What to Know about Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids

What to Know about Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids

The price of hearing aids has been a much-discussed challenge for years. In fact, the high cost of these devices has kept many older adults from making a purchase. The struggle it causes for couples and families isn’t always obvious.

Partners may not be able to watch television or listen to music together because of disagreements over volume. Even carrying on a conversation can be difficult. This situation is fairly common.

The Statistics on Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can be caused by many factors. They range from working or living in a loud environment to trauma, age, nutritional deficits, or an infection. Here are a few things to know about hearing loss:

  • Trouble hearing is fairly common. Almost 15% of American adults ages 18 and over experience some problem with their hearing.
  • Men between the ages of 20 and 69 are twice as likely to have hearing loss as women of the same age.
  • Age is the leading indicator of a decline in hearing. People between the ages of 60 and 69 experience the greatest amount of hearing loss.
  • About 28.8 million people in the U.S. could benefit from using hearing aids.

Until recently, cost was a significant barrier to purchasing hearing aids. The process required multiple appointments with a licensed hearing professional followed by a purchase price of as much as $6,000. Few health insurance companies even covered the expense. Then a new rule went into effect in the fall of 2022 that made things easier and less expensive.

What to Know about Over-the-Counter (OTC) Hearing Aids

In 2017, a new law was passed that made hearing aids more accessible and affordable. It went into effect in the fall of 2022. The new law is for adults only and includes standards for safety and effectiveness. It also includes limits on how much the sound can be amplified (to avoid further damage to hearing), as well as stipulations related to the severity of the hearing impairment.

The good news is OTC models cost significantly less. They range in price from $200 to $1,000. As you are deciding which one might be a good fit, experts say to keep the following in mind:

  • Customization: While the preset OTC hearing aid model works for an estimated 68% of people, others will need one that is customizable. The self-fitting style is more expensive but allows the wearer to finely tune settings like amplification and frequencies.
  • Shape: OTC hearing aids come in two styles. One is placed inside the ear, and the other goes behind the ear. Each has its own pros and cons. It’s a good idea to experiment with each one to see which is a better fit for you. That includes trying to manipulate features.
  • Customer service: As is true of any new device, customer service can play a role in how well it works for you. Be sure to ask each company you are considering what days and hours their customer service is available. Also ask about how much support you will receive during the initial set-up and in the future.
  • Return policy: While no one goes into a purchase like this thinking it won’t work, things sometimes go wrong. Make sure the company has a good return policy and offers a warranty.

Shopping for an OTC hearing aid can be daunting. Fortunately, there are a variety of credible organizations that have reviewed products and shared their findings. Consumer Report’s “Best Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids for You” is one you may find useful.

Tour a Heritage Community This Spring

Spring is a great time to begin the search for a senior living community for yourself or a loved one. With communities throughout Michigan and one in Indiana, Heritage is likely to have a location that meets your needs. Call today to schedule a private visit and tour!

Can Olfactory Enrichment Improve Memory Loss?

Can Olfactory Enrichment Improve Memory Loss?

Dear Donna:

My mom was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. At this point, we are trying to learn more about the disease and if there is anything we can do to slow the progression. We are also trying to plan for her current and future care needs. It feels like a lot.

I recently caught the very end of a radio interview about using different smells to treat Alzheimer’s. It also covered how the sense of smell may be linked to neurological conditions, like dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

Are you aware of any credible research on this topic? I’m trying to explore every avenue I can.


Elise in Pittsford Township, MI

Can Smells Impact Alzheimer’s?

Dear Elise:

While it sounds like you are on the right track in understanding and preparing for your mom’s long-term needs, it is understandable that you are feeling overwhelmed. It can be so much for families.

You’ve asked a great question regarding how smells may impact Alzheimer’s. It’s an interesting topic, for sure. Researchers have long believed the loss of smell, whether caused by environmental factors, age, sinus problems, or something else, can increase a person’s risk for certain neurological conditions. Those range from Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s to schizophrenia.

The olfactory system, which is responsible for the sense of smell, is comprised of the nostrils, the ethmoid bone, the nasal cavity, and layers of tissue that line the nasal cavity. The olfactory system is also directly connected to the body’s limbic system, the area of the brain responsible for memory and emotion.

This proximity is one reason researchers are so interested in exploring the topic. One of the most recent studies is from the University of California, Irvine (UCI). Its lead researcher is Dr. Michael Leon, Professor Emeritus of the Institute of Memory Impairment & Disorders at UCI. He has been studying memory loss for over three decades.

Leon believes aging and memory go hand-in-hand with a sense of smell. It’s thought that as the ability to smell is diminished or lost completely, the brain is at risk for a host of health problems. While his team’s study was too small to reach a solid conclusion, the preliminary findings are encouraging.

People who received olfactory enrichment in the form of seven different diffused essential oils showed significant improvements in verbal learning and memory. In fact, when using the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT), the enrichment group showed a 226% difference in performance.

You can find and read the full study, “Overnight olfactory enrichment using an odorant diffuser improves memory and modifies the uncinate fasciculus in older adults,” online. It was published in Frontiers in Neuroscience on July 24, 2023.

I hope this information is helpful. Please let me know if you have any more questions.

Kind regards,


Dementia Care at Heritage Senior Communities

Having a thoughtfully-designed, controlled environment helps adults with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia live their best quality of life. At Heritage Senior Communities, we offer specialized dementia care at our Michigan communities. Our person-centered approach to care includes dedicated programs, such as for dining services and life enrichment activities.

If you are searching for a memory care community for a Michigan loved one, we invite you to call the Heritage memory care community nearest you. One of our team members will be happy to arrange a tour and answer any questions you may have!

How to Make New Friends after Moving to a Senior Community

How to Make New Friends after Moving to a Senior Community

Dear Donna:

I’m planning to relocate to a senior living community this summer. While I live in Florida now, my search is taking me to the Holland, Michigan, area to be closer to my daughter and her family. It will make it easier for us to be more involved in one another’s lives.

I’ve been considering this move for a while and feel it’s a good decision. However, I’ve been a resident of Florida for almost 30 years. Nearly all of my friends are here, as are my doctors, my church, and my volunteer work. The idea of starting over is daunting. Do you have some ideas to make rebuilding my social circle easier? It might help me prepare for this next chapter in life.



Tips for Making New Friends after Moving to a Senior Living Community

Dear Elizabeth:

First, it sounds like you have much to look forward to, especially being closer to your grandkids! And Holland, Michigan, is such a lovely area of the country to call home. But I understand how intimidating it may seem. Preparing ahead of time, like you are doing, is a great idea. Just in case you aren’t sure how to start your search, these tips might be helpful.

As far as rebuilding your social circle after a move to a senior living community, I do have a few ideas that I hope will be useful.

  • Explore communities convenient to family.

Since you mentioned that you are just beginning your search for a senior community, my first suggestion is to carefully consider the location. While proximity to your daughter and her family shouldn’t be the top or only priority, it should be high on your list. That will make it easier for you to visit and help with the grandkids and for them to be involved in activities at your community.

  • Research the Holland area online.

Another tip is to spend time online researching the Holland area. You already have the advantage of your daughter living there, but exploring opportunities of interest to you is important. For example, since you mentioned that you are currently involved in volunteer work, you could look around online to see which organizations might be looking for help. It’s also a good way to look up churches, doctors, and more.

  • Get on newsletter and email lists.

Ask all of the senior living communities that you are seriously considering to put you on their lists to receive their newsletters and event information. While the distance will obviously prevent you from attending activities and programs, it will give you a chance to learn more about what happens each day. That will give you a head start once you move and are ready to participate in activities. If you do make personal visits to the communities before making a decision, which we always recommend, plan to attend an event or two when you are in town.

  • Be patient but also put yourself out there.

My last suggestion is to give yourself time to settle in, but to also take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. That might include enjoying a cup of coffee in a common area of the community with neighbors or joining a morning stretching class. If you are a little hesitant to attend activities and events on your own, ask the life enrichment team to introduce you to neighbors who might share your interests. You could also invite family members to join you for a program.

I hope these suggestions are helpful to you, Elizabeth. And I’d like to encourage you to keep Heritage Senior Communities in the Holland area on your list. One of our team members will be happy to take you on a tour, answer any questions you might have, and invite you to one of our daily life enrichment activities.

Kind regards,


How Seniors Can Stay Safe Shopping Online

How Seniors Can Stay Safe Shopping Online

Online shopping has become a convenience many people rely on and take advantage of almost daily. It’s so easy to order whatever you need from the comfort of your sofa and have it all delivered right to your front porch. As more shopping malls and discount stores are shuttered due to decreasing foot traffic, online bargain hunting has become a necessity. That means learning how to shop safely online is important.

For those who are less tech-savvy, it’s easy to fall into traps that can cost you a lot of money. Research shows as many as 50% of Americans who shop online have experienced a cyber hack. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center estimates people over the age of 65 lost $3.1 billion in 2022 alone.

What can you do to protect yourself while shopping online? We have a few tips that might help you stay safe.

Be On Guard Against Online Shopping Scams

  • Use credit cards, never debit cards.

Debit cards might help you avoid overspending, but they can also put your bank account at risk for hacking and fraud. This is especially true when shopping online. If you pay for an order by debit card and the site is a scam, a thief can empty your financial account before you realize something is wrong. While your bank will usually return the funds eventually, your accounts may be frozen until the investigation is complete. In contrast, when you use a credit card to make a purchase from an illegitimate website, the credit card company will usually take quick action to protect your account.

  • Stick to stores you know and trust.

Social media is another way criminals target people for fraud. Scammers buy ads featuring attractive clothing, vacations, and household items for too-good-to-be-true prices. People click on the links not realizing they aren’t legitimate companies. Shoppers’ products never arrive, their credit card numbers are stolen, or both. Avoid this problem by making online purchases only from stores you know and trust, such as those you’ve visited in person. Also, be sure you go directly to the store’s website using a Google search. Never click on and follow links you receive via email or on social media, no matter how realistic they look.

  • Check site security before ordering.

Another essential safety tip for online ordering is to verify the website is secure. It’s fairly easy to do. Check to make sure the site’s web address begins with “https” and has a tiny icon of a lock next to it. That combination signals a site is secure. If you don’t see that lock or the “s” after “http,” it’s best to avoid shopping on the site. Doing so might put you at risk for identity theft or other types of financial scams.

  • Monitor financial accounts.

Finally, make it a habit to check your financial accounts regularly. That might mean not setting up your accounts to pay bills automatically. When you do so, it’s tempting to skip routinely reviewing online statements. That could lead to fraudulent activity being unnoticed for months. Apply this practice to credit cards, investment accounts, and banking. It’s also a good idea to take advantage of alert systems most financial institutions have available. You can set up notifications so you are contacted by phone or text when a major charge is made, an account balance reaches a pre-set limit, or there is a login from a new device.

Bookmark the Heritage Blog

If you found this article to be of interest, we encourage you to bookmark this blog and visit often. Each week, we share a new post on topics ranging from caregiving and healthy aging to dementia and senior care.