More than 30 million Americans have trouble hearing as well as they would like. Some assume there is nothing that can be done to help them, while others imagine that their hearing loss is not so great that it needs to be addressed.

Are they mistaken? Hearing aids are expensive and somewhat mysterious.

Technological Advances to Help Us Hear

But technological advances may soon make it relatively easy for people to adjust their own hearing aids, or in some cases to buy hearing aids over the counter, rather like people buy reading glasses off the rack. Would that work for you?

What Do Audiologists Do?

Learn about the special services an audiologist (a health care professional who specializes in hearing) can offer, and meet an audiologist who herself was diagnosed with hearing loss in the first grade. Several years ago she underwent surgery for a cochlear implant. She tells us what that was like.

This Week’s Guests

Stephanie Sjoblad, AuD, has been the Clinical Coordinator in the Division of Speech and Hearing at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill since 2001. Dr. Sjoblad is a licensed audiologist and hearing aid dispenser in the state of North Carolina and has received her Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology from the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association. She is a member of American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA), and a fellow in the American Academy of Audiology (AAA).

Dianne Van Tasell, PhD,  was a professor in the audiology program at the University of Minnesota for 20 years and then worked for and with hearing aid companies. Her current employer does not permit interviews, so the CD and the MP3 of this show have been edited to remove Dr. Van Tasell’s contribution.

Our Podcast

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free for four weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

Buy the CD of the show

Download the mp3 of this interview

 

Air Date:October 25, 2014

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  1. marti
    burlington nc
    Reply

    Are there any hearing devices that will work for people with nerve damage from chemotherapy? This chemo was given 30 years ago, resulting in hearing loss. I was told at the time that no hearing aid would help this type of loss. Your thoughts?

    • Stephanie J. Sjoblad, Au.D.
      Chapel Hill, NC
      Reply

      Marti:

      Technology has come so far in the past decade, even in the past 2-3 years, so in my opinion it would be worth a second opinion. Also, there are options beyond hearing aids (cochlear implants, Hybrid Cochlear Implant/hearing aids) so there are now solutions that help just about everyone that wants to improve their hearing. I would recommend you visit an audiologist for a comprehensive evaluation and get an updated opinion. Chapel Hill is not too far from Burlington and if you should choose to visit our clinic (The UNC Hearing & Communication Center), if you are a candidate for hearing aids, we have a very complex process for evaluating and choosing technology with options for every budget. If conventional hearing aids will not work and you need a referral for an implantable device, we will be able to facilitate your next steps with the UNC Hospitals Adult Cochlear Implant clinic.

      Yours for better hearing,

      Stephanie Sjoblad, Au.D.
      Clinic Director/Associate Professor
      UNC Hearing & Communication Center
      6015 Farrington Road #103
      Chapel Hill, NC 27517
      http://www.med.unc.edu/ahs/sphs/hcc

      • mary
        Reno
        Reply

        Thank you Stephanie,
        Have been tested in hearing offices and even at an EENT [old label] Doctos’s office.
        I have HA in both ears and they are not very successful.
        Yet no one mentioned other options as you do.
        Is there somewhere close to Reno for more comprehensive exam as you mention?
        Thank you again,
        mary

  2. Calista R.
    Dorothy NJ
    Reply

    That was a very informative program. My Dad used hearing aids; so I know a little about them & have had two swimming friends who have had the cochlear transplants with real success. Hearing is something we don’t always value, but a very precious thing God has given us as humans to communicate on the earth with one another & to hear the sounds of life around us. Much food for thought if the need for such a device arises. Thank You!

  3. Dell E
    Charlottesville, VA
    Reply

    I heard the radio show while driving and heard the audiologist mention use of an app for I-phones so I-phone can serve as a hearing aid, which enables consumer to help determine if a hearing aid would be helpful. But, listening to podcast, I didn’t hear this. Can someone tell me name of this app or more info about it? Thanks.

    • People's Pharmacy
      Reply

      The app was not mentioned. But Dr. Van Tasell (who is not included in the podcast) said several could be found with a Google search. Good luck.

  4. mary
    Reno
    Reply

    I would like to thank you for ALL the information you give us. Whether agree or disagree is not the point, I believe it is about education. A place to begin, to learn, to know questions to ask, to make ones own choice.
    As for the advertisements, I feel they are very worthwhile since I firmly believe PP would not recommend something that is not good and safe. So thank you for those as well.
    mary, not Mary

    • The People's Pharmacy
      Reply

      Thank you for your kind words! Regarding advertising, please do not assume that all advertisements on this website are implicitly endorsed by Joe or Terry Graedon or The People’s Pharmacy. We do make an effort to daily screen all new web advertisements, and remove ads we believe may be distasteful to some viewers, or offer goods or services of questionable merit or value. Please use your own best judgement when viewing ads as to whether the good or service is appropriate and of value to you, just as you would on any other website or while watching television or reading a magazine.

  5. Mary
    Reply

    I was annoyed that there was no real information in the article–just an promotion for the show. Isn’t this newsletter for disseminating information? The people who wrote in gave me more information than the article.

    I like your show but please, less ads and more real information in this newsletter.

    • The People's Pharmacy
      Reply

      This post was meant to be an overview and a preview of our upcoming show. For more information please download the show or click the “play” icon on this page. We make all of our radio shows free to listen to or download as a podcast for 4 weeks after the broadcast date.

  6. matt
    nyc
    Reply

    cool show

  7. mary
    Reno
    Reply

    I just would like to add that Costco, while being a big box store has a separate hearing center and the people are trained Audiologists. They do follow ups, cleaning and adjustments on a regular basis.
    Is it the best? I am not sure, but the technicians ARE trained Audiologists.

  8. Barbara
    Graham, NC
    Reply

    So much of what was described on your excellent program on hearing loss is experienced by my husband who does have moderate loss, but for all the reasons sited by your experts he has not been to an audiologist for possible hearing aids. I am hopeful that he can (will) listen to the show on his computer, and thus hear from professionals what his wife has told him ( in frustration) for a long time now.

    Thank you for such informative programs. I’ve listened for many years.

  9. Pete Soper
    Apex, NC
    Reply

    What is the possible mechanism that would cause the core of a hearing device fail after four years??

    • Stephanie Sjoblad, Au.D.
      Chapel Hill, NC
      Reply

      Mr. Soper
      The chip in the hearing aid is usually pretty stable, but of course it can fail. Many of the chips today have specialty coatings to protect them from moisture. Usually the weak links in the hearing aids are the microphone and the receiver. These components are subjected to wax, debris and moisture and like any electronic device, can begin to malfunction if not properly maintained.

      The mic and receiver can often be repaired, as long as the manufacturer continues to make the specific units needed for your model. Occasionally the entire chip needs to be replaced. Again, as long as the manufacturer continues to carry parts for your model, this should be an option. We recommend routine maintenance for all our patients (2x annually) to help stave off bigger repairs.

      If you do not have a provider in the area, please do not hesitate to contact our clinic for a consultation. As long as a patient’s device is not purchased from a franchise, or ‘locked’ we make every attempt to help them extend the useful life of their present devices before recommending new ones.

      Yours for better hearing,
      Stephanie Sjoblad, Au.D.
      UNC Hearing & Communication Center

      • mary
        Reno
        Reply

        Thank you for this information, I did not know.

  10. Mari T.
    Texas
    Reply

    It is a sin what is charged for hearing aides! The cost of making them is minimal, and the markup is astronomical. Of course, what can one do, if they are needed?

  11. Stephanie J. Sjoblad, Au.D.
    Chapel Hill, NC
    Reply

    It’s hard to capture in a one-hour show all the key points about hearing loss treatment. As an audiologist and a consumer of hearing technology, I would never equate hearing loss with vision loss. Glasses can bend light to achieve sometimes perfect vision. With hearing loss we are working with a damaged system and slower auditory processing. To suggest a device alone, bought over the counter or on the internet is going to fix this, is a grave misrepresentation of the complexity of hearing loss treatment.

    A key component of successful hearing loss rehabilitation and hearing aid fitting is the use of Real Ear Probe microphone measures. There is over thirty years of research to support the importance of including patient’s ear canal resonance in the fitting and measuring the volume being delivered into the ear to ensure audibility. Loudness mapping is also vital. The research continues to show that many patients still reject hearing aids because they are too loud. Measuring individual loudness tolerances is an important part of the hearing aid fitting process. These are two important tasks that lead to successful outcomes and cannot be accomplished when purchasing devices without a qualified professional involved.

    Additionally, there are already many hearing aids on the market that work with smartphones. There are also streaming devices that give patients more control over their settings and are easy to manipulate. There are even smart hearing aids that can incorporate the users preferred settings into the programming. However, in our experience sometimes the more control consumers have the further they get from the appropriate settings. We have found that sometimes too much control is not a good thing. Most of the patients we serve at the UNC-Hearing & Communication Center tell us they want the devices to be as automatic as possible. As a consumer of hearing technology myself, I concur.

    Finally, unbundling or itemizing, is a proven way to make hearing care more affordable. This concept was not mentioned on the show. The device alone is not the only fee, as the services of the professional are included in final cost. More transparency in pricing and itemization will help the consumer understand what costs and services are involved in hearing loss treatment. Often future services are built in to the upfront cost. Unbundling lowers the upfront cost. Patients that want peace of mind can purchase a service package, others may elect for pay as you go. There is evidence that more audiology practices are moving to offer itemized services and pricing. This is giant leap in making hearing care more affordable, without sacrificing quality of care.

    Stephanie Sjoblad, Au.D.
    Board Certified in Audiology
    Clinic Director/Associate Professor
    UNC Hearing & Communication Center
    Chapel Hill, NC 27517

  12. Rich
    United States
    Reply

    What is the broadcast date & time?

  13. Judith
    Danville, Va
    Reply

    I am a Au.D. (Doctor of Audiology) I was appalled at the comment on the show that people should “buy” hearing instruments off the internet or at a big box store. The only place hearing instruments are “rip-off” is from the internet or the big box stores. Those places do not provide what is essential for getting benefit from this, yes, expensive investment. A patient must have proper follow-up support from someone whose purpose is not to “close a deal” and keep “return rates” low. That person is an Au.D. Hearing instruments are not just about hearing, they are about communication. They are one component to regaining communication ability. If someone wants to be “ripped off” and get inferior quality technology with no after-care, by all means, let them “buy” their hearing instruments from the place where they buy their bulk toilet paper. As for getting hearing instruments from the internet, good luck getting them fine-tuned.

  14. Jeff Rockel
    Bishopville, SC
    Reply

    After hearing today’s show I happened to be catching up on my technical reading and found an article about a “personal sound amplifier” called The Bean – Quiet Sound Amplifier (by Etymotic) [www.qsabean.com]. At $375 to $700 for a pair it appears to be an alternative for mild hearing loss needs.

    (I am not affiliated with Etymotic. I read the article in IEEE Spectrum 10.14)

  15. Jack Roush
    Chapel Hill, NC
    Reply

    While there is a substantial segment of the adult population with uncomplicated hearing loss that could potentially benefit from and more easily afford the type of devices described by Dr. Van Tasell, it is important to note that there are many hearing problems of a more severe or complicated nature that require the professional services of an audiologist and/or otolaryngologist (ENT physician). Also, children with hearing loss present special considerations that necessitate the services of both a pediatric audiologist and an otolaryngologist. Dr. Van Tasell neglected to emphasize these important points.

    Jackson Roush, PhD
    Professor and Director, Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences
    Department of Allied Health Sciences
    University of North Carolina School of Medicine
    Chapel Hill, NC

  16. marilyn
    cary nc
    Reply

    I have hearing loss similar to Joe’s and find that if I cup my hands behind my ears and look at the person I want to hear. This works for me at work where ambient noise is constantly 50-60 db constantly, approximately. I really would like to have plastic surgery to make my ears stick out more! Is there any inexpensive device to affix to ears for people like me who don’t care what they look like but want to hear?

  17. Elisa G.
    Lakewood Ranch, FL
    Reply

    I hope you mention that Veterans are eligible for free, state-of-the-art hearing aids through the VA.

  18. Bob L.
    Charleston, WV, 25302
    Reply

    I want to hear what you have to say.

  19. Carol
    Charles Town WV
    Reply

    I am so glad to see some engineering company addressing the problems of hearing aids. The best way is to make a pendant containing the controls….. it is impossible to manage the controls with the tiny buttons on the earpiece because my fingers would fumble. Good hearing aids cost $5,000 but they do have payment plans at least, but it is a ripoff. This sounds like I would have to buy a smartphone .

    • mary
      Reno
      Reply

      Carol,
      I was not able to access the show so only was able to read the text. I always have a problem ‘hearing’ the shows distinctly, so was hoping this one would be louder, but never had the opportunity.
      My hearing is really bad in both ears. I went to 2 separate hearing centers–one being Miracle Ear and that’s a negative for sure.
      My doctor suggested Costco where they tested, then insisted the only help for me were these solid plugs in my ear which after the trial of 2.5 months I knew I would never become accustomed to.
      They were very disgusted when I returned them for behind the ears. These seem to be as good as the others, which were not that great either…
      But there is some help. Not on the phone however.
      I remember a 90 year old friend wearing an aid for about 50 years always taking it out to talk on the phone so perhaps this is a regular problem.
      You might condsider Costco, the testing is free and the trial is 2-3 months—money returned if not right.

      I have no idea what the show reported [sure would like to, though]- However since testing is free at Costco it may be a place to try.
      Isn’t this annoying? Good luck.
      Mary

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