Step One – Hearing Test
The first step is getting your hearing tested. We recommend that people over the age of 50 have an annual hearing test that is performed in a noise-free sound booth. A hearing ‘screening’ is not the same and we believe a ‘screening’ does not accurately measure your hearing. Our audiologist will assess your hearing in a controlled setting –a sound booth. Your job is simply to listen and offer responses.
You will be fitted with a set of earphones, and then asked to listen to various quiet sounds and push a button or raise your hand when you hear each sound. The audiologist may also speak words that you will be asked to repeat.
Each sound that you listen to will be in the everyday range of sounds and speech. After each response, the audiologist will adjust the volume, in order to find out the softest sounds that you are able to hear. This determines your hearing threshold, which is then charted on an audiogram, which is a graph showing pitches and frequencies. The loudest sounds are at the bottom of the scale, and the quietest sounds are at the top. In this way, you can find out how well you hear sounds and understand speech.
Once the hearing test is complete, our audiologist will show you your results, explain them to you, and answer any questions you may have. One question, though, that may be impossible to answer is, “What caused my hearing loss?” There could be any number of causes.
The most common cause of hearing loss is age. Practically everyone will experience some level of hearing impairment over the years. This is because as you age, you lose hair cells in your inner ear. For some people, this can take a long time. For others, it can happen sooner. People in their 50s can sometimes experience more significant hearing loss than people in their 80s, but in both instances, the cause is aging.
Another cause of hearing loss is excessive exposure to noise. And again, this is difficult to quantify. In some cases, a single exposure to very loud noise can result in hearing loss. In other cases, it may occur over time – your mother was right when she said listening to all that loud music would ruin your hearing. Hearing loss due to noise can also be highly individualistic, as some people seem to tolerate loud noises better than others.
If your hearing loss is sudden, our audiologist will most likely refer you to an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist) to determine the cause. It might be a medical cause that can be treated with therapy, medication or surgery.
Regardless of the cause of your hearing loss, you can realize significant improvement with the right hearing aid.
Step Two – Hearing Aid Evaluation
Now that you have learned you have a hearing loss and will consider getting help with hearing aids, the next step is to talk with our Patient Care Coordinator to book an appointment for a hearing aid evaluation. It is a good idea to bring a friend, family member or caregiver with you to your appointment. This is simply because people who are close to you often can identify problems that you might not even be aware of – after all, your hearing loss is also affecting them. They can help you with the consultation, and also be a good source of input when it comes time to select the type of hearing aid with which you will be most comfortable.
At your appointment, our audiologist will talk with you about your hearing history, the ways in which your hearing ability (or lack thereof) is affecting your life, and the ways in which your life will improve if you are able to hear better. Then, she will recommend a course of action and will provide details about the different types of hearing aids and their benefits. There are many to choose from, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.
Step Three – Ordering Hearing Aids
You have decided to order hearing aids. Our audiologist will help you choose the style, color, level of technology and accessories. Once your choices are made, you will pay half of the total amount due, our audiologist will order your custom hearing aids, and will schedule an appointment to deliver and “fit” the hearing aids to your ears and specific hearing loss.
Step Four – Delivering and “Fitting” Your Hearing Aids
Your custom hearing aids have arrived from the manufacturer and our Patient Care Coordinator has confirmed your delivery appointment. Fitting your hearing aids is truly the most important appointment and will take up to one hour to complete. Our audiologist will place the hearing aids in your ears and will use the computer and software to fine tune the settings on your hearing aids. You will receive training on how to place the hearing aids in your ears, how to use manual controls, how to change batteries, and how to clean and maintain your hearing aids. At the end of this “fitting” appointment you will pay the balance due and the Patient Care Coordinator will schedule a follow-up appointment within two weeks. You will leave with your hearing aids, accessories, copy of your contract and receipt and extra batteries. Most importantly, you will leave happy and ready to hear the sounds of life.
Step Five – Aftercare for You and Your Hearing Aids
At HSSB we know that adjusting to hearing aids takes time and patience. We will make adjustments as necessary to ensure you are getting the full benefit from your hearing aids. Most patients are seen at least three times in the first 45 days and then every six months for a “check and clean” appointment. All aftercare appointments are included in your purchase price of the hearing aids. We will alert you when your warranty is coming up for renewal and will manage all repairs for you. We strongly enourage you to have your hearing tested annually so that we can make appropriate adjustments to your hearing aids.
To arrange a hearing aid evaluation, contact HSSB (Hearing Services of Santa Barbara) in Santa Barbara at (805) 967-4200, or in Solvang at (805) 688-3100. We look forward to helping you improve your hearing and your quality of life.