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Recent research has confirmed what we have known since starting our careers as Audiologist - 80 percent of all people suffering from hearing loss and related communication difficulties do not pursue help with amplification or assistive listening devices. Those who do seek help wait an average of seven years from the time they notice some difficulty until they first contact someone, usually their primary care physician, for advice.
It seems there are two primary reasons people don’t pursue help with hearing problems: negative comments they have heard in the past about hearing aid technology and the perceived high price of hearing aids. The first issue has been addressed with the advent of digital technology and recent advances in automated hearing aid technology in the past few years.
To address the second issue - cost - AC Hearing, Tinnitus and Balance Associates, LLC has created the Robert Shafer Hearing Program, a financial assistance offering. In addition, we cooperate with two national programs: HEAR Now and AUDIENT. Both are hearing services to help patients who are experiencing financial constraints. Both national programs pre-qualify patients based on financial need.
HEAR Now helps patients with very limited income or extreme expenses compared to income. If they qualify, they will be provided with hearing aids, and AC Associates’ time, both for the initial fitting and the first month’s adjustments, will be donated.
The AUDIENT program is funded by Lions Club International and supplies hearing aids and assistive devices at a reduced rate to those who qualify based on income and expenses. Income requirements are consistent with lower middle-class levels, but expenses are taken into account as well.
AC Associates’s own resource, the Robert Shafer Hearing Program, was founded in memory of the father of our founder, James Shafer. Robert Shafer was someone who always fought for the underdog. The program named in his honor evaluates the needs of individuals regarding the experience, skill and support needed for successful communication and audibility in their unique environment. Based on this evaluation we will design a program for each person’s needs and develop a related cost for the individual services needed to ensure a positive outcome - price at the lowest achievable cost while retaining the highest level of service. This allows each person to focus on purchasing high-level digital products rather than paying for services that might not be needed.
The two national programs require a medical and audiologic evaluation and a completed application that will be sent to the appropriate agency for approval. Once a patient’s application has been approved, impressions and fitting of the prescribed device(s) will be conducted at our office. If a patient does not qualify for either national program, the Robert Shafer Hearing Program offers substantially reduced prices on a full range of well-known hearing aids. High-quality digital GNResound products will be the primary offering for this program.
Hearing Aids - Giving Our Patients the Tools to Succeed
Our goal is to make the best hearing healthcare affordable for everyone. Along with value pricing we offer trade-in allowances for your old hearing aids, second hearing aid discounts, and a monthly payment program. We are an accredited insurance provider, and all hearing aids are completely covered under warranty during trial periods.
Because everyone has different levels of hearing loss and speech discrimination (how well people can understand what they hear when speech is loud enough), everyone benefits differently when using amplification. If the auditory system replicates sound without significant distortion, then speech discrimination is usually good. This would allow someone using a hearing aid to have more clarity than someone with poor speech discrimination, even if both have a similar ability to hear the tones. This is the concept behind the Robert Shafer Hearing Program - no two people’s hearing health needs are the same.
What You Should Know about Hearing Aids
All hearing aids work on the same basic principle and are composed of the same three basic parts:
• a microphone, which changes acoustical energy to electrical energy
Digital technology has allowed hearing aids to become micro-computers, ensuring that the basic capabilities replicate sound more efficiently to improve audibility. There are several styles of hearing aids, and each patient’s hearing loss will dictate the best option for his or her communication needs. We will briefly review the three most common types:
• Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid
• Open-fit BTE
• Classic in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aid
• Completely in the canal (CIC) hearing aid
Based on the audiogram and individual concerns, our Audiologist will offer appropriate options so the patient can make the best choice. Currently there are two types of circuitry available for each of the styles of hearing aids:
Binaural or Monaural (two aids or one)
There are situations where only one aid is appropriate. If, for example, there is little or no usable hearing in one ear, only one aid would be used. For people in very limited communication situations, one aid is also an acceptable choice.
Some of the advantages of binaural hearing are:
• A better balance and quality of sound.
If hearing aids are recommended after our extensive hearing evaluation has been performed, our Audiologists will perform Real-Ear testing to ensure that the hearing aids are meeting targets based on the hearing loss. This testing is performed by inserting a small tube into the ear canal with the hearing aid, which allows the Audiologist to objectively measure the Sound Pressure level generated inside the ear canal. This testing provides frequency specific information for the audiologist to determine the speech intelligibility index for the patient. Real Ear measures are much more accurate than previous first-fit algorithms set by the manufacturer-supplied software, as it allows the Audiologist to precisely measure benefit based on patient’s ear canal resonance and venting effects in the hearing aid. Speech stimuli can be varied depending on the patient. A recorded male or female speech stimulus is typically used, however, a live speech stimulus can be used if the patient reports difficulty hearing a significant other. These measures can be saved and repeated for verification as part of follow-up care.
For patients newly equipped with a hearing aid, following these guidelines of hearing aid care and management can be helpful.
The New Implantable Middle-Ear Hearing Device
New on the market, the implantable middle-ear hearing device uses breakthrough technology to pass sound directly to the bones of your middle ear. This results in clearer sound, reduced feedback, and improved hearing in difficult listening situations. There are other benefits, too, such as greater comfort and ease of use, all of which can contribute to better living. To determine if an implantable hearing device may be an option for you, call the nearest AC Associates office to schedule a hearing evaluation and consultation.