With so many options out there, including over the counter hearing aids, a Chicago-area audiologist weighs in on what to consider before buying.
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An audiologist for 30 years, Kristen Conners says hearing aid technology just keeps getting better. One major change is being able to make adjustments remotely using Bluetooth technology.
“This is just really, really groundbreaking great tech to be able to provide people,” Conners said.
Conners owns Prescription Hearing in Palos Park but has patients all over the country. During the pandemic, her business grew as she diagnosed more cases of mild hearing loss after our way of life changed during the pandemic.
“Adding the masks, it reduced sound by 10 to 12 decibels, which is a big decrease in volume for those patients,” Conners said.
With so many hearing aid options out there, deciphering the best fit can be challenging.
The most recent addition to the market are over the counter hearing aids. Approved by the FDA in October, the ones available for purchase now resemble ear buds.
“Over the counter hearing aids are designed more for a specific situation, to be just worn for maybe an hour or two hours at a time, where they just need to pop something in their ears to get a little boost in volume,” Conners said.
Prescription hearing aids are often pricier but can come with more customization, including remote adjustments made using Bluetooth technology.
“I have my patients who are in assisted living or nursing homes, who aren’t able to come into the office, and I also have my snowbird population, who leave town in January for the winter,” Conners said.
One of her remote patients is her sister-in-law, Mary Ellen Conners, who lives on Long Island. Mary Ellen has had hearing aids for 10 years and says the remote adjustments have been a huge help.
“It’s a gamechanger. It really is, because you can immediately get in touch and have it fixed,” Mary Ellen Conners said. “The Bluetooth stuff alone. Being able to hear the phone call just through my hearing aids is really nice and it’s much clearer. It takes away the background noises that I’m dealing with, so it’s really nice.”
For anyone considering hearing aids, Conners recommends seeing an audiologist for a hearing exam to help determine what is right for you.
“Just get the hearing test. Have someone look in your ears. We can check for wax. We can identify the need because there are different types of hearing loss,” Conners said.