hear better

Uncorrected hearing loss can contribute to social isolation, but in the US hearing aids are extremely pricey (thousands of dollars). In addition, they are not usually covered by insurance. That helps to explain why only about one-fifth of the adults who could hear better with hearing aids actually use them.

Can You Hear Better with OTC Products?

There is now a second option: a personal sound amplification product. These over-the-counter devices are less expensive and not labeled for hearing loss treatment. That means the FDA has not approved them to treat hearing impairment. But might they help you hear better?

A small study reported in JAMA compared the performance of five of these devices to that of hearing aids. The scientists found that three of them were almost as effective as actual hearing aids. On the other hand, one did not help much and the least expensive one was actually worse than nothing at all.

Which Ones Worked Well?

The Oticon Nera 2 brand hearing aid has a wholesale price of $1910. A patient would pay considerably more to have it fitted by an audiologist. In contrast, the top three personal sound amplification products cost $300 to $350: the Sound World Solutions C550+, the Soundhawk and the Etymotic BEAN.

Forty-two individuals tested each of the six devices in a sound booth with speech babble noise to mimic real-world situations such as a party or a restaurant. Without any device, the participants understood about 76 percent of the test sentences. With the hearing aid, they understood roughly 88 percent. Results for the personal sound amplification devices ranged from 87 percent (for the Sound World Solutions C550+) to 84 percent (for the Etymotic Bean). Any of these might be worth a try for a person who would like to hear better but is uncertain whether hearing aids are really necessary.

Reed, Betz & Kendig, JAMA July 4, 2017

Other research shows that  magnesium, vitamin C and beta-carotene may help preserve hearing. Conversely, pain relievers like aspirin, acetaminophen and NSAIDs may lead to hearing loss.

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  1. Rosemary
    Springfield IL 62704

    Where could I go to see any of the top 3 amplifiers and talk to a salesperson. I need the personal contact to get started so I do not want to purchase on line.

  2. Steve

    The price for the Sound World Solution is for just one ear. Both ears is double. I have regular behind the ear hearing aids and they really help me. But everyone should be aware that the very small wires that go from the behind the ear portion to the ear bulb only last about a year and have to be replaced. This is common and understandable since they are intentionally small and delicate.

    So if you are buying one of these listening devices be sure and determine if you can get replacements ear bulbs with wire or you may be buying new units every year or so depending on how often you use them and how carful you handle them. The most common reason people get hearing aids and then don’t wear them is they wait too long to get them and their brain has lost it’s ability to tune out the background noise.

    It can take a month or more for the brain to relearn how to tune out background noise and most people give up after a week or two. They have gotten use to the quiet and the background noise is irritating or can sometimes give them a headache. If you are not going to tough it out for a month or more then don’t waist you money on the hearing aids. But if you can you will never regret getting the hearing aids if you can afford them. Hearing aids usually get replaced every 4-8 years (you mileage will vary) but this needs to be considered as it impacts the total cost over the years.

    If you have any military disability the VA will provide hearing aids free and replace them every 4 years for free. If you are a NRA member they have a discounted hearing aid program. I believe AARP may also have one.

  3. Marie

    I don’t think it’s safe to have a battery-operated device so close to the brain. I know the research says there is no connection between hearing aid use and brain tumors but another friend of ours that wore a hearing aid died recently from complications following surgery for his brain tumor. Tell his widow there’s no connection.

  4. Arline
    Raleigh, NC

    I was surprised to hear that several of my friends are buying hearing aids from Costco. They are very impressed with the service provided by the audiologist and the quality of the device. Might be a good thing to check before going to the super expensive devices. Just a thought.

  5. Tara

    I wear hearing aids. They certainly have enabled me to have a better quality of life. However, they are very expensive and are not covered by insurance. This is puzzling to me: treating other medical conditions with devices and/or medication can be at least partially covered with medical insurance. Could it be that the manufacturers and sellers of hearing aids somehow are preventing this coverage to occur? Think about it!!!

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