It can be tempting to ignore the advice of your audiologist telling you that you should purchase a hearing aid — especially when the average cost of a single hearing aid is an astonishing $2,372.
This expense isn’t yet covered by Medicare and standard hearing examinations aren’t either. It isn’t surprising then that among adults aged 70 and older with hearing loss who could benefit from hearing aids, fewer than one in three have ever used them.
If an audiologist recommends that you use a hearing aid, it's important that you listen to their expert advice. Hearing aids can greatly improve your quality of life, and if your hearing loss is permanent or worsening, they are well worth the investment.
Is There an Alternative to Hearing Aids?
However, if you only have mild hearing loss and don’t feel you need a hearing aid just yet, you might want to consider a cheaper alternative to hearing aids that can make your day-to-day life easier.
Hearing aid alternatives include personal sound amplification products (PSAPs), speech to text phones, amplified phones, TV listening devices, public assistive listening devices, and simply changing your environment to suit your needs, all of which will be discussed in this article.
Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPs)
Personal sound amplification products (PSAPs) may be able to help those with mild hearing loss, but they shouldn't be used in cases of moderate to severe hearing loss.
One of the biggest criticisms of hearing aids is that they are expensive, and may not be worth the price, especially for those with mild hearing loss who only struggle to hear in certain situations (such as when there's a lot of background noise) but are fine in most quiet environments.
You can use a PSAP every now and again (or even all the time) for a little boost to your hearing, and for a fraction of the cost of hearing aids. Advancement in recent technology has allowed some PSAPs to be self-programmed using a smartphone or computer app, and not require any sort of in-person fitting.
Although PSAPs cannot be marketed as hearing aids as they do not adhere to the strict definition and manufacturing standards of hearing aids, their technology is getting more and more sophisticated meaning some advanced devices, such as the Olive Smart Ear, can now perform some of the same functions as hearing aids.
Although they're certainly no replacement for hearing aids, if you don't need a hearing aid, they can provide you with a useful and sometimes customizable sound boost.
Those with hearing loss frequently experience difficulty hearing over the phone. You can’t lip read, so don’t benefit from visual cues, and you’re usually only using one ear, which makes it harder for some people to hear. You might relate if you've experienced this yourself!
Getting an amplified telephone is a great idea for those who struggle with their hearing when on the phone, but aren’t ready to commit to purchasing expensive hearing aids.
Luckily, amplified telephones are provided free of charge to many state residents through their state telecommunications program. You can usually just fill out an application with confirmation from a medical professional that you have hearing loss.
See if you can get an amplified telephone on the State Telephone Program site.
If you can’t get an amplified telephone through your state or are looking into purchasing your own, there are various options on the market at different price points.
TV Listening Devices
Watching TV with your friends and family can be difficult if you have hearing loss, as you’ll probably want to listen at a different volume to everyone else.
A television listening device can give you personal volume control. By connecting wirelessly to the TV, you can adjust the volume of the television independently to everyone else in the room so that just your volume is quieter or louder.
Popular TV listening devices include TV Ears, which uses Voice Clarifying Circuitry® to reduce background noise. It also clarifies hard to hear television dialog, making the most unintelligible speech easy to understand.
Caption Call - for Phone Calls
CaptionCall allows you to read as well as hear what someone is saying when you’re speaking to them on the phone. It works like a normal phone but also displays real-time captions during your conversation on a large, easy-to-read screen. This helps people with hearing loss understand conversations easily, and get more enjoyment out of speaking to family and friends.
CaptionCall RealSound audio processing also minimizes voice distortions and you can save your conversations. You just need a high-speed internet connection.
If you have hearing loss that necessitates the use of a captioning service, CaptionCall is available at no cost (with no hidden fees). All you need to do is order a no-cost caption phone online and CaptionCall will contact you to confirm your eligibility and schedule delivery. You will also receive training on installation.
Public Assistive Listening Devices
You can find public assistive listening devices out and about in many public places. You can wear these devices to hear sounds clearer and louder in venues such as public auditoriums and theaters, movie theaters, airports, and churches and synagogues, and most devices are free of charge to use while you are there.
You can check with a venue if a public assistive listening device will be available by contacting them directly.
Changing Your Environment
If you’re waiting for an assistive device or still researching your options, you can still implement some communication strategies to improve your day-to-day listening and understanding. Even if you already have a hearing aid, these are useful strategies to incorporate into your hearing loss management.
Face the Person You’re Speaking To
Facing the person who is talking to you can make a huge difference to your conversations. Not only will you probably hear them better, but you’ll also be able to lip read to aid your understanding. Even if you don’t think you use lip reading, almost everyone (even with normal hearing) does to some extent, as lip movements, subtle visual cues, and gestures are key to accurate communication and interpretation.
Meet in Quiet Locations
When meeting up with friends, family, or colleagues, try to reduce background noise around you as much as possible. If you’re out and about this might not always be possible. However, you can try to select a quiet meeting spot such as a cafe you know isn’t busy, or your own home.
Noise should be much easier to control at home, as you can sit far away from appliances that are running, such as the dishwasher or washing machine, and turn off the TV or any music playing to suit your needs. In the long term, adding curtains and rugs to your home will also absorb the reverberation in the room, allowing you to hear other people better. This might be something to look into.
If you do find yourself in a busy, loud environment, try to minimize your exposure to noise by sitting away from any music speakers or entrances and exits where lots of disturbance and chatter tend to occur. Sitting somewhere well lit will also help you to understand better by helping you to see visual cues. Making sure you don’t sit too far away to the person you're speaking to will help with this too.
All this being said, if your audiologist has advised you to wear hearing aids, it's really worth considering making the investment. They can dramatically improve your hearing and protect your long-term ear health.
To read more about hearing loss, treatments, and strategies, see our other blog articles.
The information in this guide has been written using the following reliable sources: