Hearing impairment is considered to be one of the most common physical impairments. For about 700,000 Israelis hearing impairment presents a daily challenge to their ability to listen and communicate effectively with those around them and to function independently.

The questions and answers presented here will help you determine if you or one of your family members has hearing loss and what can be done about it in various day to day situations.

Did you know?

  • One in ten people suffers from hearing impairment.
  • At age 65, one in every three people suffers from hearing impairment.
  • Hearing impairment is considered to be one of the most common physical impairments!

I recently sat in the front row at a lecture and could not understand much of what was said. Do I suffer from hearing impairment?

Yes, this is one sign of hearing impairment. There are other signs of hearing impairment, as well. Ask yourself the following questions, and if you answer "yes" to a number of them, it is possible that you suffer from hearing impairment. Do you...

  • Often ask people to repeat what they have said?
  • Answer questions inappropriately?
  • Concentrate intensely on the speaker in order to hear?
  • Not hear people when they speak behind you?
  • Turn up the volume on the TV?
  • Have trouble hearing when speaking on the phone?

What causes hearing impairment?

Hearing impairment may be caused by exposure to noise, aging, hereditary factors, specific medications, illness during pregnancy, etc.

Hearing impairment may also be caused by an ear infection, a rupture of the ear drum, excessive wax buildup, etc.

To what extent does noise affect hearing?

Prolonged exposure to loud noise, such as in industry, the military or listening to loud music, can cause permanent damage to the inner ear.

There is no medical treatment that can fix hearing impairment caused as a result of exposure to noise; therefore, means of prevention and protection are essential.

What do I do if I think I'm suffering from hearing loss?

Contact an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor and request a referral to an audiologist for a hearing test.

What will the hearing test results tell me?

Based on the test results, you will know if you suffer from hearing impairment, and if so, which type.

If the audiologist has told me that I have sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL), what can I do?

The audiologist will determine if you can benefit from the use of a hearing device, and if so, will recommend the appropriate type.

There are many types of hearing devices that differ in terms of their amplification capabilities, design and cost.

A certified audiologist is the only professional that can recommend a hearing device that is appropriate for your needs.

If a hearing device has been recommended for me, where can I purchase it? Do the health plans cover the expenses?

Request a list of authorized hearing centers (hearing institutes) and agents from your audiologist.

Similar to purchasing any other product, it is recommended to compare prices, payment options and service at a number of different locations.

Try to avoid purchasing a device that has not been recommended to you by your audiologist.

Most hearing institutes allow customers to try out a device before purchasing it.

At the end of the trial period you can return the device paying only use and handling fees.

Health plans provide partial funding towards the purchase of hearing devices.

Those who have purchased a hearing device are legally entitled to a reimbursement of a specified amount from their health plan.

Health plans provide additional funding for those with supplementary insurance.

The terms of supplementary insurance differ between the various health plans.

Contact your health plan in order to clarify the rights to which you are entitled.

What should I know about hearing devices?

Hearing devices do not restore normal hearing levels or completely remove background noise.

Successful use of a hearing device requires time and patience.

Adjustment to a hearing device is a gradual process that involves learning how to listen in different environments and familiarizing yourself with different sounds and voices.

It is possible that several adjustments by the audiologist may be required.

The use of hearing devices alone does not help me in some cases, like when watching TV or at a lecture. What can I do?

The use of assistive devices may be beneficial, even if you also have a hearing device.

Hearing assistive devices allow for amplification of the source of a sound in different environments, such as at home (when watching TV); in conversation with a small group; in a large auditorium )when watching a presentation or lecture); or when outside.

The audiologist has recommended 2 hearing devices and I don't understand why. Isn't one enough?

  • The auditory center in the brain is accustomed to receiving bilateral stimulation from both ears. Two hearing devices better mimics natural hearing. Additionally, two devices allows for full stereophonic hearing.
  • Two hearing devices allows for placing the direction from which a sound is coming, and allows for a quicker response time.
  • The use of two hearing devices provides an extra 3-5 dB of amplification for general hearing compared to the use of one device.
  • The use of hearing aids in both ears significantly improves the capacity to understand speech against background noise.
  • It is important to note that an ear requiring a hearing device that has not undergone rehabilitation becomes accustomed to not hearing.
  • Bilateral hearing adjustment provides a significant advantage over the use of more sophisticated technology in one ear. Therefore, it is better to purchase a pair of cheaper hearing devices than one more expensive and sophisticated device.

I hear a constant noise and high pitched tone in my head especially at night, and it makes it difficult for me to sleep. What is it? Is it related to hearing loss? Am I imagining it and is there some way to stop it?

Such noises and high pitched tones are symptoms often associated with damage to the ear or its nerves and is called tinnitus. The source of the noise is internal.

Tinnitus can range from sounds that are barely audible to sounds that are so strong that they cannot be ignored even when hearing other loud sounds and it can disrupt daily life. It is quite possible that tinnitus is more noticeable at bedtime because everything else in the surrounding environment is quieter.

Regarding treatment, there are cases where you can treat the cause, and then the tinnitus will decrease in severity or disappear. Nonetheless, the ear is an extremely complex structure and there are many possible causes of tinnitus. Unfortunately, in most cases there is no cure for the noise caused by tinnitus, but one should not conclude from the fact that there is no general cure that nothing can be done. Medical professionals in Israel are constantly performing research and today there are various methods by which relief may be provided. It is recommended to consult with your attending physician.

I have heard that there is a procedure for performing a hearing implant. Is this recommended? Is there an age limit?

Yes, there is an option called a cochlear implant.

Is it recommended? Every case and circumstance is unique and therefore this question may not be answered without consulting with physicians specializing in this field, as well as with communications clinicians who may be able to predict the success rate of both the implantation surgery and hearing rehabilitation following the implantation.

As a general rule, there are clear criteria regarding who is a candidate for a hearing implant, and they depend on the physical structure of the ear and the hearing condition itself. Individuals in their 70s and 80s have successfully undergone a hearing implant. Nonetheless, it is important to note that implant surgery is certainly a last resort and is only intended for those whose hearing loss is to such an extent that hearing devices no longer offer an adequate solution.

If you have not previously used a hearing device, it is highly recommended to start the hearing rehabilitation process using hearing devices and only then to consider the option of a cochlear implant.