Are you confused about what solution is best if you (or a loved one) have a hearing loss?
After all, there are a lot of different devices out there. Some are cheap and some are not. Some are good only for certain types of hearing loss. And all make big promises about how they can help you – even if they actually can’t.
We’ll cover each category of hearing loss treatment on this page, including both the good and bad points.
But before diving in, think about your answers to these questions:
- How bad is your hearing loss? Have you had it tested to get the specifics?
- What kind of lifestyle do you lead? Active and adventurous, or mostly stay-at-home?
- Is remote support okay, or do you prefer to meet specialists face to face?
- Do you need at-home appointments, or can you travel to a clinic?
- How big is your budget?
Now let’s take a look at the available solutions …
Hearing Loss Treatments Available in Florida
Your options range from low budget to large budget and include the following:
- Earphones and Cell Phone Apps [$0-$250]
- Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids [$800-$2000]
- PSAPs (Personal Sound Amplification Products) [$79-$1250]
- Online Hearing Aids with Audiological Remote Support [$1850-$2400]
- Big Box Retail Stores [$1250-$4000]
- Audiology Clinic [$2500-$7800]
- Hearing Loss Surgery (Cochlear Implants) [$30,000-$50,000]
Don’t worry too much about the prices just yet. Features and benefits are more important.
Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of each option.
#1 – Earphones and Cell Phone Apps
If your budget ranges from “low” to “zero” and you only need modest assistance in special situations, this is likely to be the most promising category for you.
Amplification is something your smartphone or tablet can do quite easily, and yes, there are apps for this on both Apple’s App Store and on Google Play. These apps use your device’s built-in software and hardware to increase every sound it picks up.
One such iPhone app is called Chatable. It’s free to download and offers 99 minutes of free listening per month. If you need more, an annual subscription is just $59.99.
There are of course competing apps for iPhones and for Android devices too. They all work similarly and usually offer both free and paid subscriptions.
(Besides a smartphone or tablet, you’ll also need earbuds or headphones to pick up the amplified sound. Your device also needs to be strategically positioned to pick up the conversations you want to hear better.)
However, amplified sounds might not be an ideal solution for you.
If so, consider speech-to-text apps. These transcribe spoken words into text you can read on your device. You can just match the words on the screen to what you’re hearing.
The downside is that their accuracy may not be that helpful in real time. Background noise, foreign accents, speech patterns, and the like may give the software problems.
However, they’re usually free to try and if you need more minutes of speech-to-text than the free plans, the cost to upgrade is relatively modest. Test a few competing apps to see which works the best for your specific environment.
- Cheap and cheerful – these apps are free or available at a low cost if you need a lot of minutes.
- You probably have a smartphone or a tablet plus earbuds/headphones already.
- Amplification apps amplify everything, including background noise, and not just the specific sounds you want to hear.
- Speech-to-text app performance suffers if there’s lots of background noise.
- Headphones or earbuds are essential, and your device has to be both nearby and strategically positioned to pick up the sounds you want.
- There’s no customization to your specific hearing loss or environment.
- You’re on your own due to a lack of support.
These apps are like using magnifying glasses when you have trouble reading the fine print. They won’t help you with the full spectrum of your problem, but they’re better than nothing.
#2 – Over-The-Counter (OTC) Hearing Aids
Way back in 2017, the U.S. Federal government passed the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act to improve access to affordable hearing aids.
Things stalled for a while, however. Then the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a final rule
in 2022 which clarified the Act. Now consumers with mild to moderate hearing losses can more easily purchase hearing aids directly from stores or online retailers.
An over-the-counter (OTC) device can be purchased without a hearing assessment of any kind. That’s both good and bad. While you might like the idea of not needing an assessment, that also means there’s no medical exam, prescription, or fitting adjustment by an audiologist. You also have to fit the devices yourself and tweak the settings on your own.
The result is that you might purchase a device that’s wholly inadequate for your needs.
What’s more, OTC hearing aids have limited functionality. They’re a more portable (and therefore expensive) version of the app-and-earbud/headphone solution we discussed above.
- OTC hearing aids are available in many retail stores and other places you might go shopping.
- They can also be purchased online, which makes feature and price comparisons easier.
- OTC hearing aids aren’t matched to your individual hearing loss and may not help you at all.
- The “one-size-fits-all” design could be uncomfortable over long periods of use.
- Support will be minimal or non-existent.
- OTC devices are unlikely to have any useful warranty beyond a standard store return policy.
In short, OTC hearing aids offer a bit more than smartphone or tablet apps but at a higher cost. They’re still generic options that don’t take into account the specifics of your unique hearing loss.
We talk a bit more about OTC hearing aids on this page.
#3 – PSAPs (Personal Sound Amplification Products)
A PSAP (personal sound amplification product) is an amplification tool and is therefore broadly similar to the first two options we just discussed. They simply take in sound through a small built-in microphone and then amplify it in your ears.
However, PSAPs aren’t regulated by the FDA. This means they can’t be marketed as devices that help with hearing loss. That’s the main distinction they have from OTC hearing aids.
Otherwise, they are quite similar and may provide some help if you have only a mild hearing loss. They offer “one-size-fits-all” amplification with little room for adjustments.
- PSAPs are like OTC hearing aids in that they’re easy to purchase online or in a retail store.
- They’re more expensive than apps but cheaper than OTC devices.
- All the same cons as for OTC hearing aids: they’re not tailored to your hearing loss and may not help at all, they might be uncomfortable and provide poor performance, and support and warranties will be disappointing.
As with OTC hearing aids, PSAPs are not long-term solutions nor are they suitable if you have more than a mild hearing loss.
#4 – Online Hearing Aids with Audiological Remote Support/Direct-To-Consumer
There’s a certain attraction to staying at home and being remotely treated for your hearing loss via the Internet. Online hearing technology and audiology service support means you don’t have to visit a doctor or an audiologist.
It’s convenient, easy, and the prices are reasonable. However, the online hearing assessments these services provide are often inaccurate. This will result in incorrect programming for the devices you eventually buy.
While direct-to-customer online solutions allow you to make minor adjustments through a smartphone app or a video call with one of their online audiologists, these adjustments aren’t truly personalized. That’s because the provided devices simply match commonly used gain and slope hearing loss targets that (at best) approximate your hearing loss. These standard profiles may not help you very much.
Having said that, you get at least a small amount of customization and the services are convenient and affordable.
- Remote services make it easy and convenient to purchase online.
- You receive hearing technology offered by a reputable manufacturer.
- Your devices often come with a money-back guarantee.
- The online assessment can be inaccurate, and nobody physically looks into your ears, meaning that there may be other reasons for a hearing loss, such as earwax or other blockages.
- You receive no in-person support, help, or attention, and you often speak to a different audiologist each time, making remote support rather impersonal.
- You also don’t receive any insurance benefits.
A direct-to-consumer online service might help you. Just understand this is like completing a vision self-test at home and having a company mail you eyeglasses based on those results. Your mileage may vary.
#5 – Big Box Retail Stores (Costco/Sam’s Club, Etc.)
Does your local Costco or Sam’s Club offer an internal hearing aid center?
If so (and you’re serious about getting genuinely customized hearing technology to help you), this is by far the best option of the ones we’ve discussed so far.
That’s because you’ll receive a professional hearing assessment to diagnose and measure your level of hearing loss. These centers also offer Kirkland brand hearing aids plus other reputable manufacturers’ technology once they determine your needs.
While prices can be somewhat high, the technology is good, and you receive a professional fitting by a trained hearing aid dispenser too. Your warranty will protect you from 1 to 3 years depending on where you purchase.
There’s a downside, however. The big box retail environment can mean long wait times for follow-up care and support. That includes the appointments you need to replace lost or damaged devices.
We provide a longer assessment of what Costco provides as compared to our own service.
- You get a professional hearing screening and in-person fitting as well as professional technology protected by a warranty.
- You can return for help, device cleaning, and other support as needed.
- There’s no comprehensive or advanced hearing evaluation which could pinpoint the real source of your problem.
- Getting a support appointment or ongoing services sometimes means a long wait.
- Your insurance is not available here, and payment plans aren’t available either.
- You need to be a member of that big box retailer and a membership fee is often required.
#6 – Audiological Care within a Clinic
This is the most traditional approach and it’s what we offer at Gulf Gate.
You visit one of our professional audiologists and receive a comprehensive hearing assessment. Unlike what Costco offers, this assessment examines not only your hearing levels but also your overall hearing health.
This gives our audiologists the data to recommend the ideal hearing technology for your needs, including the very latest technology without limitations.
An audiological clinic like ours also offers professional fittings as well as ongoing support and care, including cleanings, readjustments, and repairs as needed. Most appointments can be made within 48 hours.
What’s more, your device will usually come with extended warranties and protections, plus you can use your insurance or payment plans if you wish.
- You’re personally treated by a doctor of audiology and receive ongoing in-person care.
- You’re fitted with the latest technology from a leading manufacturer.
- You receive a warranty and other protections lasting several years.
- You can use your insurance, while convenient payment plans are available.
- You’re also one of a small number of valued patients, as you’re working with a small business rather than a large corporation.
- You have to attend multiple appointments to ensure complete accuracy of all assessments, fittings, and adjustments.
This is the hearing equivalent to visiting an optometrist. Everything is professional and you have all the support you need. Your hearing health is the key priority throughout the process.
#7 – Hearing Loss Surgery (Cochlear Implants)
There’s one more hearing treatment available if your hearing loss is severe: a cochlear implant.
A cochlear implant is an electronic medical device surgically implanted inside your cochlea (inner ear). It converts the sounds from the air into electrical impulses your brain can interpret. Essentially, it replaces your natural cochlear function.
An implant is only necessary if you have a severe hearing loss in both ears that can’t be addressed by traditional hearing aids. Then it may be your best, or even only, option.
However, there are two drawbacks: the fact it requires surgery and the cost (the operation can cost between $30,000 and $50,000). While this is often covered by insurance, any replacement parts in the future (such as new batteries) may not be covered.
- Your insurance may cover the initial operation.
- This may be the only viable solution for you if you have a severe hearing loss.
- The device will be fitted to your specific needs.
- The solution is very expensive, with costs ranging between $30,000 and $50,000.
- Your insurance might not cover replacement parts, such as batteries.
- Surgery may be a stressful and even frightening prospect for you.
- Because you have an implant, you will not be able to undergo MRI tests or certain other medical procedures in the vicinity of your head.
- The surgery might eliminate any residual hearing you still have.
We’re one of the only audiology clinics in Florida to offer this service.
Here’s What to Do Next
Hopefully, you have a good basic understanding of the various options available to you. But ultimately, the best choice depends on your circumstances, preferences, and of course budget.
Can we help you get closer to a decision on that?
Our professional audiologists are available in Sarasota to help you right now. If you have any questions or need any clarification about how we can help you, you can call us at (941) 922-5894.
You can also message us on our Contact page or request an appointment too.
Just let us know how we can help. Let us guide you toward a better and more confident life with the right hearing solution that meets your personal needs.
Go ahead and chat with us today!