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ENTDoctorRevealsSecretstoBetterHearing Accordingtoarecentstudy,nearlyoneinfiveAmericans over the age of 12 years has hearing loss. The number of individuals is currently estimated at 48 million. This number is steadily increasing year over year as the baby boomers age. It is also well known that the incidence of hearing loss increases with advancing age. In addition, many baby boomers have grown up in the era of rock concerts, nightclubs, sporting events and increased industrial noise exposure, all of which can damage hearing. As an otolaryngologist (Ear, Nose and Throat physician) as well as a licensed hearing aid dispenser, I have found that the overwhelming majority (95%) of people with hearing loss simply need two good quality hearing aids to hear better.Unfortunately up to 75% of individuals with hearing loss remain untreated, primarily due to the high cost of hearing aids. I am genuinely concerned about what I consider to be a true crisis. In this article, you will learn how to identify if you have a hearing loss, how to improve your hearing, how to navigate the confusing hearing aid industry, and how to communicate more effectively. Untreated hearing loss can result in relationship stress, decreased earnings, social isolation, dementia and even depression. ___ "Blindness separates us from things, but deafness separates us from people." --- Helen Keller In this article, I will dispel some of the myths and falsehoods about hearing loss and hearing aids which I often hear from patients and their families. I will also help you navigate through confusing hearing aid information, explain how the hearing aid industry operates, and let you in on some secrets to buying hearing aids that will save you money and get you hearing clearly again. Conversations and relationships can be quite frustrating when one person suffers from hearing loss. The person with hearing loss may not even realize just how bad it is. Many learn to cope with their hearing loss by replying to questions with stock phrases such as, "uh-huh" or "yes honey" or even worse, won't respond at all. Many with hearing loss are too proud to ask the speaker to repeat what was said. Have you heard any of these statements before? "My hearing is just fine. I always know when someone is speaking to me, but I don't always understand what is being said, especially when I'm in a noisy room." - Fiction Fact: When family and friends complain that the TV volume is too loud or you must ask people to repeat what was said, this is often one of the most common first signs of hearing loss. When you set the volume at a comfortable level for yourself, you have no idea how it sounds to others with normal hearing. "Everyone tends to mumble and not speak clearly, but my hearing is fine." - Fiction Fact: The most common pattern of hearing loss is called presbycusis. This word is derived from the latin roots 'presby' (old) and 'cusis' (to hear). In this condition, the hearing loss is usually in the higher tones (consonant sounds), with the lower tones (vowel sounds) heard fairly well. The higher sounds which are not heard clearly are critical for the understanding of speech. A person with presbycusis will usually be able to hear speech and recognize that a person is speaking, but will not always understand what is being said. "Hearing aids always have problems with feedback and squealing noises."- Fiction Fact: Today's hearing aids are sophisticated devices. They have digital noise and feedback control features, dual microphones and receiver-in-the-canal technology which help to eliminate feedback noise and create a comfortable hearing experience. "All hearing aids are expensive and all hearing professionals have a preferred manufacturer from which they get their hearing aids, because they are so expensive to make." - Fiction Fact: Buying hearing aids is a bullet-proof experience, you can test-drive different ones---until you find the brand, manufacturer and style that have the right features for you and are within your budget. For the overwhelming majority of people with hearing loss, the only option for treatment is hearing aids. In the U.S., hearing aids are expensive. Since I opened my ENT practice in 1994, the nationwide average retail cost of a hearing aid has increased above the rate of inflation with each new technological advance. As of 2012, the average retail price for a pair of high quality digital hearing aids nationwide jumped to $4,200.00, and in some shops, as high as $8,000.00 per pair! With prices like these, it's no wonder that 75% of people with hearing loss continue living with the disability. The 25% of people that do purchase hearing aids generally have more severe losses, and simply must purchase --- regardless of price. Unfortunately Medicare does not have hearing aid benefits and the majority of people with hearing loss are retired and on a fixed income. What is the solution to this epidemic of untreated hearing loss in America? 12 Steps To Get America Hearing Again: 1 - Know who you are going to visit. Do a little research before you leave home. Is the hearing aid provider a hearing aid dispenser, an audiologist or an ENT physician? 2 - Know what you want from your new hearing aids before your appointment. Be able to answer the following questions: Do you simply need help hearing television? Do you have trouble understanding your spouse or other family members/friends? Do you need help with telephone conversations? Do you need hearing help in large groups? Do you attend community meetings or business meetings with multiple speakers in a large room? What type of lifestyle do you have (active or sedentary)? 3 - Bring a spouse or close friend with you to the hearing aid consultation. This should be a person whose voice is familiar to you. It is much more difficult for hearing professionals to "sell you" if a spouse or friend is not present. If you go to the consultation by yourself, you are much less likely to make the big purchase. 4 - Avoid the "hard sell." Some hearing aid offices hire a professional "closer" (typically an outside salesperson). This person may or may not be a licensed hearing aid dispenser in your state. If possible, speak with the actual, local hearing aid dispenser, audiologist, or ENT physician who will be providing your hearing care for the next few years to determine what type of hearing aid is best for you. It is OK to take your time and politely ask to speak to the local provider. If the salesperson stalls on that request or outright refuses, then simply get up and leave and schedule another appointment elsewhere. 5 - There are strict rules regarding hearing aid price advertising which vary from state to state. In California for instance, when a hearing aid advertisement states "50% OFF" or "$1000 OFF," the ad must also clearly state 50% or $1000 OFF of a specific price. It must also state: • A specific amount or percentage off of the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) • A specific amount or percentage off of the hearing aid dispenser's regular list price If you see a hearing aid sales advertisement and the ad does not specifically state how much you will save off of a specific price, you should consider going elsewhere to purchase your hearing aids where the pricing is clear. 6 - In most states there is no sales tax on hearing aids. The sales tax on hearing aids is usually paid to the manufacturer by the hearing professional when the hearing aids are purchased from the factory. In California this is definitely the case, but again this varies state to state. So when you buy a new pair of hearing aids you are saving hundreds of dollars of sales tax. Also, hearing aids are considered medical prosthetic devices and may be a qualified medical expense for income tax purposes. 7 - In-home hearing aid sales are strictly regulated. The laws vary state by state. In California when hearing aids are purchased through a hearing professional in your home, there is a 3 day "cooling off" period in which you can cancel your sales contract and return the hearing aids for a refund, with no questions asked. Needless to say, unless you are housebound or have no other options, I recommend that you go to a reputable ENT, audiologist or hearing aid dispenser to purchase your hearing aids. 8 - A FREE amplified telephone. In many states including California, where my practice is located, there are state programs that provide a free amplified telephone (in both cordless and corded models) to individuals with documented hearing loss. The process involves filling out a simple request form which needs to be completed by the hearing aid dispenser, audiologist or physician. 9 - Shop around to get the best price on hearing aids. With the current retail environment, the markup in most hearing aid dispensing offices nationwide certainly has room to adjust the price to make the sale. You simply must have the courage to ask! Typically you can save $200 - $500 per hearing aid. I assume that this is probably not possible at big box retailers, but small offices may be more receptive. Another way to get a smaller discounted price is to pay for your hearing aids with cash or check. Ask the hearing professional if they offer a cash discount and save 2-4% off the bill. With the current price tag for these devices any bit of savings counts! 10 - Get a written purchase agreement. A written or typed hearing aid purchase agreement should be provided with every hearing aid sale. At a minimum, this documentation should include the total price paid minus any discounts that were given, plus the price of any accessories or custom ear molds. If there is any insurance to be billed, this should be indicated as well. The trial period dates should also be clearly spelled out, including the length of the hearing aid trial (typically 30- 45 days or longer) and conditions for return of the hearing aids for refund. This agreement should also spell out the warranty period and loss and damage coverage. If there is a deductible payment for loss and replacement of the hearing aids, make sure this is also clear in writing, and that you understand the terms. 11 - Check with your health insurance carrier and see if you have hearing aid benefits. You may have health insurance that has built-in hearing aid benefits. We have found that most health insurance plans do not offer coverage, however a few of the higher-quality "gold" plans do have this benefit. Typically, union and public employee health insurance plans may include hearing aid coverage. Hearing aid insurance benefits often provide for replacement hearing aids every 3-4 years. 12 - I've saved the best secret to buying hearing aids for last! Try new hearing aids FREE for up to 30-45 days in 30 states! You read that right. There are currently laws in place that protect hearing aid consumers in all 50 U.S. states, and in 30 states there is a minimum 30 day free trial period (in some states up to 45 days). If after wearing the hearing aids during this allocated period you discern that they do not help you hear better, you are allowed to return the hearing aids to the dispenser for a refund. In some states the dispenser may hold back a non-refundable "fitting fee," but that should be minimal compared with the overall costs. Patients often ask me if they "need" hearing aids or if I am simply "recommending" them? My question back to them is: "When do you 'need' to hear?" The answer to this question is simple. When you stop doing activities that you used to enjoy or if you discontinue relationships because of hearing loss, hearing aids are needed. Here is my stance -- keep active in your relationships, sports, business meetings, family events, social events, religious activities, and stay mentally sharp by simply getting some hearing aids when you need them. Let's work together to solve America's epidemic of hearing loss by encouraging our friends and family members to get some help and start hearing again. Timothy Frantz, M.D. Author of the new book,HearingLoss: Facts and Fiction - 7 Secrets to Better Hearing Learn more at: www.theheardoc.com Copyright 2015 • The Hear Doc, LLC 331 Elm Street, Red Bluff (530) 528-1220 www.entpatient.com THURSDAY,JUNE25,2015 REDBLUFFDAILYNEWS.COM |ADVERTISEMENT | 3 C

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