Lend me your ear

When purchasing a hearing aid, consider the options and ask lots of questions

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Morgan Parrish, a hearing specialist with The Hearing Aid Office, peers into client Don Smith's ear. Hearing aid specialists say with the new technology available in the industry, it's important that clients ask a lot of questions to understand the product they are purchasing.

Ninety-five percent of people who have hearing loss could be helped by a hearing aid, yet most people seek help too late.

"Hearing loss is something that happens gradually over time and is not as noticeable to the person it's happening to," said Tim Crane of New Creation Hearing Solutions, which has offices in Craig and Grand Junction. "Usually friends and family are the ones who notice first."

With digital technology making hearing aids extremely accurate and versatile, statistics show that people like the results.

One of four households has a member who's hearing impaired, Crane said. He also said hearing loss is cited as the nation's third most common health problem in people older than 50.

But there is hope.

Seventy-one percent of people who wear hearing aids report an improvement in life overall, and 74 percent report improvement in their relationships at home. Sixty-seven percent of hearing aid wearers report improvement in self-esteem.

The reason for much of the happiness lies in new technology.

Audiologist John Burke of Northwest Speech and Hearing, who works out of Steamboat Springs and Craig, said digital hearing aids have six to 20 frequencies to which they can be tuned based on the type of hearing aid.

Also, some digital hearing aids can be programmed to adjust to an environment. Speech and quiet, speech and noise, comfort and noise, and music are a few options that can be programmed into the aid to help filter out background noise.

But when considering a hearing aid, Crane says you can never be too careful or informed.

Be certain the aid is fully digital, meaning it transmits digitally to your body. Some analog aids are being sold that are marketed as being programmed digitally, meaning through a computer, but they still transmit through analog, he said.

State law requires retailers to give at least a 30-day trial period for hearing aids. Crane also said to make sure the hearing evaluation is conducted in a quiet place.

Crane said a solid warranty also should be included when looking to buy.

"They should make sure their dispenser is going to take care of them after," Crane said. "It's kind of like getting married. The wedding is fun and great, but it's what's after that counts."

But first of all, Crane said, check the facts.

"Get educated," he said. "There are so many online resources for consumer education. All the manufacturers have Web sites that tell about the technology. And ask lots of questions."

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