Many seniors experience some sort of hearing loss as they get older.

It affects not only the one suffering from the diminished capacity, but also those around them. It truly is a difficult juggling act on how loud to speak when your ears are “out” versus when they are “in” and turned up. Background noise adds insult to injury when it comes to dining out or other activities where there is competing interference with regular conversation.

Several types go inside the ear and, after several hours, will start to irritate and cause discomfort and may even lead to infections. Cleaning them regularly can deter that, but if you have never had hearing aids in your ears all day, it is hard to imagine.

My mom wore them, and so does my husband, and I see the issues involved firsthand. I can only compare it to the earplugs they give you on an airplane. After the movie, I am more than happy to take them out of my ears. Hearing aids are fitted, but can still cause that discomfort after many hours.

Medicare does not pay for hearing aids, although there are a few supplemental plans that pay a small amount of the cost. None cover the total expense, which leave many seniors on a fixed income at a loss. There are a ton of options and prices to research, which is what I did for this piece. I have never had to wear them myself; going through the steps with Mom and Grandpa has given me some insight, but not enough. Off to the internet I go!

An excellent site is www.seniorliving.org, which shares lots of good information in regards to top hearing aid brands based on different elements such as warranty, cost and performance. Read through their comments, and it may help you with this important decision. Go to the site and then search “hearing aids.”

How do you know if you will benefit from hearing aids? The first step is to get a hearing test.

Most places offer a free evaluation of your hearing. Even Costco does a free test by appointment. You should never have to pay for this exam.

When going for your test, make sure your ears are clear of any wax buildup, even if you need to get them flushed by a doctor. Do not try to do this yourself, as you can damage the eardrum. As Mom always said, “Never put anything in your ear other than your elbow.”

Once it is determined you could benefit from hearing aids, do your due diligence in shopping for the product that suits your needs at the best possible price. Call your insurance provider to see if any portion of the aids are covered. The more reputable hearing aid companies have a grace period of at least 30 to 60 days to try them out and make sure you are happy with them.

Some are smaller and more comfortable, and if they are the kind that fit inside the ear, they must be molded to fit and may take a while to get. After they are done and fitted, you will be asked to walk around either the store or outside to see how they sound.

Hearing aids will not bring back your normal hearing, but they will clear and amplify sounds so you can hear better. Don’t be afraid to say they are not for you for any reason. If the fit is not right but the sound is acceptable, they will redo them so they fit perfectly or darn close.

Check on the warranty and other options, such as connecting to headphones, the television or Bluetooth for your phone. The big companies tend to have more customer service options, so if you are in another town or state on vacation, you can get yours serviced or pick up extra batteries if needed.

Ask if the aids you choose are rechargeable or if they need batteries. Tell the person giving you the test if you have tinnitus, which is the constant humming or ringing in the ear. Some aids are better for this type of hearing problem than others.

Price is a factor, but be prudent with your choice. If it’s just an amplifier, but not specific to your tones and volume needed, they can be more affordable, but may not help your type of hearing loss. If you try this route, make sure they are returnable if they don’t do the job.

Ask about payment plans if the total cost is outside of your normal budget. Some companies will sell only pairs, as opposed to selling single units, for those who don’t need both. Add that to your questions, if it applies.

Never be forced to buy a pair if you only need one, since they are priced per unit, and don’t feel you have to buy the first pair you try. This high-ticket item should be fully investigated for the best price and options available. With all the new technology, some units have too many options some seniors just don’t use or need.

I’m really sad this is not something seniors can get easily and also afford without breaking the bank. Unfortunately, it’s all about the Benjamins, like everything else. Read, read and read some more, but try to find some that will help, so you can hear and communicate with loved ones.

Marla Luckhardt is a Brentwood resident who works with several local senior care and advocacy groups. Reach her at marla2054@aol.com.

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