The procedure for buying hearing aids used to be a lot easier. There were only a few styles to choose from and they all essentially functioned the same way, which was to say not very well.
It wasn’t until digital technology was incorporated into the design that hearing aids became realistic options for the restoration of hearing. And with digital technology, several features became available to control a multitude of listening scenarios.
But that’s the tradeoff—simple choices that brought about inadequate results are now difficult choices with several options.
But complicated does not mean impossible, and the time spent is well worth the improvement in hearing you can achieve. It’s also why it’s critical to partner with an established hearing specialist that can walk you through all of the relevant considerations.
Below are six things to look for when selecting hearing aids, in combination with the questions to ask your hearing professional.
Hearing amplification products are not all created equal. The truth is, the distinction between the lowest end personal sound amplifier and the highest end digital hearing aid is the distinction between a Ford Pinto and a Porsche.
Even though you may not need the highest end hearing aid model available, the principal difference you should be worried about between a personal amplifier and a hearing aid is programmability.
Hearing aids must be programmed to enhance sounds based on your particular hearing loss. Otherwise, all sound is amplified equally and that’s not going to make it easier to hear speech any better than before.
Ask your hearing specialist about programming capabilities, including pre-programed settings you can use in a variety of scenarios, like at a restaurant as opposed to at home.
2. Hearing aid style
Hearing aids are available in many sizes and styles, ranging from behind-the-ear to entirely 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 specialist on this one, as many elements should be considered, including the extent of your hearing loss.
3. Directional microphones
People buy hearing aids for various reasons and to hear a mixture of sounds, but the chief 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 checking into.
Hearing aids with directionality contain two or more microphones set at a specific distance from each other within the hearing aid. The contrast in arrival time of sound to each microphone then determines how the hearing aid reacts to the sound.
This permits the hearing aid to focus on the specific sound origin 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 most digital hearing aid models, but you’ll want to confirm this with any device you’re considering.
Hearing aids contain a microprocessor that can distinguish between high-frequency sounds (like speech) and low-frequency sounds (like background noise). The microprocessor can then enhance speech while curbing everything else.
A telecoil is a small copper coil built into the hearing aid. While that doesn’t sound all that spectacular, what it can achieve definitely is.
Telecoils make it possible for you to talk on the phone without feedback and hook up to hearing loop systems. For example, 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 set up in home theater systems for the same effect. Ask your hearing professional for more details.
6. Wireless connection
Did you just buy a brand new iPhone or smartphone?
If so, you may want to give some thought to investing in compatible hearing aids that connect wirelessly to these products. 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, where you can inconspicuously change the volume and settings.
There’s much to consider when picking out a hearing aid, which is why it’s crucial to work with a trustworthy and experienced hearing care expert.
Are you ready to find your optimal hearing aid?