The procedure for purchasing hearing aids was in the past much easier. There were only a small number of styles to choose 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 options for the restoration of hearing. And with digital technology, a number of features became available to manage a wide variety of listening situations.
But that’s the tradeoff—simple choices that led to inadequate results are now difficult choices with lots of options.
But complicated does not mean impossible, and the time spent is well worth the gains in hearing you can attain. It’s also why it’s essential to work with an experienced hearing specialist that can walk you through all of the important considerations.
Here are six factors to look for when selecting hearing aids, along with the questions to ask your hearing specialist.
Hearing amplification products are not all created equal. The truth is, the difference between the lowest end 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 available, 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 based on your distinct 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 expert about programming capabilities, including pre-programed settings you can use in a variety of scenarios, like at a restaurant as opposed to at home.
Hearing aids come in several 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 decision on hearing aid styles. You’ll also want to work together with a hearing specialist on this one, as many factors should be taken into consideration, including the degree of your hearing loss.
3. Directional microphones
People invest in hearing aids for a range of reasons and to hear a mixture of sounds, but the main 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 set at a specific distance from each other within the hearing aid. The variation in arrival time of sound to each microphone then dictates how the hearing aid reacts to the sound.
This enables the hearing aid to target the specific sound source in front of you, which if it’s a person, will be the sounds of speech.
4. Background noise minimization
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 amplify speech while suppressing 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 accomplish certainly is.
Telecoils allow you to speak 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 cinema, sound will be transmitted directly to your hearing aid for optimum clarity.
Hearing loops can also be installed in home theater systems for the same effect. Ask your hearing specialist for more information.
6. Wireless connectivity
Did you just purchase a new iPhone or smartphone?
If so, you may want to think about investing in compatible hearing aids that link up wirelessly to these devices. That way, you can stream cell phone calls and music directly to your hearing aids for optimal sound quality.
Your smartphone can even become your hearing aid remote control, whereby you can subtly change the volume and settings.
There’s much to take into account when selecting a hearing aid, which is why it’s vital to work with a reputable and knowledgeable hearing care professional.
Are you ready to discover your ideal hearing aid?