised, but it is a subject that needs to be addressed with long-standing hearing aid users.

Those of us fitting hearing aids for more than 15 years or so can probably agree that there have been tremendous changes since the days of potentiometer adjustments and linear hearing aids. The newer technology has made our fittings more precise, and it is reassuring to know that hearing aids now have the ability to amplify quiet sounds more than loud. This was not always the case! Also, the ability to control amplification in specific frequency bands is much more precise than in the past. We got a fair number of “wow” responses when those devices came out.

So, where is the “wow” now? My personal belief, after fitting hearing aids for over 25 years, is that we are reaching some real limitations. We have had really good technology over the past 10 years or so. That does not mean current/newer technology is not worth it. Hearing aids are still body-worn electronic devices that are prone to build-up of corrosion from moisture, dust and all that is in the air. And, of course, ear wax will forever be an issue. Replacing hearing aids every 3 to 5 years still makes sense, especially if repair costs are becoming an issue. We can also then update a hearing test and make certain that the aids are meeting the current hearing loss requirements.

In addition to all of this, it would be a good idea for all people with hearing loss to have a back-up set. I cannot tell you the number of times I have had a patient pleading (and paying for) a rushed repair from the manufacturer. Yes, there does come a time at which people do become dependent (their words) on the hearing aids and that is a good thing in many ways.

If you or someone you know has lost the “wow” in their new hearing aids, it is not completely unexpected. With more affordable hearing aids, we can now refer them for guidance regarding additional devices that will enhance their hearing. These are especially helpful in their most challenging situations, and will definitely add a “wow” to the hearing aid experience!


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