It’s an unfortunate reality that hearing loss can significantly impact not just your ability to communicate, but your overall well-being. From being an active part of conversations to enjoying music and nature sounds, good hearing is essential to living life to the fullest.

Thankfully, with the leaps and bounds made in hearing technology and audiology services, there are numerous ways to manage and treat hearing loss effectively.

As Silicon Valley’s trusted hearing care experts, we offer this in-depth guide to help you understand your options and choose the right path for your hearing health.

Option 1: Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids—The Convenience and Affordability Factor

Over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids serve as a convenient entry point into the world of hearing enhancement, especially if your hearing loss is categorized as mild to moderate.

One of the primary attractions of OTC hearing aids is their accessibility. They can be readily purchased from pharmacies, online stores, or even some supermarkets, eliminating the need for a doctor’s prescription or a time-consuming fitting process.

However, the advantages of convenience and affordability come with their limitations. These devices are generally not customizable to the unique audiogram of each individual, meaning that they amplify all sounds uniformly rather than targeting specific frequencies you might struggle with.

They also often lack advanced features like noise filtering, Bluetooth capabilities, and directional microphones that can help in challenging listening environments.

OTC hearing aids generally come in two styles: behind-the-ear (BTE) and in-the-ear (ITE). BTE models rest behind your ear and send sound through a tube into an earmold that fits inside your ear canal. ITE models fit entirely inside your outer ear or ear canal. Both have their pros and cons in terms of visibility, comfort, and battery life.

Before opting for an OTC solution, Pacific Hearing Service recommends that you undergo a comprehensive hearing evaluation. This step ensures that your hearing loss is not the result of an underlying condition that may require medical treatment.

Option 2: Prescription Hearing Aids—The Customized Solution for Comprehensive Care

When you’re seeking a highly personalized solution tailored to your specific hearing needs, prescription hearing aids are the go-to choice.

These devices are custom-fitted and programmed to your unique hearing profile, determined through a comprehensive hearing evaluation conducted by our audiologists.

One of the standout features of prescription hearing aids is their advanced technology. From multiple directional microphones that focus on speech while reducing background noise to Bluetooth capabilities that enable streaming from smartphones and TVs, these devices are designed for a seamless auditory experience.

Most prescription hearing aids come in various styles, including BTE, ITE, in-the-canal (ITC), and completely-in-the-canal (CIC) models. Each style has its own set of benefits and drawbacks regarding visibility, battery life, and feature availability. For example, smaller models like ITC and CIC are less visible but may not offer directional microphones or may have shorter battery life.

Despite their higher upfront costs, the long-term benefits of prescription hearing aids often outweigh the initial investment. They come with professional fitting and follow-up care, ensuring you get the most out of your device. Plus, many insurance plans offer coverage for prescription hearing aids, which can mitigate costs.

Remember, your journey to improved hearing doesn’t end with the purchase of a device; it’s a lifelong process that includes regular checkups and adjustments. Pacific Hearing Service provides this comprehensive care, setting you on a path to an enriched auditory world.

Option 3: Bone-Anchored Hearing Systems—A Surgical Solution for Specific Needs

For those who have specific types of hearing loss that can’t be effectively treated with traditional hearing aids, bone-anchored hearing systems (BAHS) present an alternative route.

This solution is often recommended for people who have conductive hearing loss, single-sided deafness, or those who cannot wear traditional hearing aids due to chronic ear infections or anatomical issues.

The BAHS is surgically implanted and works by bypassing the ear canal and middle ear, directly stimulating the cochlea through bone conduction.

The operation is typically an outpatient procedure and has high success rates.

The advanced technology in a bone-anchored hearing system allows for clearer, more natural sound by leveraging the body’s natural ability to conduct sound through bone. This offers an unparalleled auditory experience for people who are suited for this option.

However, it’s important to note that this route comes with its set of considerations. The surgical aspect could be a barrier for some, and there are risks associated with any surgical procedure. Additionally, while many insurance plans cover BAHS, the level of coverage can vary significantly, and there may be additional costs for device maintenance and upgrades.

Choosing a BAHS is not a decision to be made lightly. A thorough consultation with experts will help you understand if this is the right option for you.

Option 4: Cochlear Implants—For Profound Hearing Loss

Cochlear implants represent the pinnacle of auditory technology and are recommended for individuals with severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss. Unlike traditional hearing aids, which amplify sounds, cochlear implants replace the function of the damaged inner ear by providing sound signals directly to the brain.

The process involves a surgical procedure to implant an electronic device into the cochlea. After the implantation and a healing period, an external device is attached, which picks up sound, processes it, and sends it to the implanted device. The implant converts the signals into electrical impulses, which are sent along the auditory nerve to the brain.

It’s crucial to understand that cochlear implants require both a surgical procedure and a commitment to post-operative therapy for optimal results.

The surgery, although routine, carries the risks associated with any surgical intervention. Furthermore, the cost of the cochlear implant system, including the surgery and post-operative care, can be considerable, although it’s often partially covered by insurance.

For those who are eligible, cochlear implants can dramatically improve their quality of life, enabling better communication and facilitating easier social interactions.

Your Next Step With Pacific Hearing Service

Isn’t it time you took the next step toward better hearing?

Whether you’re exploring your options for the first time or considering a switch to a more advanced system, Pacific Hearing Service is your partner in this crucial journey.

Our experts in Menlo Park and Los Altos are dedicated to finding the best hearing solution tailored to your unique needs.

Contact us today:

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Ariel Fruendt, Au.D.

I went to school at Northwestern University for my undergraduate degree and Au.D. I completed my clinical externship at UCSF Medical Center, then worked in private practice. We moved to Chicago for my husband’s job and I worked in private practice there before joining the clinical faculty at Northwestern University’s on-campus clinic. I served as a preceptor for Au.D. students, focusing on adult diagnostics and treatment, tinnitus management, and hearing conservation. I also taught ethics in audiology courses and oversaw an amplification lecture series. My favorite thing about Pacific Hearing Service is the dynamic and supportive team environment that always puts the patient first, with dedication to using evidence-based practice in our everyday protocols.