The process of buying hearing aids was in the past much easier. There were only a small number of styles to select from and they all ultimately functioned the same way, which was to say not very well.
It wasn’t until digital technology was integrated into the design that hearing aids became practical solutions for the restoration of hearing. And with digital technology, a variety of features became readily available to deal with a wide variety of listening circumstances.
But that’s the tradeoff—simple choices that brought about inadequate results are now difficult choices with lots of options.
But complicated does not mean impossible, and the time spent is well worth the improvement in hearing you can enjoy. It’s also why it’s important to work with an experienced hearing specialist that can guide you through all of the relevant considerations.
Here are six factors to look for when buying hearing aids, along with the questions to ask your hearing specialist.
Hearing amplification products are not all created equal. In fact, the difference between the cheapest personal sound amplifier and the highest end digital hearing aid is the difference between a Ford Pinto and a Porsche.
Although you may not need the highest end hearing aid model on the market, the main difference you should be worried about between a personal amplifier and a hearing aid is programmability.
Hearing aids should be programmed to amplify sounds according to your distinctive hearing loss. Otherwise, all sound will be amplified uniformly and that’s not going to help you hear speech any better than before.
Ask your hearing specialist about programming potential, including pre-programed settings you can use in different circumstances, like at a restaurant as opposed to at home.
2. Hearing aid style
Hearing aids come in several sizes and styles, ranging from behind-the-ear to completely in the ear canal.
You’ll need to balance cost, functionality, ease-of-use, and aesthetics when making your choice on hearing aid styles. You’ll also want to work together with a hearing professional on this one, as many factors should be considered, including the level of your hearing loss.
3. Directional microphones
People invest in hearing aids for a variety of reasons and to hear a mixture of sounds, but the central reason is to hear and understand speech.
If that’s the case for you, you’ll want to ask about directional microphones in any hearing aid you’re considering.
Hearing aids with directionality contain two or more microphones positioned at a specified distance from each other within the hearing aid. The difference in arrival time of sound to each microphone then dictates how the hearing aid responds to the sound.
This helps the hearing aid to focus on the specific sound source in front of you, which if it’s a person, will be the sounds of speech.
4. Background noise reduction
Background noise and feedback suppression are built into the majority of digital hearing aid models, but you’ll want to confirm this with any model you’re considering.
Hearing aids contain a microprocessor that can discern between high-frequency sounds (like speech) and low-frequency sounds (like background noise). The microprocessor can then amplify speech while curbing everything else.
A telecoil is a small copper coil integrated into the hearing aid. While that doesn’t sound all that spectacular, what it can achieve undeniably is.
Telecoils make it possible for you to speak on the phone without feedback and connect to hearing loop systems. For instance, if a hearing loop system is installed in a church or movie theater, sound will be transmitted directly to your hearing aid for maximum clarity.
Hearing loops can also be installed in home theater systems for the equivalent effect. Ask your hearing specialist for more details.
6. Wireless connection
Did you just buy a new iPhone or smartphone?
If that’s the case, you may want to give some thought to investing in compatible hearing aids that connect wirelessly to these devices. That way, you can stream telephone calls and music directly to your hearing aids for optimal sound quality.
Your smartphone can even be used as your hearing aid remote control, whereby you can inconspicuously regulate the volume and settings.
There’s a lot to think about when selecting a hearing aid, which is why it’s vital to work with a trustworthy and knowledgeable hearing care expert.
Are you ready to find your ideal hearing aid?