BNA Doctors Answer Your Questions

From concerts to lawnmowers, from earbuds to Bluetooth, and from insurance to buying online, navigating the world of hearing devices can be challenging on your own. At BNA, our audiologists are making those topics easier to understand with a new show called “I Hear You,” where our doctors answer your hearing-related questions. So if you’re starting to notice yourself or a loved one having difficulty, or if you’re just interested in expert opinions on common hearing issues, these short educational, FAQ videos are for you.

Watch the latest episodes below, and then reach out to schedule your appointment at BNA. If you’ve never had your hearing professionally evaluated, here’s what you can expect at BNA.

Q: Does insurance cover hearing aids?

When it comes to your hearing, it’s not always easy to understand what insurance covers (and doesn’t cover). Dr. Natalie McKee, Au.D. offers some clarity with this helpful overview. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with BNA at either our Bloomington or Pontiac, Illinois locations.

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I’m Dr. Natalie McKee at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. David from LeRoy wants to know, “Does insurance cover hearing aids?” That’s a good question, and one we get often here at Bloomington-Normal Audiology. There is a dividing line with most insurance carriers between diagnostic services and a product. So unfortunately, the majority of insurance policies will not cover hearing devices unless it’s specifically written into the policy. However, for the diagnostic portion, where you’re just coming in for the exam and you want to know where you hearing is -if it’s good, or if you need to be concerned- THAT is generally covered by all major carriers. Some insurance programs allow you to add on features with different providers, so there’s a possibility that you could add on vision or hearing or those types of things. But you want to be careful when you add on those programs to make sure you do your research on what that program actually is. Is it actually providing a funded benefit for you where they’re going to pay something, or is it just saying that you would get a discount -but you only get that discount if you go to a certain person involved in their network who agrees to those terms? We understand that this may be a whole new ballgame for you, and we are here for you to help navigate the process. So don’t hesitate to reach out to any of us here at BNA, and we would be happy to see you and answer your questions. Hope that helped! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Natalie McKee at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: Should I buy hearing aids online?

Online shopping is now commonplace, and almost anything can be delivered to your doorstep within a few days. But is that the best way to purchase hearing devices? Dr. Natalie McKee, Au.D. shares some important tips to consider before adding hearing aids to your online cart. Watch more Q&As, read this article about additional over-the-counter considerations, then schedule your appointment with us at BNA.

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I’m Dr. Natalie McKee at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Carol in Bloomington asks, “Why would I go to a doctor’s office when it’s cheaper to buy hearing aids online?” Carol, that’s a reasonable question this day and age. Everybody is buying things online, and it just falls on your doorstep like magic. I don’t know that that is the answer for everybody at this point in time when it comes to their hearing care. It really comes down to price and value. So when people ask about affordability, it really depends on giving you the best bang for your buck. So you need to consider not just the device itself and what it does and what it costs, but also the person who’s going to be providing your care, troubleshooting, training, and those sorts of things. Especially as a new user, there’s a lot of things people don’t know. So being able to just call somebody up, or come in for an appointment and ask, “You know, I ran into this problem. Do you think there’s a way we can make this better?” Or, “I know you showed me how to do this before I left, but I got home and it all went out the window.” So just having the reassurance and we are here for you when you need us to answer those questions or solve a problem, that’s what we think is important. Not just the device. Hope that helped! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Natalie McKee at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: If Bose and other big companies are making hearing aids that you can tune yourself with an app, why not just get those?

Some big companies (like Bose) are starting to make hearing devices which seem to offer customization through apps. For some people, those types of devices could be a good option. But should a recognizable name brand and a few good features be enough to sway your decision? Dr. Sara Hanley, Au.D. helps fill-in the gaps. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with us at BNA.

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I’m Dr. Sara Hanley at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Jeremy in Pontiac asks, “If Bose and other big companies are making hearing aids that you can tune yourself with an app, why not just get those?” That is a great question. While I do feel that Bose hearing devices are going to be a really good option for some individuals, there are some things I think you should consider before purchasing them. They are a direct-to-consumer technology. That means it’s something you can obviously get directly from Bose. You need to be 18 or older to get these devices, and they are meant to be something for a person with mild to moderate hearing loss. And the idea is you’ll be able to check your hearing from the app also, which gives you a good idea, but I would recommend seeing an audiologist to get more of a comprehensive hearing test before making your decision to purchase these devices or not. You really want to make sure there’s not any type of medical condition impacting your hearing before you purchase any type of hearing technology, just so you know you’re starting from exactly where your permanent hearing is, so that the devices get set the most appropriately for you. The other things to consider with the Bose hearing devices are that they do not allow for streaming. It also is not rechargeable. So you would be changing a battery probably on average every three to four days. So, while I do think there are some great features with the Bose hearing devices, we do still highly recommend coming to visit an audiologist so you can find out what path is the best for you. Hope that helped! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Sara Hanley at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: What about hearing aids at big box stores?

Hearing devices require periodic adjustments and maintenance to keep them working optimally… and ultimately to keep you hearing your best. That’s why service is a key part of the equation when considering hearing aids. Dr. Arica Rock, Au.D. discusses service in the context of big box stores. and helps you cover all the bases before making a decision.

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I’m Dr. Arica Rock at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. John in Pontiac asks, “Hearing aids seem less expensive at big box stores. Do they work the same?” Great question. When deciding where you want to go, it’s important to really compare what you’re getting. I feel like service is somewhat lacking at big box stores. Also, people who have gotten their hearing aids at COSTCO, for instance, they think it’s the newest thing available, but it might be two models ago. But they’re advertising it as the newest, up-to-date technology when that’s not necessarily true. They often do the hearing test for free, and so if you hear the word free, you think you’re getting a great deal. Oftentimes, the software is locked, so if you do decide to go somewhere else for service, our hands can be tied, and we can not be able to make any programming changes because of that. Another issue to consider is the turnover. They tend to have providers there for short periods of time. So if you do have a problem down the road, when you go back, it’s not gonna be the same person. It’s hard to develop a relationship with your provider if they’re not familiar with your history. In our experience, developing a relationship with our patients really helps to create a better outcome. We often take our time in the testing and do more than just the beeps and single words to really get a feel for what the need is. And also lots of questions about your lifestyle and what’s gonna be appropriate for you, but we can also consider your budget too. We also pride ourselves in follow-up. We have a system to keep people coming back in so we can keep their hearing devices working properly. People don’t realize that hearing aids require maintenance, and it’s not something you put in your ears every day and never come back for cleaning and checkups. Hope that helped! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Arica Rock at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: How does Bluetooth work with hearing aids? Is it safe?

Wireless technology, like Bluetooth, has been around for awhile now, but how does it work with hearing aids? And is it safe? Dr. Stacy Chalmers shares her insight with this helpful introduction to the topic of Bluetooth and hearing aids. If you’d like to read more about bluetooth technology and how to use it, check out our blog post from earlier this year. Then schedule your appointment with us at BNA in Bloomington or Pontiac, IL.

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I’m Dr. Stacy Chalmers at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA help answer your hearing-related questions. Shelly in Normal wants to know, “How does bluetooth work with hearing aids? Are bluetooth hearing aids safe?” Bluetooth is basically a way to communicate wirelessly between two devices, and it can be used safely with hearing aids. It’s a good way to stream sound from, for example, a smartphone into the hearing aids wirelessly. For phone calls this works great, and it’s more tuned to your specific hearing needs, so you’ll get a better sound quality too. The other advantage of bluetooth with smartphones is that it can allow you to use your phone as a remote control device, so you can adjust volume. You can go to different listening programs very easily with the tap of a finger. It’s all visual, so you don’t necessarily have to be feeling for buttons on the hearing aids. All those things are very helpful for hearing aid users, and it’s pretty standard on hearing technology now, so it doesn’t necessarily make the devices a lot more expensive. It’s a very safe, secure connection. Bluetooth is widely used, and it’s been determined that it’s very safe to use Bluetooth in hearing aids. Hope that helped! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Stacy Chalmers at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

 

Q: Does it matter where you buy hearing aids?

You can buy hearing aids online or in big box stores, but is that really the best route to go? Does it matter where you buy your hearing devices? Dr. Natalie McKee thinks so, and shares some important tips if you’re considering those options. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with us at BNA in Bloomington or Pontiac, IL.

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I’m Dr. Natalie McKee at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Lauren in Normal wants to know, “Where can you buy hearing aids, and does it matter?” That’s a great question Lauren. I believe it does. But it really depends on what you’re looking for, if you feel like you have a small problem or a big problem, how much you know about the problem yourself, and whether you feel comfortable doing research and taking care of things on your own. Here at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, we specialize in helping people navigate the process from start to finish, so we would encourage you to contact us, and we would be happy to guide you through the journey. But there are places you can research on your own online that are starting to offer direct-to-consumer sales. Most of those devices, you’re going to be ordering, programming, and taking care of on your own. There are also big box stores starting to carry devices, and there is often a provider in that box store to take care of you. But their hours can vary, and the provider can change. It can also be a little strange buying bananas while people are getting their hearing tested, in our opinion. But if you’re looking for value, and you feel comfortable doing that, that’s fine. There are also some audiology programs online that you can buy directly where they don’t just send it to you and let you do it on your own, but they’ll send it to you and then setup a remote call to work with you over a video call or a regular phone call to set it up and make adjustments. One thing to keep in mind if you’re buying these products is to find out, if you’re not buying from someone locally, if these are products that are locked that no one else can help you with. It may leave you with what seems like a great deal, but then when you have a problem, no one can help you unless you send it away and just wait for it to return. So be sure to ask the right questions when you’re considering those options. Hope that helped! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Natalie McKee at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

 

Q: How do hearing aids work?

How do hearing aids actually work? What’s really going on inside those little devices that allow them to improve your quality of life so dramatically? Dr. Sara Hanley, Au.D. provides a fantastic, easy-to-understand overview. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment.

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I’m Dr. Sara Hanley at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Nick in Normal wants to know, “How do hearing aids work?” That is a great question. So I’m gonna start more generally-speaking. Hearing devices work by amplifying sound through a three-part system. So we start with the microphone where sound comes in and gets converted to a digital signal. The amplifier then strengthens that signal so the speaker can produce the amplified sound into the person’s ear. Because hearing aids are all digital now, that allows me as the audiologist to customize the sound for each individual person’s hearing needs. So once we have your comprehensive hearing test, we can see exactly what degree and pattern your hearing loss is so we can fine-tune the hearing devices exactly for your ears. It really helps us give you the best hearing we possibly can. On top of that, digital hearing devices have a lot of more advanced features like background noise reduction, multiple microphones, wind noise suppression. Just a lot of different features we can help set up in your programming that are gonna work automatically for you to help you have improved hearing in multiple different environments. Hope that helped! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Sara Hanley at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

 

Q: What happens during a hearing test?

We talk a lot about getting your hearing tested, but… what actually happens during a hearing test? Is it something you can “fail”? Do they hurt? And how long do you have to wait to get your results? Dr. Arica Rock, Au.D. answers these questions and more, demystifying the hearing test once and for all.

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I’m Dr. Arica Rock at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Danielle in Normal wants to know, “What happens during a hearing test? Does it hurt? How long does it take to get the results? That’s a great question. The first thing we do before testing is check your ears for any wax or obstructions. During a hearing test, there are some simple parts to it, and then we get more advanced. Any hearing test is gonna consist of responding to beeps to find the thresholds where you can hear at different frequencies. We also do speech testing in quiet, but more advanced testing we move to is how you understand sentences in background noise. If you’re found to be a hearing aid candidate, we spend a lot of time asking lots of questions about your lifestyle and social life, work life, any dexterity issues. Anything that’s gonna help us make the best recommendation. Nothing we do hurts, I assure people of that all the time. And the great thing is, you get your results right away. There’s no waiting to send them to a lab. We go over everything as soon as we’re finished with the testing. Most people are surprised by all the different tests we do. People often think of in grade school when they had a hearing screening, and they had to raise their hand when they heard a beep, but it’s more than just the beeps. It’s the words and your understanding and how you function in different environments. It’s never too soon to get a baseline hearing test. Kids especially. They’re terrified. They think they’re gonna get a shot when they come see us, so I always assure everyone before we start that it’s not gonna hurt. Hope that helped! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Arica Rock at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

 

Q: How can I improve my hearing without getting a hearing device?

Everyone’s circumstances are unique. So even if hearing devices aren’t in your immediate future, BNA still wants to help. Dr. Stacy Chalmers, Au.D. shares a handful of tips, tricks, and best practices for how you can improve your hearing without getting a hearing device.

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I’m Dr. Stacy Chalmers at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA help answer your hearing-related questions. Eric in Pontiac asks, “How can I improve my hearing without getting a hearing device?” There are certain communication strategies you can use if you’re having difficulty understanding someone. Rather than just asking “What?” or “Huh?”, you can ask a more specific question. That way, you and the other person may not get as frustrated with them repeating information. If the problem is that they’re moving too fast, maybe say, “Can you slow down a little bit?” That way they do’n’t just say it LOUDER when that’s not what you’re looking for. If it’s a very noisy environment, you can step out of that environment. If you’re mainly struggling with the television, you could put the captioning on at the bottom. Even I put that on sometimes just to help fill-in some of the blanks. There are wireless headsets you can set up with a TV. Another thing you can do is just try to protect the hearing that you DO have to prevent further hearing loss or prevent future hearing loss. Wear good hearing protection. You can even have custom hearing protection made, or filtered protection. Another important thing is just to have your hearing checked regularly so we can monitor for any changes and help you determine what might be most appropriate for your hearing healthcare needs. Hope that helped! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Stacy Chalmers at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

 

Q: What is the average cost of a hearing aid?

How much do hearing aids really cost? Dr. Natalie McKee, Au.D. transparently talks real numbers, shares some clear price ranges, and explains which factors have the biggest impact.

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I’m Dr. Natalie McKee at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Paul in Bloomington asks, “What is the average cost of a hearing aid?” So, the average cost of an instrument is typically, in our office, between $600 – $3,000 per device. That price differential comes from the technology that goes inside of the product. So they may all LOOK the same, but the computer chip that goes inside of it is what dictates the cost of that instrument. There are features in there that make it “smart,” and can make more features automatic for you, so you don’t have to worry about manually turning things up or down, or worry about which environment you went into where you have to manually choose another setting. It will just automatically detect that you’ve gone into that environment and react accordingly. All you really have to worry about is: where is the person talking, and where do I need to pay attention? That comes at a cost, to have those features more automatic. And it’s important to know that not only do you have a device with that cost, but there’s service that’s bundled-in with it. And that bundled price typically includes not only the service you receive immediately when you take it home, but also follow-up care thereafter for a period of 2-3 years. The manufacturer also will guarantee that product, for a period of time, against defect and ordinary wear-and-tear in order to make sure you keep hearing at no additional charge to you. Most of our patients end-up spending somewhere between $3,000 – $4,000 for a pair of devices, based on the average, middle-of-the-road pricing we have. And again, that will include a couple years of service, not only from the manufacturer, but also ourselves. Hope that helped! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Natalie McKee from Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

 

Q: Does Medicare cover hearing aids?

Navigating the world of Medicare can be daunting. If you’ve wondered what Medicare does (and doesn’t) cover when it comes to your hearing, Dr. Sara Hanley, Au.D. helps clear it all up.

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I’m Dr. Sara Hanley at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Elizabeth in Bloomington asks, “Does Medicare cover hearing aids?” So, unfortunately, Medicare parts A and B (traditional Medicare) does not cover hearing devices. But the good news is, we are starting to see some of the other policies like Medicare Advantage plans (otherwise called Medicare part C), those plans are starting to offer some coverage on hearing devices. You’ll just want to check your policy to see if it requires you to see a specific provider who’s in-network with your plan. And then the coverage ranges everywhere from a discount program (where you’d get a discount on the devices) all the way up to full coverage on premium hearing technology, which is the best you can get. What Medicare DOES cover is part of the testing for getting hearing devices. You would get a discounted rate for the hearing test, and Medicare requires a referral from your primary care physician. So you would need to get that in order for us to bill to Medicare. Hope that helped! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Sara Hanley at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

 

Q: What’s the difference between a hearing doctor and an audiologist?

Terminology can be confusing. What’s a “hearing doctor”? And is that the same as an “audiologist”? Where do “Ear, Nose, and Throat” doctors fit in? Dr. Arica Rock, Au.D. helps clear it all up.

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I’m Dr. Arica Rock at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Connie in Bloomington wants to know, “Hey Dr. Rock! What’s the difference between a hearing doctor and an audiologist?” Great question. An ear, nose, and throat doctor, or ENT, is a medical doctor who can treat hearing and balance issues medically or surgically. They’re the ones who can prescribe medications. They’re the ones who do surgery. And again, they’re a medical doctor. An audiologist is also trained to diagnose and treat hearing and balance issues. Audiologists have at least a Masters level education, if not a Doctorate level, and go through extensive training in hearing and balance. I think we often call ourselves hearing doctors because we’re the ones who specialize in the hearing aspect of it. If you have an ear infection, or something medically going on, that’s when you’d want to see the Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist. But for any hearing difficulties, an audiologist is the best person to see. If your wife is complaining that the television is too loud, or you’re having difficulty hearing in background noise, then you should probably see an audiologist. And if you’re not sure, you should discuss it with your primary doctor. Hope that helped! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Arica Rock at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

 

Q: Can earbuds cause hearing loss?

Earbuds are everywhere. Should you be concerned about your level of exposure? Dr. Stacy Chalmers, Au.D. shares her opinion on the popular topic.

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I’m Dr. Stacy Chalmers at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA help answer your hearing-related questions.

Brad in Bloomington asks, “Do earbuds cause hearing loss? If I wear earbuds every day, am I at risk?”

You can wear earbuds safely. Generally, it’s a good idea to follow the 60/60 Rule, where you keep your volume limited to 60% or lower, and don’t listen for more than 60 minutes at a time before you take a break. You can also use noise reduction so that you’re not competing with external noise and possibly turning the volume up higher. For example, some people want to listen to music when they’re mowing, but then they end up causing more harm because they’re turning the music up higher. Whatever you’re using, the best rule is to limit how much you’re using it so that you’re not overwhelming your ears. Give them breaks to keep everything safe.

Hope that helped! If you have any more questions, let us know.

I’m Dr. Stacy Chalmers at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we are ‘hear’ for you.