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Can Hearing Be Restored?


Can Hearing Be Restored With so many medical advances in the 21st century, individuals with hearing loss yearn to know…can hearing be restored?  It is tempting to feel left-behind if you are hearing impaired.  The weight loss industry is rife with a dizzying number of commercials, books and advertisements Read more

Severity of Tinnitus Related to Emotional Sounds


Severity of Tinnitus Related to Emotional Sounds A research study out of the University of Illinois has suggested that the severity of tinnitus related to emotional sounds.  Not only do those with severe tinnitus process emotions differenty in the brain compared to those who report the severe tinnitus but also Read more

Rechargeable Hearing Aids


Rechargeable Hearing Aids Wouldn’t it be great if instead of replacing batteries every week in hearing devices, there were rechargeable hearing aids ?  Well, that is exactly what is available today.While hearing aid technology markets advances and exciting new features and capabilities every year that more often than fall Read more

Hearing Loss a risk factor for Dementia


Hearing Loss a risk factor for Dementia A new report  by the Lancet Commissions on Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care suggests hearing loss a risk factor for dementia. The good news is the report suggests that managing hearing loss may be one way  to help lower the risk of Read more

Why Doesn’t Medicare Cover Hearing Aids

Peninsula Hearing Services Health Insurance for Hearing Aids, Hearing Aid Insurance

Why Doesn’t Medicare Cover Hearing Aids

Many of those seeking hearing aids in my office ask why doesn’t Medicare cover hearing aids.  They are frustrated because for those who have Medicare, they have paid into a healthcare system that routinely provides at least some coverage for many medical procedures and services.  While it is understandable that hearing aids, which are not inexpensive (costs range from approximately $1900 to upwards of $3800 depending on the office, area and manufacturer) may not be fully covered, it is a reasonable question to ask why Medicare doesn’t cover ANYTHING for them.

Other Covered Hearing Services

I am unaware of any publicly stated reason regarding why Medicare doesn’t cover hearing aids.  However, a recent article titled “Why does Medicare cover cochlear implants but not hearing aid?” by hearing industry expert Dr. Fan-Gang PhD published in the September 2016 edition of The Hearing Journal offers 3 reasons as to why they might not covered:

  1. To be covered by Medicare, a device must provide a health benefit and “be determined to be reasonable and necessary for the diagnosis or treatment of an illness or injury or to improve the functioning of a malformed body member. Cochlear implants, which are a surgically implanted hearing device for those with severe hearing loss has been shown through scientific and clinical evidence to improve hearing and is a covered benefit by Medicare.  Zeng states that “apparently, Medicare has determined that the published evidence on the health benefits of hearing aids is inadequate, and that, accordingly, hearing aids do not merit any coverage.
  1. Regulatory differences contribute to coverage disparities. Almost all pharmaceuticals and medically invasive Class-III medical devices have to be “proven” both safe and effective through comprehensive and expensive clinical trials required to obtain FDA approval.  Hearing aids are regulated as lesser invasive medical devices and are exempted from rigorous controlled clinical trials to demonstrate health benefits.  His opinion is that “achieving Medicare coverage will depend on the willingness and ability of hearing aid manufacturers to quantify the health benefits of hearing aids, which would be directly compared to other covered medical devices”.
  1. Medicare regulatory members are primarily composed of physicians who decide on what to cover as well as how much to cover. Hearing aid fitting does not require any surgery and hearing aids are dispensed by non-physicians (audiologists and hearing aid dispensers), seldom engaging physicians.  In Dr. Zeng’s opinion, this lack of inter-relationship between the two professions has led to the present coverage disparity between cochlear implants and hearing aids.

To learn more about why doesn’t Medicare cover hearing aids, read Dr. Zen’s article or contact your local congress person.


What to ask before you Buy Hearing Devices

Peninsula Hearing Services Hearing Aid Technology Advances, Hearing Aids

With so many advertisements and models of hearing devices, knowing what to ask before you buy hearing devices can seem like a daunting task.  Being prepared can help you through your first visit with your hearing care provider.

The National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates one in three people in the United States between the ages of 65 and 74 has as age-related hearing loss (known as presbycusis).

Fortunately, most cases of presbycusis can be treated with hearing aids. And, since research has proven that untreated hearing loss can put you at greater risk for developing other health problems, including social isolation, wearing hearing aids can be a healthy thing to do for one’s self.

First steps

The first step is to admit you’re having hearing problems and make an appointment with a hearing healthcare professional. Ask your family physician for a referral.

Before your appointment, do some research to educate yourself so that you are informed with some of the questions you want answered about what to ask before you buy hearing devices.  Make a list of questions to take with you to your appointment. Make a list of your hearing priorities as well. Do you want phone calls to be easier? Do you want to be able to hear the television or favorite music better? Do you use personal electronic devices frequently, such as a smartphone or computer?

If possible, take a friend or family member with you to your appointment, and ask them to take notes. It’s always helpful to have a second set of ears when you’re navigating medical situations — especially when yours may not be working as well as they used to.

Be prepared for a hearing loss diagnosis

If the hearing professional determines you have a sensorineural hearing loss like presbycusis, hearing aids may be the recommended course of treatment. Although these medical devices won’t restore your hearing to normal, they will improve your listening, speech comprehension and overall communication.

Like most health issues, research shows that the sooner you begin treating hearing loss, the happier and healthier you’ll be. But before you make the purchase, here is a list of questions you’ll want to ask to make sure you’re investing in the right type of hearing devices for your budget, lifestyle and degree of hearing loss.

What type of hearing aids do you recommend for my hearing loss?

Hearing aid manufacturers offer many different models with various features.  Ask the audiologist to provide you with clinical studies and evidence to support which features and models will work best for your particular hearing needs.

How much do they cost?

Hearing aids range in price from $1,900 to $4,000 each, depending upon the type of technology they use. Most people with presbycusis will need two hearing aids, as this type of hearing loss is usually bilateral. Hearing aids aren’t usually covered by insurance, but don’t let this stop you from getting treatment. Ask about financing options.

Is there a warranty?

Hearing aids typically include a warranty. Make sure you understand what components and services are covered on your hearing devices before the purchase.

When should I expect to replace them?

Most hearing aids last indefinitely.  Manufacturers will service them for up 5-7 years.  After that time they can often times be serviced by repair centers that specialize in hearing device repairs.

What kind of trial period do you offer?

Most hearing centers offer a trial period of 30- days.  There is not test that can provide you with the value you will receive with improved hearing, so this period  gives you time to experience the difference hearing aids can make in your day-to-day activities and ensure they meet your needs.

How often do I need to have them adjusted?

You’ll want to make sure your hearing devices keep up with any changes in your hearing, so ask how often you’ll need to come in for a check up. Most devices today are manufactured with special coatings that have greatly increase reliability and hearing  is typically stable for 5-7 years.

Summary

As you have just read, there are quite a few topics to address regarding what to ask before you buy hearing devices.  Many first time hearing device users comment  “I wish I would have done this sooner.” The key to hearing your best is to acknowledge you’re not hearing well and see a qualified hearing healthcare professional for assessment- you will find relief knowing whether you truly have hearing loss or not.

SOURCE:  edited from an article contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing.  May 11, 2017


ABR

Peninsula Hearing Services ABR

ABR

An ABR is short for Auditory Brainstem Response, a type of test to estimate hearing sensitivity and evaluate auditory nerve pathways.  It is an objective test that is non-invasive and uses several electrodes on the face and head to measure tiny electrical responses from the hearing nerve in response to sound.

Uses of ABR Testing

Use of the ABR was widely used in the 1980’s to primarily determine hearing sensitivity in small infants and children/adults who could not voluntarily participate in a conventional hearing evaluation. The ABR was also used to determine irregularities of the hearing nerve, primarily growths termed acoustic neuromas.  With the  advent of MRI technology, ABR’s are used less frequently to evaluate for acoustic neuroma’s.  Today the ABR is used for the following:

  1. Screening for irregularities of the hearing/balance nerve
  2. Newborn hearing screening for those babies who suspected of hearing loss.
  3. Intraoperative monitoring for surgeons working on or near the hearing/balance nerve
  4. Diagnostic information for those with hearing loss, tinnitus and/or fullness of an ear that is much worse on one ear than the other.

ABR picture

As noted by Medscape (see reference below), although the ABR provides information regarding auditory function and hearing sensitivity, it is not a substitute for a formal hearing evaluation, and results should be used in conjunction with behavioral audiometry whenever possible.

Further reading

Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR)-ASHA
Auditory Brainstem Response Audiometry. Bhattacharyya, Neil; Medscape (2017)