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Hearing Aids

More than 90% of individuals with hearing loss can be helped with hearing instruments. The degree of success, however, is determined not only by the severity and type of hearing loss, but also by the motivational level of the patient.

A hearing aid requires several weeks of adjustment which should be followed by continued improvement and satisfaction during the next several months. While a hearing aid will not eliminate all of the problems that hearing loss creates nor bring back “normal” hearing, it will help to lessen communication difficulties.

For many people the only way to improve hearing is with amplification.

Research has proven that most people with hearing loss in both ears will benefit from wearing hearing aids in both ears. It provides fuller sound quality while making it easier to localize the source of sounds. It helps improve speech understanding in background noise and volumes can be set lower to allow for a more natural sound quality.

There are a variety of styles and technologies designed to improve hearing ability.

By working with your Audiologist you can choose the right hearing aid, depending on the degree of hearing loss, your lifestyle and your hearing needs. We use different aspects of your lifestyle to help determine the right hearing instrument for you.

The degree of hearing loss is the first measure that is used to indicate the style of hearing instrument that is recommended. There are several styles of hearing aids that fit entirely in the ear. These hearing aids are fit to each individual, based on an impression of the wearer’s ear that is taken at the time a hearing aid is ordered.

Custom hearing aids come in 3 basic sizes, although there are variations that exist. The primary categories are: from smallest to largest (CIC) completely-in-the-canal, (ITC) in-the-canal and (ITE) in-the-ear or full shell.

Non-Custom hearing aid is a (BTE) behind-the-ear hearing aids.

CIC- is the smallest hearing instrument available. It is the most cosmetically appealing. It provides enough amplification for someone with a mild to moderately-sever hearing loss. It requires good dexterity to insert, remove and change the battery.

CIC hearing aids can limit some of the programming options that are available today of background noise reduction.

TC - sits within the bottom portion of the outer ear. It is easier to handle than the CIC. It is appropriate for mild to moderately-severe hearing losses. ITC instruments allow for more programming flexibility and can be a more comfortable fit.

ITE – sits entirely within the outer ear. This instrument provides the widest selection of features. It does not require as good of dexterity as smaller instruments. Appropriate for mild to severe hearing loss.

BTE- is placed behind the ear and are attached to the ear by a custom earmold or in some cases a non-custom tubing. This is used for all degrees of hearing loss, from very mild to profound. There are many styles of BTEs available, depending on the listeners needs.

Most hearing aids fit today use digital sound processing. Some of the features that occur in hearing instruments are automatic sound processing, directional microphone systems, speech and noise management technologies, feedback cancellation, multiple listening programs, wireless technology and some even use remote controls.

To simplify understanding why there are so many choices available, hearing aid technology is divided into levels of technology. Please remember that these categories are not absolute and definite. An Audiologist or hearing aid dispenser is necessary to help you make an educated decision. As the hearing impaired it is your job to acknowledge you need help and then find a professional you are comfortable working with and trust in that education to help you through the process.

Technology tends to be divided into Basic Technology (entry level), Advanced, Superior, and Premium. At each level of technology, features and the ability of the hearing aid improve. The basic and advanced technologies were designed for economic purposes and as technology improves, so do the expectation of how well a person will perform with their hearing aids. That is why lifestyle is a criteria for the selection of appropriate amplification. How many different environments are you in in one day? Are you active or sedate? Do you use the telephone a lot? Are you a musician or an armchair musician?

These are only some of the things that will be discussed to help determine what it is that will work best for you as an individual. Two people with the same hearing loss could have completely different needs and completely different success stories. Cost will obviously be a factor in the decision making process, but be aware that, although hearing aids are expensive, they are an investment in your quality of life. Hearing aids are not a once in a lifetime purchase. Hearing aids are typically replaced every 5 to 7 years, sooner for some, later for others.

UCI offers full service for your hearing healthcare needs, including working with your insurance if you have a hearing aid benefit. Most insurance coverage DO NOT offer any benefit, although this is employer specific, so it is recommended that you call your insurance company and ask if you have any benefits and what amount they cover. MEDICARE does NOT cover anything to do with hearing aids. If you have a Medicare supplement it will not cover anything for hearing aids either.

UCI is one of very few selected centers that offers the SoundBite hearing system for treating one sided deafness or conductive hearing loss.

COST OF HEARING AIDS:

When hearing aids are purchased through the Audiology Department at UCI Medical Center, all of the items and services required to assure a successful fitting are included in the initial costs. Consequently, the following items are included in the price of the hearing aid:

  • Impression of the ear (shape of ear) for a custom hearing aid or earmold to be made.
  • All visits to ensure that the fitting and programming of the hearing aids are appropriate.
  • 2 year warranty on the hearing aids, which include any office or manufacturer repairs that are needed.
  • 1 year loss and damage coverage, should the hearing aids be lost or damaged beyond repair. Extended coverage can be purchased at an additional price (price will depend on the actual hearing system that is being fit).
  • 1 package of batteries (per ear), hearing aid cases and cleaning instruments.

The system cost will vary depending on the style that is chosen or the technology involved. Due to the non-profit nature of the University of California, Irvine, the costs of hearing aids at UCI are some of the lowest, if not the lowest in Southern California for the wide selection of hearing aids available. Hearing aids are fit with a 60 day trial period. California requires a 30 day trial, UCI fits all hearing aids with a 60 day trial to ensure that the choices of amplification are appropriate and a successful fit has been made. A 1-year battery supply is given for free.

It is important to remember that you do not make any decisions on your own. It is important to work with an Audiologist who can guide you through this new process. It is the Audiologists job to have the answers for you and to ask the right questions. It is your job to be open and honest about how you feel about this process and what you feel your needs are, then jump in and be surprised by all you have been missing.

To reach the UC Irvine Audiology Department you may call for an appointment:

714-456-7017 or click here, please tell the appointment desk that you want to discuss hearing aids, and if you have not had a hearing test in the last 6 months, that you need that as well. An appointment does not obligate you to anything more than a conversation.

If you have questions, prior to setting an appointment:

714-456-3083, Dr. Alicia Traktman

Or e-mail atraktma@uci.edu with any questions you may have and we will be happy to answer as best we can.