Find answers to frequently asked questions about hearing aids and hearing loss. Simply click on any of the frequently asked questions below to reveal the answer.

Early signs of hearing loss include difficulty hearing certain voices, asking people to repeat themselves, thinking others are mumbling, and turning the TV volume up to a level uncomfortable for others to enjoy. If you have experienced any of these scenarios, you should see an audiologist for a formal hearing test. A proper diagnostic evaluation allows the audiologist to determine the type, nature, and degree of your hearing loss. Your hearing acuity and ability to understand speech will be assessed. The audiologist may also test for speech understanding at different volume levels and in different simulated environments. If you think you may have hearing loss, take our  5 minute quiz.

Hearing loss is not only a difficulty with hearing sound but its problem understanding speech. Understanding words and sentences is a function of your brain which relies on receiving sound signals unaltered. Your ears collect sound, transform it into nerve impulses and send it to the brain where understanding occurs. Most sensorineural hearing loss occurs in the inner ear where high-pitched sounds that are critical to the meaning to many of our words are located. If you do not understand speech easily, then you could have a hearing loss that creates this understanding problem. Today’s advanced hearing aids are engineered to the most sophisticated audiological specifications so that they help you reclaim a lost sensitivity to many of these higher pitched sounds with the goal to improve your ability to understand speech both in quiet and noise.

While hearing loss is common as we age, that doesn’t make it “normal.” You wouldn’t consider vision loss “normal,” nor should we accept hearing loss “normal.” While aging does take its toll on hearing, other contributing factors can include excessive noise exposure (prolonged loud music, gun shots, loud machinery, etc.), infections, head injury, genetic or birth defects, and drug toxicity (antibiotics, chemotherapy, radiation). Call our office today to make an appointment to see our Audiologist for a diagnostic hearing evaluation if you feel you may have a hearing loss.

Conductive hearing loss is caused by a condition or disease that blocks the movement of sound waves through the outer or middle ear. The result is a reduction in loudness of sound that reaches the inner ear. The treatment for conductive loss varies and may include surgical or pharmaceutical intervention, depending on the cause.

Sensorineural hearing loss results from damage to the inner ear and/or auditory nerve. It is the most common type of hearing loss, making up over 84% of reported cases. It is typically irreversible and permanent. It affects the intensity (or loudness) of sound, and more often than not, it reduces the clarity of speech sounds. The treatment for sensorineural hearing loss is prescriptive sound amplification through advanced digital hearing aid technology.

Hearing losses are usually categorized as conductive or sensorineural. The most common type of hearing loss is sensorineural, which is often referred to as “nerve loss.” A combination of these two types is called a “mixed hearing loss.” A unilateral hearing loss affects one ear and a bilateral hearing loss affects both ears. Treatment will depend on the type of hearing loss. While medication and surgery cannot correct a sensorineural hearing loss, hearing aids with advanced digital technology can provide amazing improvement in speech comprehension.

Advanced digital technology makes it easy to adjust your prescription as your hearing changes over time. Practically speaking, many hearing aid wearers upgrade their hearing aids as the technology improves and listening needs change.

Hearing loss is a sensory deprivation. In other words, you are depriving your brain (auditory cortex) of critical speech sounds needed to understand and communicate. Over time, the auditory cortex “forgets” how to use these speech signals, making the process of adjusting to sound amplification more challenging. Just like your muscles need exercise, so does the auditory cortex of the brain. And while you may still hear some sounds, an untreated partial loss of hearing can have a significant impact on successful management.

Furthermore, hearing loss at any level can negatively affect one’s emotional and social well-being. Left untreated, hearing loss can lead to depression, isolation from others, breakdown of relationships, insecurity, and an overall sense of helplessness. If you think that your hearing has been compromised, we strongly advise you to visit an audiologist at your earliest convenience!

In the past, hearing aids were bulky, more visible, and sometimes uncomfortable to wear. However, those days are long gone! Advanced digital miniaturization and revolutionary designs have resulted in significantly smaller devices that are both discrete and comfortable. Today’s hearing aids are aesthetically appealing, naturally comfortable and virtually unnoticeable. We even have the capability to dye the receiver tube to match your skin color!

Most physicians are experts within their specific field, but may not be up to date on the most recent advances in hearing loss management. Their training programs range from several hours to several days of review on the diagnosis, management, and impact of hearing loss. In contrast, a Doctor of Audiology must complete an undergraduate Bachelor’s degree, followed by a four-year doctoral program focused on the diagnosis and treatment of hearing and balance disorders. It is wise to rely on the expertise of an Audiologist who is thoroughly educated on the current technology of hearing aids as well as the proper management of hearing loss. The key to successfully managing ANY type of hearing loss is an accurate hearing evaluation, in addition to discussions with an audiologist regarding your specific listening challenges, so that a successful treatment plan can be created for your individual needs.

Both are licensed by the State to sell hearing aids, but the educational requirements of each are very different. To be a licensed Audiologist requires a Master’s or Doctoral Degree from an accredited University as well as national certification. Hearing Instrument Dealers/Specialists are not required to have a degree other than a high school diploma along with 80 hours of academic and practical supervision as a “fitting apprentice”. Each group is required to pass a written and practical exam administered by the State in order to be licensed. However, audiologists have a much broader scope of practice, given the educational differences between the two groups.

Yes, but let’s be realistic. Hearing aids don’t “know” exactly what you want to hear. However, they can dramatically improve communication, even in challenging situations. The truth is, noise is everywhere, usually in the form of low-pitched sounds. These lower register noises tend to compete with the weaker, high-pitched sounds that are essential to understanding speech. Modern hearing aid technology helps reduce low-pitched background noises without compromising sounds in the speech frequencies. Some hearing aids can even adjust the scope of what they detect to exclude competing sounds that may challenge the listener. The better the hearing aids, the more quickly they will adapt to the background noise. The result is improved hearing in difficult situations. You will still hear some noise, but it won’t prevent you from having a meaningful conversation with others.

While you can “get by” in certain situations with one hearing aid, you will likely experience difficulty in many communication environments. If you have hearing loss in both ears, binaural (two ear) hearing aids will be recommended. The benefits are vastly superior to a monaural (one ear) fitting. Even if hearing loss is different in each ear, two hearing aids can provide balanced hearing and improved localization of sounds. In general, speech comprehension in difficult listening situations is better when hearing aids are worn in both ears. Moreover, hearing sounds at a distance—like a television, radio, or a neighbor—requires good hearing in both ears.

Definitely! Hearing loss should be managed with the same attention you give to your vision and dental care. Hearing aids are part of that management. Initially, they require a period of re-training your brain (auditory cortex) to recognize sounds it has not perceived for some time. A stringent follow-up plan is always part of your overall treatment and is included in the costs of most devices. If a provider does not provide a follow up plan or says to call when you need them, then reconsider your purchase. If hearing aids are free with insurance, or very inexpensive, there is a reason behind the extreme discount that is likely NOT in your best interest. Periodic adjustments are required to optimize performance as your hearing and communication needs change over time. Follow-up care is essential to the comfort and performance of your hearing aids for years to come. If you purchased hearing aids elsewhere but feel that you haven’t received adequate follow-up care, call our office today so we can help you get back on track.

First introduced in 1996, digital hearing aids convert sound waves into numerical codes before amplifying them. The code also includes information about a sound’s pitch or loudness, allowing the aid to be custom-programmed to amplify certain sound frequencies more than others. As a result, digital hearing aids offer more flexibility in adjusting the aid to compensate for a user’s unique hearing loss as well as certain listening environments. Each hearing aid manufacturer creates chips with their own unique digital code to allow for automatic volume control, less feedback (squealing), and other high-performance capabilities. As with computers, hearing aids are not created equal, and what a hearing aid looks like has little to do with how well it performs. Quality is determined by the chip inside the hearing aid, and new generations of digital chips are released with improved technology almost yearly.

We accept cash, checks, and all major credit cards. However, if you prefer financing with a convenient payment plan, we offer several financing options.

Alabama Hearing Associates participates in most insurance plans, including Medicare and Blue Cross & Blue Shield. Unfortunately, Medicare and most insurances carriers do not offer a hearing aid benefit. However, a few policies will pay for a good portion of hearing aid costs. One example is Federal Blue Cross & Blue Shield, which is available to most government workers, contractors, and retirees. Federal Blue Cross & Blue Shield pays up to $2,500 toward a pair of hearing aids. If the patient chooses a pair of hearing aids that cost $5,000, his or her out-of-pocket expense would be $2,500. Our staff will be happy to work with you to verify your benefits when you make an appointment for a complimentary consultation.

Hearing aids can have a variety of sophisticated features, and are priced according to performance. As with most technology, the more feature-enhanced capabilities, the higher the cost. Our audiologists spend considerable time learning about your specific communication challenges to determine the best solution for your listening needs and budget. Individuals with a limited lifestyle benefit from products that cost less but which have fewer features than more expensive devices. Individuals that are still active at work or in retirement are more successful using more expensive hearing aids with enhanced features, which in turn make the devices adaptive to various acoustic environments.

The best hearing aids are those that improve your personal communication challenges. Hearing aids come in many sizes, styles, and features. Your individual hearing loss, lifestyle, listening environments, cosmetic concerns, manual dexterity, and budget are all crucial factors in finding the best individual solution. During your complimentary consultation, your audiologist will present the best options for your specific needs.


We promise our patients the following:

schedule an appointment today


Dr. Jan Liles and Dr. Susan Sheehy are audiologists, business partners, and great friends. In this, the first of many installments, you’ll meet the AuD Couple.

Listen to the Webcast


  • “Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!!!! In two visits you’ve brought my hearing levels close to perfect for me. Not exactly sure how, but the last session settings have me hearing the television at a near normal volume level without using the 4th ‘outdoor’ setting (which works perfectly as well). The fitting is comfortable, without any slippage of device or feedback. After nearly 4 years, I finally feel like the devices are worthwhile.”

  • “Dr. Jan Liles at Alabama Hearing Associates has demonstrated integrity, professional competence, patience, and a true interest in improving my ability to hear. She was candid from the beginning, acknowledging that I have a very difficult hearing loss and will never hear as I did before. She has gone the extra mile in attempting to improve my hearing, trying four different hearing aids over a period of several months, patiently listening to my observations about each one, and helping me to chose the hearing aid best suited for me. After the selection, she continues to work dilligently with me to make sure that I receive the maximum benefit from my hearing aids.”

  • “Progressive hearing loss has made it necessary for me to wear first one, now two hearing aids, since the mid-1980’s. During the past twenty years I have lived in various places from a small island 3,500 miles southwest of Hawaii, to New Mexico, to Colorado, and finally to Huntsville, Alabama. This has given me experience with a wide range of approaches to audiology. Dr. Susan Sheehy and Dr. Jan Liles are way ahead of others I’ve worked with. Their competence in and use of the fast-evolving hearing aid technology gives them a broad range of options to chose from. This competence backs up their determination to find the best hearing solution for each patient.”

  • “The audiologists at Alabama Hearing Associates are the most caring and helpful people I have had the privilege of knowing. From the very first day that I stepped into their office, their only concern was to help me. They wanted to be sure that the hearing aids I purchased were the right ones for me and that I would be happy with them. Unlike the previous company I purchased hearing aids from (which I can’t wear because they were not right for me), they did not try to sell me the most expensive aids. Their only concern was for me and my satisfaction with the hearing aids.”

  • “For the past 10 years I have had progressive hearing loss, and have worked with audiologists in Birmingham and Huntsville without success. Then Dr. Jan Liles came into my life and it all changed. She is knowledgeable, professional, caring, and compassionate. Dr. Liles immediately identified my needs and took time to make me a vital part of all decisions regarding the hearing aids that best suited my hearing loss. Dr. Liles has given me the ability to hear and understand what my grandchildren are saying and that is a very special gift! I am indebted to Dr. Liles and Dr. Sheehy for having the foresight to see the need in our community for their professional services.”

  • “I have worn hearing aids since I was nine years old. Until I met Jan and Susan at Alabama Hearing Associates, I had never dealt with such professional, caring, patient, and compassionate people. They have really helped me and I will be forever grateful to them!”

  • “I am extremely happy with the care I have received at Alabama Hearing Associates. I was impressed from the very beginning with the ability of Dr. Liles and Dr. Sheehy to be very professional and yet still relate to me on a personal level. I immediately felt comfortable and confident that I had chosen the right people to meet my hearing needs”