The process of purchasing hearing aids was in the past a lot easier. There were only a small number of styles to choose from and they all ultimately 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 restoration of hearing. And with digital technology, a multitude of features became available to manage a multitude of listening scenarios.
But that’s the tradeoff—simple choices that resulted in poor results are now complicated choices with a number of options.
But difficult does not mean impossible, and the time spent is well worth the gains in hearing you can achieve. It’s also why it’s important to work with an experienced hearing specialist that can walk you through all of the relevant factors to consider.
Here are six things to look for when selecting hearing aids, together with the questions to ask your hearing professional.
Hearing amplification products are not all created equal. The fact 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.
While you may not require the highest end hearing aid model on the market, the principal 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 distinctive hearing loss. Otherwise, all sound will be amplified uniformly and that’s not going to make it easier to hear speech any better than before.
Ask your hearing specialist about programming capability, including pre-programed settings you can use in different situations, 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 want to balance price, performance, 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 severity of your hearing loss.
3. Directional microphones
People invest in hearing aids for various reasons and to hear a mixture of sounds, but the central reason is to hear and understand speech.
If that’s the case for you, you’ll want to inquire about directional microphones in any hearing aid you’re considering.
Hearing aids with directionality contain two or more microphones situated at a specified 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 makes it possible for the hearing aid to focus on 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 model 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 intensify speech while curbing everything else.
A telecoil is a small copper coil integrated into the hearing aid. While that doesn’t sound all that spectacular, what it can achieve definitely is.
Telecoils allow 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 cinema, sound will be transmitted directly to your hearing aid for optimum 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 connection
Did you just buy a new iPhone or smartphone?
If that’s the case, you may want to give some thought to purchasing compatible hearing aids that connect wirelessly to these devices. That way, you can stream telephone calls and music directly to your hearing aids for optimal sound quality.
Your smartphone can even become your hearing aid remote control, where you can subtly regulate the volume and settings.
There’s much to think about when picking out a hearing aid, which is why it’s critical to work with a reputable and experienced hearing care expert.
Are you ready to discover your optimal hearing aid?