Hearing aid guides are not uncommon, but most are not quite reader-friendly, either. Many are generally too lengthy or complicated, creating more perplexity rather than less.
My guess is that you’re much less interested in the physiology of hearing or in the intricacies of acoustical engineering and more interested in obtaining the most suitable technology at a reasonable price. Your goal is to hear better, not to read a 10-page manual.
If that describes you, then you’ll benefit from this concise guide to hearing aids. We’ll cover four brief sections, and when we’re finished, you’ll be set to work with your hearing care professional to find the technology that’s best for you. Let’s get started.
How All Digital Hearing Aids Work
Choosing a hearing aid can seem overwhelming—there are several brands and seemingly never-ending considerations. But it’s really not as complicated as it appears. As you progress through this guide, bear in mind that all digital hearing aids function basically the same way, and consist of these four fundamental parts:
- The microphone picks up external sound and transmits it to the digital processor.
- The digital processor adjusts the sound signal according to the settings programmed by the hearing specialist. The revised sound signal is then transferred to the amplifier.
- The amplifier increases the volume of the sound according to the programmed settings, amplifying only the frequencies the person has trouble hearing (while suppressing background noise). This signal is next delivered to the speaker.
- The speaker supplies the magnified sound to the ear, resulting in louder, clearer sound.
In addition, all hearing aids include a battery, volume and setting switches, and remote controls.
Hearing aids really only differ in two crucial ways: 1) style, and 2) advanced features. We’ll cover these in the next two sections.
Hearing Aid Styles
You have your choice of three primary styles:
1. Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids hook over the top of the ear and rest behind the ear. The case is then connected to an earmold in the ear canal by a piece of clear tubing. BTE hearing aids are convenient to handle and maintain, typically have a longer battery life, and can handle severe hearing loss.
2. In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids occupy the outer part of the ear with a custom-molded shell. ITE hearing aids are smaller than the behind-the-ear hearing aids but bigger than the in-the-canal styles. This renders ITE hearing aids easier to handle than the smaller styles but less noticeable than the BTE style.
3. In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids and completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids fit partially or entirely inside of the ear canal, causing them to be almost or completely invisible. ITC and CIC hearing aids are custom molded to the contours of the ear, and some types can be used for months at a time.
When deciding on a style, think about the tradeoffs among user-friendliness, battery life, and concealment. Your hearing care professional will help you prioritize your preferences and choose the most suitable style.
Hearing Aid Advanced Features and Accessories
After you’ve chosen the most suitable style, you can decide which of the following advanced features you need—and which you don’t.
- Directional microphones allow you to focus on the sounds and conversations directly in front of you while decreasing the interruption of loud background noise.
- Telecoils, or T-coils, allow you to talk on the phone while cutting down on the static brought on by background noise.
- Environmental noise control allows you to enhance hearing based on your environment, for example in a quiet room at home as opposed to in a chaotic restaurant.
- Direct input to sound sources such as TVs, radios, computers, and music players allow for clear sound without background noise.
- Wireless connection to mobile phones turns your hearing aids into top-quality wireless headphones. The hearing aid settings can be regulated from your phone (or digital watch), and sound can be wirelessly streamed directly from the phone to the hearing aids.
Optional accessories include cleaning systems, storage cases, ultraviolet sanitizers, battery-changers, and more. Your hearing care professional can help you decide on which hearing aid accessories you may need or want.
Choosing the Right Hearing Aids
Before making an investment in hearing aids, take these four steps:
- Find a trustworthy, local hearing care professional. Only professionals with sufficient experience can evaluate your hearing properly, which is crucial for when it comes time to program, fit, and calibrate your hearing aids.
- Discuss hearing aid styles and advanced features. Your pick of hearing aids will hinge on your preference of style and functionality. Discuss these two variables with your hearing specialist and your options will come to be manageable.
- Establish a budget. Some would state that your hearing is priceless, but that doesn’t mean you have a limitless budget. With all of the hearing aid options available to you, you and your hearing professional can uncover the right hearing aid at an acceptable price.
- Test drive your new hearing aids. inquire about trial periods and test out your new hearing aids. Work with your hearing specialist to establish sensible expectations and give your hearing aids an opportunity to work. Your perseverance will be rewarded when you realize the difference better hearing will make in your life.
And that’s it. What might appear to be a complex process is in reality easily manageable, once you understand how to prioritize your needs and constrict your choices. With the assistance of your local hearing care professional, you can obtain the most suitable technology at the right price—so you can start making the most of all of the advantages of better hearing.