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Common questions about Hearing Aids

No. A properly fitted hearing aid will be fully customised to the wearer’s individual audiological profile to ensure sound is clear and comfortable.

It is very common for people with hearing impairment to have varying degrees of hearing loss across different frequencies (pitches). In fact the most common type of hearing loss is high frequency hearing loss which is associated with aging and noise exposure. Individual’s with high frequency hearing loss often have normal hearing in the low frequencies which then declines in the higher frequencies. The impact of high frequency hearing loss is that low frequencies are heard well (e.g. car engine) while high frequency sounds are either heard softly or not heard at all (e.g. phone ringing). It is common for people with high frequency hearing loss to complain that they have more difficulty hearing children’s and women’s voices compared to male voices. This is due to the fact that these voices are more high pitched than males voices. In the case of high frequency hearing loss, the hearing aids will be precisely programmed to amplify the high frequencies and not to provide any amplification at frequencies where the wearer has good hearing.

Not necessarily. It is no secret that unfortunately many hearing clinics like to push more profitable high-end and premium hearing aids. Although this technology can offer significant benefits for wearers with demanding or challenging listening needs, they will not necessarily be value for money for all individuals.

If you have significant hearing loss, you are likely to gain significant benefit from even entry-level digital technology. If you live a very quiet lifestyle with basic needs (e.g. you just want a hearing aid for watching television or talking to the family) and you don’t need specific technology (e.g. Bluetooth wireless connectivity), the additional benefit from premium technology may not be worth the expenditure.

It is certainly worth asking the clinic whether they offer any no-gap high-technology hearing aid options. Some clinics like Sounds of Life will offer a range of no-gap high-technology options for eligible pensioners and private health members.

Not necessarily.  In the past, hearing technology was not at the level to address some specific types of hearing loss including unilateral hearing loss (hearing loss in one ear) and very high frequency hearing loss.  Due to modern advances in hearing aid technology there are now solutions for the vast majority of significant hearing loss.  Even if in the past you have been told by your doctor that your hearing loss cannot be helped it is worth getting an updated opinion from a qualified audiologist.

In Australia, the average retail pricing of hearing aids range from around $900 each for a basic hearing aid to $6000 each for a premium hearing aid.  Prices will be lower if receiving a government subsidy.

The main difference between premium hearing aids and lower level hearing aids, is technology.  Premium hearing aids feature more advanced sound processing technology to more effectively address challenging situations (e.g. restaurants with background noise) as well more advanced technology to improve convenience and ease of use (e.g. wireless streaming of audio from mobile phones).

There can be high variability in pricing between clinics with some hearing aid clinics selling the same hearing aid at prices almost double other clinics.  It is therefore important to shop around.

Nerve damage or sensori-neural hearing loss is a very common type of hearing loss.  This type of hearing loss is caused by damage to either the cochlear or the auditory nerve.   Sensori-neural hearing loss has a wide rage of causes including noise exposure and aging (presbycusis).  For most cases, properly fitted and programmed hearing aids will offer wearers with sensori-neural hearing loss significant benefits.  Modern hearing aids can be precisely programmed to amplify the pitches (frequencies) where needed.

The digital processing of hearing aids is capable of reducing the volume of background noise while increasing the volume of speech. In most situations you should be able to comfortably wear your hearing aids however even people without hearing loss struggle in situations with excessive background noise.

A properly fitted hearing aid in most cases reduces the level of a wearer’s perceived tinnitus.  It is very common for people with hearing loss to notice their tinnitus more in quiet situations (e.g. at night while trying to get to sleep).  This is because there is limited sound from the environment to mask the tinnitus.  As hearing aids amplify sounds this naturally provides additional acoustic (sound) exposure for the wearer that often reduces the contrast between the tinnitus and the environmental sounds making the tinnitus less noticeable.

When listening to music, hearing loss can make certain instruments and sounds inaudible. However with hearing aids you can expect a much richer and fuller sound. Your audiologist can fine-tune your hearing aids and create specific settings or programs that you can use when listening to music.

Most sounds in our everyday world are at safe levels that don’t damage our hearing.   However, sounds can be harmful and can cause noise-induced hearing loss when they are too loud, even for a brief time, or when they are both loud and long-lasting.  If your hearing aids are properly fitted by an audiologist, your are no more susceptible to noise-induced hearing loss than someone with normal hearing.

Hearing aids are medical devices and are designed to amplify soft and medium level sounds and to provide only minimal amplification (if any) to loud sounds.  They are precisely programmed to match the perceived loudness levels of someone with normal hearing and at the same time provide safe levels of amplification.  To achieve this, hearing aids use sophisticated sound compression technology.  In addition, hearing aids have what is called a “maximum power output” or MPO for short.  MPO is a safety limiter in the hearing aid to ensure that it cannot amplify sound above a specific decibel level.  An audiologist will always program a hearing aid’s MPO to a safe level.

Of course, even people with normal hearing need to be aware of their noise exposure and avoid periods of exposure to loud sound: either by avoiding the situation or wearing ear protection.  Likewise people with hearing aids should also follow the same behaviour and avoid exposure to damaging levels of noise.

Sadly no. Properly fitted hearing aids will not cause a decline in hearing, however they will also not prevent further hearing decline.  It is common as we age for our hearing to slowly get worse.  Unfortunately, some hearing clinics like to push the myth that hearing aids will prevent further hearing loss decline to scare people into purchasing hearing aids before they really need them.  Hearing aids will not prevent your hearing declining however they can be adjusted or fine-tuned to account for current hearing loss levels to ensure the continual stimulation of the auditory pathway to keep your speech discrimination ability intact.

It is very important for all people, whether normal hearing or hearing-impaired, to protect their hearing in noisy situations to prevent noise-induced hearing loss.

When it comes to taxation matters it is always wise to speak to the ATO directly or to your accountant. You may be able to claim the net medical expenses tax offset as hearing aids qualify as medical devices.

Most private health insurers do have some allowance for hearing aids through their Extras or ancillary cover.

The answer to this question really comes down to an individual’s audiological needs and personal preferences!

A hearing aid is only useful if it is worn regularly.  If the wearer is uncomfortable with the idea of wearing hearing aids and is unlikely to wear hearing aids unless they are extremely discreet, then small hearing aids that sit deep in the ear canal (so they are virtually invisible when worn) are better.  In such circumstances, hearing aid styles that should be considered are CICs (completely-in-canal) and IIC (invisible-in-canal).

The design of discreet hearing aids like CICs/IICs is primarily focused on keeping the hearing aids as tiny as possible.  As a result, they only use the very smallest components including a micro amplifier and receiver (speaker) system, making them only suitable for people with mild to moderate hearing loss.  In addition to this, they do not include some hardware such as a Bluetooth antennas or additional microphones which are required for some important features and functionality for example:

  • Bluetooth connectivity – provides direct wireless audio-streaming so wearers can wirelessly receive audio from the phone (e.g. phone calls and music) directly into their hearing aids
  • Directional microphones –  provide the ability to focus amplification in specific directions.  This is particularly beneficial in challenging situations with multiple speakers (e.g. group conversation) and/or background noise (e.g. restaurant).

If audiological performance is the priority, wearers are better off wearing a BTE (behind-the-ear) style of hearing aid.  This style sits behind the ear with a tube and mould that sits in the ear (for the purpose of transmitting the sound into the ear).  These hearing aids have housings with more internal space to include larger components.  This means they are both more powerful (suitable for all degrees of hearing loss including severe) and support more features and functionality.

In the last ten years, a new style of hearing aid style has dominated the market that really gives the wearer the best of both worlds: functionality and discretion.  This hearing aid style is called RIC (receiver-in-the-canal).  Unlike a BTE where all the components are behind the ear (in the housing), the RIC has the microphone and amplifier behind the ear and the receiver in the ear (hence the name receiver-in-canal).

RIC styles feature all the advanced features and functionality as BTE hearing aids, but the housing that sits behind the ear is much smaller and more discreet.  In fact, from front-on, often RIC hearing aids cannot be seen and it is only when somebody looks behind the ear that they can see a hearing aid.  The RIC style is now the most common hearing aid sold in Australia.

It is true that hearing aids are expensive, but it is also true that many people unfortunately pay more than they need to for hearing aids.

In addressing the first point, it is important to consider that hearing aids are medical devices and are not consumer devices.  In view of this, comparing the two is not a fair comparison for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, the standards relating to product quality and manufacturing processes required to produce and sell medical products is much higher than consumer devices.  Secondly, the sales volumes are generally much lower than for consumer products.  The main costs relating to hearing aids are the following:

  • Research and Development – the hearing aid industry is competitive with most manufacturers’ products having a product life-cycle of less than two years.  The top six manufacturers globally each spend annually tens of millions of dollars on research and development.
  • Manufacturing – as medical products hearing aids are manufactured to the highest standards.  Product reliability is paramount given that hearing aids are intended to be used all day, every day in a very challenging environment – the human ear.  Hearing aids are exposed to sweat, heat, wax and moisture but are still expected to perform reliably.
  • Clinical Service – in most cases when purchasing hearing aids you are not just purchasing the hearing aids themselves but also the clinical fitting and ongoing support.  Hearing aids need to be custom fitted to your ear and custom programmed to match your individual hearing loss and hearing needs.

In addressing the second point, most hearing aid manufacturers offer a range of performance (or technology levels) within their hearing aid range.  In Australia you can get basic hearing aid technology from around $1000-$1500 each.  Given that hearing aids are expected to last over 5 years, the daily cost of such a hearing aid is less than a dollar a day.  Of course this is for entry-level technology and there are many more expensive models available ranging from $1500 to $6000.  However, it is important when purchasing hearing aids, particularly higher performance models, to understand their benefits to ensure you are paying for features and functionality that really benefits you, rather than for extra features you don’t need or will never use.  The other important thing is to shop around.  You should not just accept the first quote for hearing aids from a clinic.  You should get multiple quotes so you can compare pricing and the service included.  These days it is getting easier to price compare with many hearing clinics publishing their pricing on the internet.

About Sounds of Life

At Sounds of Life we believe good hearing is a necessity and should not be a luxury. Our aim is to provide the highest quality, personalised hearing care at an affordable price. Our team of experienced audiologists will work closely with you to understand your individual hearing needs and develop the best solution for you. As an independent hearing clinic, we have access to and are experts in all brands and types of hearing aid technologies, including the latest virtually invisible hearing aids. We offer the very latest hearing aid technologies at Brisbane’s most affordable prices.

For self-funded individuals, a doctor’s referral is not required to obtain a hearing test or hearing aids from Sounds of Life Audiology. If during the assessment we discover medical issues we may need to refer you to a doctor for investigations. If you are eligible for hearing services under the Australian Government Hearing Services Program, you will need to make a hearing services application. Call us on 1300 744 432 so we can assist you through the process.
Audiologists are specialists who assess how people hear, and who use various technologies and therapies to help people with hearing and balance problems. To become an audiologist the completion of a Master of Clinical Audiologywith a minimum of 12 months’ supervised clinical practice in audiology is required. In Australia this course is available at five universities:
Yes we believe in transparent and unbundled pricing so our customers can make informed decisions about their hearing care. However we will strive to beat any local competitor’s hearing aid quote whether bundled or unbundled.

Sounds of Life Audiology believes in transparency and disclosure of our interests to our clients. As an independent hearing aid provider (not owned by a manufacturer), Sounds of Life Audiology has preferred supplier agreements with all major hearing aid manufacturers operating in Australia. These manufacturers include Sonova (Phonak, Unitron), Widex, William Demant (Oticon, Bernafon), Sivantos (Signia, Siemens), Starkey and Resound.

Preferred supplier arrangements with these companies allows us to offer a wide range of product choices and styles to ensure we recommend the most appropriate hearing aids for your requirements and preferences, at an affordable price. In addition, it ensures our staff are fully trained and supported by these manufacturers. As guests of these companies, Sounds of Life audiologists and staff regularly attend educational sessions on new products and technology. This ensures all our staff have the most up-to-date knowledge in order to provide the best support to our clients.

Sounds of Life is owned and operated by audiologists. Sounds of Life’s referral sources do not have any financial interest in our business.

Did you know:

  • Over 30% of hearing aids in Australia are sold through clinics owned by the manufacturers themselves (who have a financial interest in recommending their own-branded hearing aids).
  • Over 90% of hearing aids in Australia are sold through large chains that have contracts with just one or two hearing aid manufacturers.

Our hearing aids are priced from $900. We stock all hearing aids from all major brands. As a general guide please see our price ranges below for the different levels of hearing technology.

  • Premium $3250 – $3690* (diamond level)
  • High-end $1850- $2750* (platinum level)
  • Mid-range $1650- $1850* (gold level)
  • Essential $from $900* (silver level)

Out of pocket costs may be reduced if you have private health cover. In addition, if you are a pensioner or veteran you may be eligible for fully-subsidised hearing aids through the Commonwealth Hearing Services Program. Please call us on 1300 744 432 and we can guide you through the process.

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