Newly diagnosed seeking support and guidance

Hi,

I’m 59 and earlier this summer, I got an email from my primary care practice with a series of “you might want to get your hearing checked if . . .” prompts. I went through this answering “yes” to “listening is hard on the phone, can’t hear clearly in noisy settings or when more than one person is talking, can miss dialogue on tv shows.” I’d had a hearing test 15 years ago because I was having trouble hearing on the phone at work. That test showed nothing out of the ordinary, so I was told then that I likely had an auditory processing problem and there wasn’t anything to do about that. Fast forward to the email from my primary care practice and follow up appointment with a local audiologist. Based on what seemed like a really thorough test, the audiologist is recommending hearing aids. In addition to “mild sensorineural hearing loss from 2000Hz to 4000Hz, my OAEs “are consistent with abnormal outer hair cell function.” There is also mild Signal-to-Noise Ration (SNR) loss “indicating difficulty with speech understanding in noisy environments.” Based on the audiologist recommendation of hearing aids I’m getting a second opinion from an ENT in early September. This is all a lot to take in and of course the hearing aids are expensive - which is fine as long as I really need them. It’s weird. I never listened to loud music or went to rock concerts. Except for when I interact with people, I feel like I have great hearing - to the point that some sounds are really loud for me and not for people around me. I do need to see someone’s face to hear clearly. What’s particularly whacky is I’ll go for awhile and everything seems fine. Then I start thinking hearing aids are a crazy idea until I have an interaction with someone and can’t make out what they are saying and have to ask them to repeat what they said and then guess and hope I got it right. (There must be a magic number of times one asks someone to repeat themselves - I know I get embarrased after the second request.) Anyhow, this is all new to me and for my wife as well, so any words of wisdom or advice or stories of navigating this experience or questions to ask the ENT in September would be welcome. Many thanks!

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Well…some of us would be delighted with those test results. You have a little bit of loss in what is called a cookie-bite. I believe even able-hearing people have their moments of not hearing everything. You might be able to get by with simple over the counter (OTC) personal sound amplifiers (PSAP) with an equalizer to bump up those mid-ranges. Check out the so-called speech banana where you’ll see what kinds of sounds you might be struggling with.

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I suspect that any differences you notice with hearing aids is going to be very subtle because your loss is not great. OTCs could be a possibility, as could Costco which would save consideable money. Unless money grows on trees for you, I would not recommend spending $5 or $6k for hearing aids for that loss.

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I’m just a hair older and have generally protected my hearing except for a few situations where I had no choice. Two years ago I was going crazy at home with tinnitus. That got me to the ENT and a hearing test and diagnosis that HAs would help. It took a year to get to the next step of research on where to get them, including a detour that I should see about a VA disability claim. Then that (VA claim) was approved and I was fitted with HAs last September. The difference is remarkable. And yet I hear well enough that I walked out of the house last Sunday for church and didn’t realize I didn’t have them until I heard my wife say something I interpreted as non-sensical. My hearing and brain aren’t all there for my language acquisition ability. The aids help. (The statement she made was that gas was $4.30 on the pike. I “heard” bike, and sat there for a while trying to make sense of what it could mean.)

Maybe the HAs would really help. Maybe some listening therapy would really help. I feel for you. It is a new world to me, too. I’m an engineer, so I learn the tech side fairly quickly. The soft stuff is harder for me. Hang in there. This forum is great, if not a little rowdy once in a while. Usually quite gentle and courteous. Some here are just starting. Some have seen it all and have the t-shirts. Some of us aren’t masters yet but have somewhat of a handle on some things.

WH

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By the way according to my audiologists cookie bite hearing loss is genetic and some of your family and ancestry have it and had it.

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Thank you all for the helpful messages. My situation is indeed mild and I am fortunate that is the case. I’m sure the ENT will be helpful. He certainly has no skin in the game to sell hearing aids and can check to see if there is any other reason my hearing might be slightly flaky.

Rowdy at times? Put up your dukes. (Does anyone even remember what that means?).

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Hey, careful now. I know Karate. (He’s a nice guy.)

WH

As someone who has mild hearing loss, and was covered by an insurance plan that paid for my HAs, I’d say you might want to give HAs a try no matter what your ENT guy says. For some reason, a lot of ENT docs and primary care physicians discourage the use of HAs for mild loss; and my own experience suggests that is probably a mistake for some people, including myself. I wrote about it on the forum here: Hearing aids for mild hearing loss?.