The process of purchasing hearing aids used to be a lot 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 viable options for the restoration of hearing. And with digital technology, a variety of features became available to deal with a wide variety of listening circumstances.
But that’s the tradeoff—easy choices that produced inadequate results are now complicated choices with several options.
But complicated does not mean impossible, and the time invested is well worth the gains in hearing you can enjoy. It’s also why it’s important to partner with an established hearing specialist that can walk you through all of the important considerations.
Here are six things to look for when purchasing hearing aids, in conjunction with the questions to ask your hearing specialist.
Hearing amplification products are not all created equal. The fact is, the difference between the cheapest 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 on the market, the primary difference you should be concerned about between a personal amplifier and a hearing aid is programmability.
Hearing aids should be programmed to amplify sounds according to your unique hearing loss. Otherwise, all sound will be 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 different circumstances, like at a restaurant versus at home.
Hearing aids come in many sizes and styles, ranging from behind-the-ear to completely in the ear canal.
You’ll need to balance cost, performance, ease-of-use, and appearance when making your decision on hearing aid styles. You’ll also want to seek advise from a hearing professional on this one, as many elements should be taken into consideration, including the extent of your hearing loss.
3. Directional microphones
People invest in hearing aids for various reasons and to hear an assortment of sounds, but the chief 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 set at a specific distance from each other within the hearing aid. The variation in arrival time of sound to each microphone then determines how the hearing aid responds to the sound.
This enables the hearing aid to target 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 the majority of digital hearing aid models, but you’ll want to validate 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 intensify speech while suppressing everything else.
A telecoil is a small copper coil integrated into the hearing aid. While that doesn’t sound all that impressive, what it can achieve definitely is.
Telecoils make it possible for you to talk on the phone without feedback and connect 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 additional information.
6. Wireless connectivity
Did you just buy a brand new iPhone or smartphone?
If so, you may want to think about 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 optimum sound quality.
Your smartphone can even become your hearing aid remote control, whereby you can inconspicuously regulate the volume and settings.
There’s much to think about when choosing a hearing aid, which is why it’s critical to work with a reputable and experienced hearing care professional.
Are you ready to find your ideal hearing aid?