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    1919 Lathrop Street, Suite #104 Fairbanks, Alaska 99701
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Frequently Asked Questions

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Hearing Loss Questions

I can hear people speak, but sometimes I can’t understand what they say. Why is that?

Hearing loss is an “understanding” problem. Understanding words and sentences is a function of your brain and relies on receiving sound signals unaltered. Your ears collect sound, transform it into nerve impulses, and send it to the brain where understanding occurs. Most nerve loss in the inner ear occurs with high-pitched softer phonemes of speech, which give meaning to many of our words. Advanced hearing aids are engineered to help you reclaim a lost sensitivity to many of these higher pitched sounds with the goal to improve your ability to understand.

Is hearing loss just part of growing old?

While hearing loss is common as we age, there are many factors that can contribute to hearing loss:

• Excessive Noise Exposure (prolonged loud music, gun shots, noise machinery)
• Infections
• Head Injury
• Genetics or Birth Defects
• Drug or Treatment Reaction (antibiotics, chemotherapy, radiation)

What is conductive hearing loss?

Conductive hearing loss is caused by a condition or disease that blocks or impedes the movement of sound waves throughout the outer or middle ear. The result is a reduction in loudness or clarity of sound that reaches the inner ear.  The treatment for conductive loss can vary and may include surgical intervention depending on the cause.

What is sensorineural hearing loss?

Sensorineural hearing loss results from auditory nerve dysfunction within the inner ear.  It is typically irreversible and permanent. It affects the intensity (or loudness) of sound, but more often result in a lack of clarity of sounds, particularly speech. The treatment for sensorineural hearing loss is prescriptive sound amplification through advanced hearing aids.

Are there different types of hearing loss?

Most always hearing loss is categorized as either conductive or sensorineural.  Most hearing loss is sensorineural and commonly referred to as “nerve loss.”  A combination of the two types we call a “mixed hearing loss.”  Unilateral hearing loss affects one ear; bilateral hearing loss affects both ears.  Treatment options vary for the different types of hearing loss.  Sensorineural hearing loss cannot be corrected by surgery or medication, but may be treated using advanced hearing aid technology.

Hearing Aid Questions

My hearing is getting worse. If I get hearing aids now, won’t I just have to replace them later?

With advanced digital technology we are able to adjust your prescription as needed with time. Every 4-5 years, you may feel as if you need to upgrade your hearing device as technology improves and your listening needs progress.

Are hearing aids difficult to wear or get used to?

Long ago most hearing instruments available were bulky and uncomfortable to wear. Today’s advanced hearing aids offer a variety of discrete and comfortable options, making dissatisfied hearing aid users a thing of the past. Award-winning designs have proven to be aesthetically appealing, naturally comfortable, and virtually unnoticeable.

A doctor told me hearing aids wouldn’t help. Should I trust him or her?

Most physicians are experts to the extent of their specialty and may not be up-to-date on advances to all hearing treatments. It’s smart to rely on the expertise of a hearing care professional first. Breakthrough technological advances in the design and performance of hearing aids have given many people the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of amplification. You should have a thorough test by an audiologist to baseline your hearing and discuss your options for improvement in your everyday hearing ability.

I struggle with hearing in groups. Will hearing instruments help me follow conversation in a crowd?

Much of the noise in our surroundings is low-toned and tends to compete with weaker, high-pitched sounds that give speech meaning. The digital advancements that have been made in hearing aids allow for selective reduction of frequencies where background noise exists without negatively affecting the speech frequencies. Advanced hearing aids can also automatically adjust the scope of what we hear, removing competitive sounds that challenge our understanding. Although noise is not eliminated completely, it’s reduced significantly.

Why do some hearing aids cost more than others?

Hearing aids are feature-packaged and priced according to performance capabilities. As with most technology, the devices that do more, cost more. Your audiologists will work hard to match the right technology your lifestyle, listening needs, and budget. It’s important to understand that hearing aids come with generous maintenance coverage and loss & damage protection. At Fairbanks Hearing & Balance Center, you don’t pay extra for office visits – lifetime extended service is included in the up-front price of the hearing aids!

Do I have to wear an instrument in both ears or can I get by with one?

Generally two-ear assistance is superior to that of a single instrument. Even in instances where hearing loss between the ears differ, two hearing aids can provide balanced hearing and better localization of sound that may help preserve speech activity in both ears. Your doctor of Audiology will make appropriate recommendations based on the results from your evaluation.

Do I need any follow-up care after getting hearing aids?

Yes – hearing loss should be managed over time throughout your life, similar to vision care and dental care. Hearing aids require a period of re-training your hearing. Follow-up visits are always part of your treatment plan. Periodically adjustments may need to be made to optimize performance as characteristics of your loss change over time and to accommodate your preferences in various hearing situations. Your hearing aids should also fit comfortably. If you experience changes in your ability to hear or problems with fit, you should call to set an appointment immediately.

What is a digital hearing aid?

Digital hearing aids convert sound waves into numerical codes, similar to the code of a computer, before amplifying them. The code also includes information about a sound’s pitch or loudness, allowing the aid to be custom-programmed to amplify certain sound frequencies more than others. Digital circuitry gives your doctor more flexibility in adjusting the aid to a user’s unique hearing loss and to certain listening environments.

How do I care for my hearing aids?

The following tips will extend the life of your hearing aid:

  • Clean hearing aids as instructed. Ear drainage and wax buildup can damage your hearing aid.
  • Avoid hairspray and other hair products while wearing your hearing aids.
  • Power off hearing aids when not in use, this will also extend battery life.
  • Keep your hearing aids away from moisture and heat.
  • Replace dead batteries immediately.
  • Store your hearing aids and replacement batteries in a secure location: away from pets and small children.

Our practice provides on site repairs, hearing aid maintenance, and hearing aid cleaning for all our patients.

What kind of financial assistance options are there?

We offer several convenient payment options, including interest-free financing for up to 12 months. Your doctor will explain all costs and options when recommending hearing aids.   The Better Hearing Institute also publishes a guide identifying multiple foundations, agencies, organizations and government programs that provide financial assistance for qualified patients.

Does insurance cover the cost of hearing aids?

Some insurance plans provide coverage for hearing aids, but generally you pay out-of-pocket for better hearing.  Our staff can assist you with discovering if and to what amount of coverage is available.

Which type of hearing aid works best?

Hearing aids come in many sizes and styles and are feature-packaged according to performance capabilities.  Your individual hearing loss, listening environments, options needed, cosmetic concerns, manual dexterity, and budget may factor in finding the best individual solution.  Audiologists are experts to help you in the selection of the right technology to match your needs.

Hearing Testing Questions

Are all hearing tests the same?

Not always. A comprehensive hearing evaluation includes an audiometric test of your hearing (generally in a sound booth) along with a thorough needs and lifestyle assessment, generally involving a friend or family member. Be wise in selecting a professional that puts time and effort into the diagnostic portion of hearing treatment.

How can I tell if I need a hearing test?

There are some simple rules of thumb with regards to hearing tests. A hearing test simple and painless. It takes most people years to notice the gradual onset of hearing loss, so if you are starting to have problems hearing certain voices, if you find yourself asking people to repeat themselves, if others seem to mumble, or if up need to turn the TV volume up to a level uncomfortable for others to enjoy – these are signs that it’s time to test your hearing. Hearing loss is not something to hide or ignore. In fact, untreated hearing loss is more visible to others than hearing aids. Hearing loss can negatively affect one’s emotional and social well being too and cause depression, isolation from others, breakdown of relationships, insecurity, and an overall sense of helplessness.

Other General Questions

What is an Audiologist?

Audiologists are experts in Audiology – the study of hearing, balance, and ear related disorders. They diagnose and treat all kinds of hearing loss, tinnitus, and dizziness or balance problems. Audiologists generally work with people of all ages, from infants to retired adults. Good Audiologist collaborate closely with your physician to ensure that your total healthcare needs are met. With the great advances in technology they are able to offer a wide range of solutions for hearing loss and other ear related health issues.

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