Choosing a hearing loss treatment is a significant decision that will impact your quality of life. The right choice depends on various factors.

Your Comprehensive Walkthrough of the Different Ways to Treat Hearing Loss

by | Aug 29, 2023 | Hearing Loss

Navigating the labyrinthine world of hearing loss treatments can be overwhelming. In the sea of promises, technology, and varying price points, how do you find the solution that’s right for you?

With the World Health Organization predicting that hearing loss numbers will double by 2050, now is the time to get informed.

In this article, we aim to break down all the key options available to you, offering an unbiased overview of the pros and cons of each approach.

What You Need to Consider Before Looking at Your Options

Remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment for hearing loss. Your solution will depend on factors such as the type and degree of your hearing loss, your lifestyle needs, and your budget. Here are some things to consider:

  • The degree and configuration of your hearing loss

  • Your typical environment and lifestyle

  • Preference for in-person or remote support

  • Budget constraints

  • Preference for local or corporate providers

Earphones and Cell Phone Apps

Cost Range: $0–$250

In the digital age, cell phones have evolved into a Swiss Army knife of functionalities, and yes, that includes basic hearing support.

Several apps, like Chatable, Petralex, and HearBoost, turn your cell phone into a makeshift hearing device by using the phone’s microphone to pick up and amplify sound through your earphones.

Pros and Cons
  1. Cost-Effective: Most apps are free or come with a nominal one-time or subscription fee.
  2. Ease of Access: You don’t need specialized hardware; your existing smartphone and a pair of earphones are all you need.
  3. Convenience: These apps are always within arm’s reach, as most people keep their smartphones nearby.
  1. Indiscriminate Amplification: These apps amplify all sound within range, making it difficult to focus on what you actually want to hear.
  2. Battery Life: Constant use can drain your phone’s battery quickly.
  3. No Professional Support: These are not tailored solutions; there’s no expert ensuring that the amplification levels are appropriate for your type of hearing loss.
Suitability and Limitations
These apps are best suited for people who:
  • Have mild hearing loss
  • Require a temporary solution
  • Are not ready to invest in specialized hearing aids

They are less effective for those with moderate to severe hearing loss or those who require sound filtering in noisy environments.

User Experience
Here’s what using one of these apps typically entails:
    1. Download the App: Download your chosen hearing app from the App Store or Google Play.
    2. Calibrate: Some apps offer basic “sound tests” to calibrate them according to your hearing capabilities.
    3. Use: Simply plug in your earphones and start the app. Your phone’s microphone will pick up sounds and relay them, amplified, through your earphones.

Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids

Cost Range: $300–$1,000

Over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids are a relatively new entrant into the world of hearing healthcare.

Previously, most hearing aids required a prescription and had to be fitted by a professional. However, OTC hearing aids offer consumers a more direct, accessible route to better hearing, no prescription required.

Pros and Cons
  1. Affordability: OTC options are generally more affordable than prescription hearing aids, with prices ranging from $300 to $1,000.
  2. Accessibility: Available at many drugstores and online, you can purchase them without a prescription or a visit to an audiologist.
  3. Simplicity: Designed with user-friendly controls for volume and settings, making them easy to operate for most users.
  1. One-Size-Fits-All: Most OTC hearing aids are not customized to your specific hearing loss pattern, which may make them less effective.
  2. Lack of Professional Guidance: No audiologist is involved in the selection process, meaning you are responsible for making sure they meet your needs.
  3. Limited Features: Generally, OTC hearing aids do not offer advanced features like directional microphones or connectivity to smartphones.
Suitability and Limitations
OTC hearing aids are most suitable for those with:
  • Mild to moderate hearing loss
  • Budget constraints
  • The ability to independently manage and adjust their hearing aids

They are less effective for those with severe hearing loss or complex auditory needs, or those who need a customized fit.

User Experience
Buying and using an OTC hearing aid typically involves the following steps:
  1. Selection: Choose an OTC hearing aid that seems to meet your needs and fits within your budget.
  2. Unboxing and Setup: Follow the instructions to insert the battery and adjust the settings.
  3. Use: Wear the hearing aids and adjust the volume or settings as needed. Some devices also come with a guide for best practices and troubleshooting.
  4. Maintenance: Regular cleaning and battery replacement are essential for optimal functionality.

Prescription Hearing Aids

Cost Range: $1,500–$6,000 per pair

Prescription hearing aids represent the gold standard in hearing healthcare. Unlike OTC alternatives, these devices are fitted by qualified audiologists and tailored to meet your specific hearing needs, offering the highest level of customization and support.
Pros and Cons
  1. Custom Fit: Each hearing aid is tailored to your unique ear shape and hearing loss profile for maximum comfort and effectiveness.
  2. Professional Support: From selection to aftercare, an audiologist will guide you through the entire process, ensuring your hearing aids meet your needs.
  3. Advanced Features: These hearing aids often include cutting-edge technology, such as Bluetooth connectivity, rechargeable batteries, and advanced noise cancellation.
  1. High Cost: The premium service and customization come with a steeper price tag, ranging from $1,500 to $6,000 per pair.
  2. Multiple Appointments: They typically require a series of visits to an audiologist for fitting, tuning, and ongoing maintenance.
  3. Prescription Required: You’ll need a prescription from an audiologist or ENT specialist to purchase these devices.
Suitability and Limitations
Prescription hearing aids are best suited for individuals with:
  • Moderate to severe hearing loss
  • Complex auditory needs
  • A preference for professional guidance and ongoing support

These are not advisable for those looking for quick, budget-friendly solutions.

User Experience
The process of acquiring prescription hearing aids typically involves:
  1. Initial Consultation: An audiologist will perform a comprehensive hearing test to determine your needs.
  2. Selection: Based on your test results and lifestyle needs, the audiologist will recommend a set of hearing aids.
  3. Fitting: Your audiologist will fit and adjust the hearing aids, ensuring they’re as effective and comfortable as possible.
  4. Follow-up: Periodic checkups for tuning and maintenance are necessary for optimal functionality.

Cochlear Implants

Cost Range: $30,000–$50,000 (including surgery and post-operative care)

Cochlear implants are surgically implanted devices that bypass damaged parts of the inner ear to provide a sense of sound to those with profound hearing loss. They are often considered the last resort for individuals who have found little to no benefit from conventional hearing aids.
Pros and Cons
  1. Restoration of Basic Hearing: Cochlear implants can restore a significant amount of hearing, enabling understanding of speech and environmental sounds.
  2. Suitable for Profound Loss: They are often the only option for those with severe to profound hearing loss who do not benefit from other types of hearing aids.
  3. Technological Advancements: Newer models offer improved sound quality, rechargeable batteries, and compatibility with other devices through Bluetooth.
  1. Surgical Procedure: Require an invasive surgical process, which carries risks like infection or complications during surgery.
  2. High Costs: The price can range from $30,000 to $50,000, including the device, surgery, and aftercare.
  3. Adjustment Period: A substantial period of auditory training is typically required for effective use.
Suitability and Limitations
Cochlear implants are best suited for:
  • Individuals with severe to profound hearing loss
  • Those who have not benefited from other hearing aids
  • Individuals with good overall health to undergo surgery
User Experience
The process of receiving a cochlear implant involves:
  1. Evaluation: A team of healthcare professionals will assess your hearing, general health, and suitability for the implant.
  2. Surgery: The cochlear implant is surgically implanted under general anesthesia.
  3. Recovery: A recovery period is necessary before the device can be activated.
  4. Activation and Training: After activation, extensive auditory training with a professional is required for optimal use.

Comparison of Options

Each of the hearing loss treatment options—hearing aids, bone-anchored hearing systems, and cochlear implants—has its unique advantages and disadvantages. Here is a quick comparison to help you weigh your choices:

  • Cost: Hearing aids are generally the most affordable, but the costs can add up over time due to maintenance and upgrades. Bone-anchored hearing systems and cochlear implants come with higher initial costs and may require surgical procedures.
  • Suitability: Hearing aids work best for mild to moderate hearing loss, bone-anchored hearing systems are ideal for conductive or mixed hearing loss, and cochlear implants are the go-to for severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss.
  • User Experience: Hearing aids have the shortest adaptation period. Boneanchored hearing systems and cochlear implants involve more time-consuming processes, from surgical intervention to post-operative care and adjustments. 

Final Thoughts

Choosing a hearing loss treatment is a significant decision that will impact your quality of life. The right choice depends on various factors, including the type and severity of your hearing loss, your lifestyle, and your budget.

It’s crucial to consult healthcare professionals for thorough evaluations and to weigh the pros and cons of each option carefully.

Next Steps

  1. Consult an Audiologist: The first step in treating hearing loss is to consult an experienced audiologist who can assess your hearing needs accurately.
  2. Explore Financial Options: Many clinics and healthcare plans offer financing options, or you might be eligible for insurance coverage.
  3. Ongoing Care and Support: Regardless of your choice, ongoing support and periodic checkups are essential to ensure optimal hearing health.

Thank You for Reading Our Comprehensive Guide

We hope this guide has provided valuable insights to help you make an informed choice for your hearing healthcare.

For a personalized consultation, you can reach out to Jacobs Audiology at any of our locations:

Bowie, MD: (301) 860-1124 

Southern Maryland: (410) 535-0024

Waldorf, MD: (410) 535-0024

Book Your Consultation Now!

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Marcie Jacobs, M.A., F-AAA

Marcie Jacobs has extensive experience in the field of Audiology. She became an audiologist over 25 years ago and has practiced in Southern Maryland and Prince Georges County. Jacobs Audiology was founded in 2011 with the philosophy of providing superior hearing health care for their patients. Her unique combination of empathy and energy result in excellent patient care. Marcie Jacobs obtained her Master of Science degree in Audiology from the University of Maryland in 1991.

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