The process of purchasing hearing aids used to be much easier. There were only a few styles to select from and they all fundamentally 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 solutions for the recovery of hearing. And with digital technology, a variety of features became readily available to accommodate a wide variety of listening circumstances.
But that’s the tradeoff—simple choices that led to inadequate results are now difficult choices with several options.
But complicated does not mean impossible, and the time invested is well worth the improvement in hearing you can obtain. It’s also why it’s essential to partner with an established hearing specialist that can guide you through all of the relevant considerations.
Here are six factors to look for when buying hearing aids, in combination with the questions to ask your hearing professional.
Hearing amplification products are not all created equal. The truth is, 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 require the highest end hearing aid model in the market, the principal difference you should be worried about between a personal amplifier and a hearing aid is programmability.
Hearing aids must be programmed to amplify sounds according to your unique hearing loss. Otherwise, all sound is amplified equally and that’s not going to help you hear speech any better than before.
Ask your hearing professional about programming potential, including pre-programed settings you can use in a variety of situations, like at a restaurant as opposed to at home.
Hearing aids are available in many sizes and styles, ranging from behind-the-ear to completely in the ear canal.
You’ll want to balance price, functionality, ease-of-use, and appearance when making your decision on hearing aid styles. You’ll also want to work together with a hearing professional on this one, as numerous factors should be considered, including the extent of your hearing loss.
3. Directional microphones
People buy hearing aids for a variety of reasons and to hear a mixture of sounds, but the main reason is to hear and understand speech.
If that’s true for you, you’ll want to ask about directional microphones in any hearing aid you’re interested in.
Hearing aids with directionality contain two or more microphones placed at a specific distance from each other within the hearing aid. The difference 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 featured in the majority of digital hearing aid models, but you’ll want to confirm this with any device you’re considering.
Hearing aids contain a microprocessor that can differentiate between high-frequency sounds (like speech) and low-frequency sounds (like background noise). The microprocessor can then boost speech while suppressing everything else.
A telecoil is a small copper coil integrated into the hearing aid. While that doesn’t sound all that remarkable, what it can accomplish undoubtedly is.
Telecoils make it possible for you to talk on the phone without feedback and hook up 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 set up in home theater systems for the same effect. Ask your hearing specialist for additional information.
6. Wireless connectivity
Did you just buy a new iPhone or smartphone?
If so, you may want to consider purchasing 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 vital to work with a reputable and experienced hearing care expert.