June 06, 2023   10:42am

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This question came in about hearing loss that’s not necessarily related to age.  The answer seems useful for everyone to hear …

The Question

What info is out there regarding the hearing aid industry? I am researching this because of an inherited hearing loss that I am experiencing which is now affecting my work and is not related to old age.

I have a friend with hearing problems (not related to age) and remember my mom’s frustrations with hearing aids as she got older.  My friend is Lou-Ellen Barkan and, as the CEO of The Alzheimer’s Association, New York City Chapter, she’s frequently asked to speak and socialize in large groups.  I had no idea she had hearing loss, and was amazed (because there was not the slighted indication) when she told me that she often reads lips.  I asked her to respond to the question, and here’s Lou-Ellen’s answer …

The Response

Keep in mind that my current hearing aids are four years old. This is my third pair. I’ve been hard of hearing since I was a child. I read lips so I can manage without these in some situations.  In any case, my experience has taught me the following:

There is no substitute for a really good ENT and audiology assessment. Once this is done, I recommend buying the aids from the audiologist. I have two ENTs and one superb audiologist and happy to recommend all.

The fit and fitting are absolutely critical to how effective they are and making sure you are comfortable physically.

By law, once you receive them, you have some number of days to decide to return them for a full refund. And with a good audiologist, he will work with you as long as it takes to make sure they fit. The brand is less important than the fit and sound customization done by the audiologist.

Hearing aid technology has advanced very quickly, but not all advances are helpful or meaningful. So much of this is personal preference. The audiologist sets your preferred settings on the computer. I actually found too many settings difficult to manage and now only have two.

There are also advances in permanent aids (attached to your scalp) and aids that are inserted in your ear so they cannot be seen. The trade-offs are situational control and flexibility.

The best new aids for sound quality are larger and have a piece that fits outside the ear. Unfortunately, I am not eligible for these — but everyone I know swears by them. I recommend trying these first.

Finally, I share the most important thing I learned from my ENT. No matter how terrific the aid, it will never replicate sound perfectly. Once I accepted this, the process of finding a good hearing aid was much easier.


Coincidentally, we noted this Friday, July 24, article in the “Health” section of The New York Times, “Buying a Hearing Aid?  You’ve Got a Lot to Learn” by Walecia Konrad.  It talks about hearing aid price tags, insurance coverage (not so good), and the need to choose a good audiologist, along with giving you some checklists and providers.

Hope this helps someone,


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