How to start researching hearing aids

I'm in my 40s and dealing with some hearing loss. I'm just not sure where to start. My insurance has been way less than helpful so I'm happy to pay out of pocket if something will actually help.

If I'm at a live show, I can catch most of what the performers/comedian/whatever is saying, but not all of it. In conversations I have to ask people to repeat themselves a lot even if there's no background noise.  But it's weird, it's like I'm hearing the sound but can't quite process the word the sounds make. I don't really understand.

I have tinnitus too.

Is this something hearing aids will help? Are there different kinds of hearing aids? Any help is really appreciated!!

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I also have hearing loss though not quite that bad and I am 60. I highly recommend going to an audiologist and getting your levels tested. They can recommend the best options depending on your results and you can go from there. I recommend Berkeley Hearing Center.

Oh my goodness, yes. My hearing has been changing, too. 
First I couldn’t hear the yoga teacher speaking gently during savasana. I got every fifth word. Next I couldn’t understand the agent through those thick movie-theatre glass windows. I got a hearing test at Costco and the audiologist reported that my hearing was fine. Not true! 

It progressed.  If people are facing away from me I can’t understand. My teenager can be very soft-spoken and she is personally insulted when I don’t hear her. And refuses to repeat herself. But that’s another story. 
i find myself turning my head back and forth during conversations hoping that one ear will do better. (Do I look like a mad cow?)

I went back to Costco two years ago and the audiologist stated that there were some changes but that I would go nuts with hearing aids and not use them but come back in a year or two. So I’m due. 
Clearly my hearing impairment is affecting my quality of life at this point. Id like to find a hearing aid that amplifies only the frequencies that I can’t hear well. The typical hearing aids just blast the volume of everything. 
My understanding is that I have hearing loss in the higher frequency range only. This means that certain consonants are indistinguishable to me.  I think that’s why reading lips helps me. So I can tell if they are saying “f” vs “”ch” or “st”.
I saw an older comic on TikTok talking about hearing changes who after receiving her boarding pass was directed to go to the “Make Believe” lounge until boarding. She was puzzled until arriving at the “Maple Leaf” lounge. This kind of thing happens to me often. I need to move ahead with hearing aids! I already wear glasses to read anything within 2 feet and take hormones and magnesium for sleep. Good Luck and looking forward to responses. 

Yes! I'm in my late 30s and got hearing aids last year for similar issues. I have trouble hearing in crowds/restaurants and I can't make out words when watching TV. Insurance doesn't cover hearing aids for anyone, so I'm not surprised they're not helpful (although it is really annoying). You should start by seeing an audiologist, they'll do a hearing test and tell you about the different types of hearing aids. Different brands are better for different types of hearing loss. The hearing aids take a bit to get used to but they're really amazing and no one I've met has even noticed I'm wearing them.

So sorry that you are experiencing hearing loss!  There are many causes that are not related to of aging..

I have a single-gene disorder called otosclerosis that presented when I was still a student at UCB. Symptoms are similar to what you describe.

Sounds like you need a diagnostic workup with a good ear, nose, and throat doctor.  They used to be called otolaryngologists (sp?) but are now called something like "head and neck" specialists. Perhaps others in the BPN can make recommendations. My world-class ear doctor (Bernard Drury) retired and I am between doctors now my self.

After the physical exam - removing ear wax, documenting any history of infections, family history, traumatic insults (like gunfire or loud alarm bells going off right next to your ear) a diagnostic audiogram will be ordered.  The audiologist puts headphones on you and plays electronic tones at different frequencies, from about 20 Hz to 20KHz. Ypu push a button when you hear a tone. The audiologist plots a graph of which frequencies you can hear, and which are attenuated by the disease process, and how many deciBels are lost in each band.

With the audiogram, the audiologist can prescribe a hearing aid to match your particular frequency response.

Some people can get satisfactory hearing aids at CostCo.  Personally, I use Hearing Science of Walnut Creek, who are very customer-service oriented and not cheap.

I have had hearing loss for nearly half a century, and am still able to function very well.

If you DO have otosclerosis (which is characterized by a loss of low frequencies, like male speaking voices), immense improvements can be seen in many people who get a simple outpatient surgery - a stapedectomy.

In the meantime, there are some tricks to help communication:

Train your family to not try to talk to you when they're not in the same room with you.

If you miss one phoneme of what someone says - for example, someone says "The required training program I took today was (mumble)", instead of asking them to repeat the whole sentence, ask "What did you say about the training you took today?"  Missing one phoneme can alter your understanding of the entire sentence.

Learn to love closed captions on movies and TV shows.

It is a shock to have a mild (or not-so-mild) hearing disability at a fairly young age, but it will not ruin your life. You can learn to adapt to it.

Wishing you all the best.

Start by going to an audiologist to get your hearing checked. I go to HearingZone, which has an Oakland and Alameda location ( You'll be able to learn what kind of hearing loss you might have, and they can answer any questions you have about hearing aids. 

I cannot recommend more highly Jessa Musico Traylor at the Berkeley Hearing Center on San Pablo Avenue. I saw her years ago when she was at the Herrick campus of Alta Bates, and in addition to doing the testing and diagnosing a less common hearing loss, she gave me an education in coping with limited hearing, along with a Kind bar because it was 12:30 and I hadn't had time to stop for lunch. I didn't actually get the hearing aids until 4 years later (I was in denial, they were expensive...) but when i went back to her she was cheerful, understanding, supportive and I'm so happy to have them. Insurance covered a small amount. One of the things I learned from Jessa is just how hearing loss can contribute to cognitive decline, and I can tell how much more bandwidth I have because I'm not struggling to hear. Best of luck to you.

I have exactly the same kind of hearing loss as you. After a couple years of living in denial, I ordered some hearing aids online after they became available "over the counter" in 2022. I have not been super happy with them, and they were very expensive (several thousand $$). The customer service is very good and responsive, but I don't feel like they help me enough. I would recommend working with a hearing aid center in person. Hearing aids are not like glasses (which I also wear) in that you have to get used to them. Glasses you put them on and can immediately see better, and see everything. Hearing aids you have to kind of "learn" how to hear with them, and they amplify different sounds differently. Also you wear them all day; you can't just take them off and put them on like glasses. 

My husband had otosclerosis and had stapedectomies in both ears and his hearing is much better now. I hoped that my hearing loss could similarly be helped by surgery but alas no. They did a conductive hearing test (literally seeing if you hear better with the sound touching the bone behind your ear) and my hearing loss is not reparable surgically. 

Good luck and I hope you find hearing aids that really help. 

p.s. the comedian who thought she heard "Make Believe Lounge" is Tig Notaro and she is hilarious. 

I highly recommend first getting a medical check and thorough hearing test up to rule out any medical issues (I saw an ENT and their associated audiology clinic, which were covered with a small co-pay like other medical visits), and then contact the Center for Better Hearing at El Cerrito Plaza.  They are very skilled and professional. They explained my many options, helped me figure out what kind of hearing aids might work best for me, and then, importantly, let me test them our for as long as I needed, with no pressure, before I ordered.  Even then, when the ones I ordered were a little heavier than expected (not exactly like to samples I'd tried), it was no problem at all to switch to something different; I believe I had up to 12 weeks to change my mind. They adjusted the settings (such as amplifying some frequencies more than others) until I was absolutely comfortable.  They schedule regular cleaning, as well as adjustments (which are occassionally needed) - all at no extra charge. I am so happy to have my hearing aids!

Contrary to what others have suggested here, modern hearing aids do not just amplify everything the same amount; they are quite finely adjustable, depending on your particular pattern of hearing loss - which may even be different in each ear.  Some offer apps so you can also adjust in the moment for specific settings/situations (I've never used mine, so can't comment on it).  If you do get hearing aids, I highly recommend getting rechargeable ones - no tiny batteries to constantly buy, dispose of, and replace.  The charger has a usb option, so no worries if you travel. Mine (and most these days?) has bluetooth capability, so it's like having airpods when I listen to any bluetooth capable device, including using my phone, if I turn it on.

Also, it's not necessarily true that your health insurance won't cover any of it.  I suspect that most don't cover the whole cost, but my HMO insurance covered a good portion of it (The Center for Better Hearing is "in network" for my insurance, and they helped get all of the required prescription details, etc.), and I was able to use my FSA funds toward the rest. Check your own policy details before you assume anything.

no sure if you had covid or not. i had a bad bout in july 2022... wrecked my hearing. my audiologist confirmed that covid is definitely a culprit. i technically qualify for hearing aids and have tinnitus 24/7 now. i have trouble hearing voices of certain pitches, usually women but also men, usually soft spoken individuals. the kicker is if i'd made the connection right away, there was a steroid injection therapy that may have had a chance to save some or all of my hearing. my specialist said the window of opportunity was 3-4 weeks for that. i'm still angry that NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT THESE ISSUES. covid is a vascular disease and it can cause problems anywhere in the body. unfortunately for me, it caused inflammation in my ears and wrecked my hearing. wishing you the best of luck with the hearing technology. i'm shopping around for mine now as well.