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The process of buying hearing aids used to be a lot easier. There were only a few styles to select from and they all essentially worked the same way, which was to say not very well.

It wasn’t until digital technology was integrated into the design that hearing aids became practical options for the recovery of hearing. And with digital technology, a number of features became available to handle a multitude of listening circumstances.

But that’s the tradeoff—simple choices that resulted in inadequate results are now complicated choices with lots of options.

But complicated does not mean impossible, and the time invested 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 guide you through all of the important considerations.

The following are six factors to look for when selecting hearing aids, in combination with the questions to ask your hearing specialist.

1. Programmability

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 difference between a Ford Pinto and a Porsche.

Although you may not require the highest end hearing aid model in the market, the primary difference you should be worried about between a personal amplifier and a hearing aid is programmability.

Hearing aids should be programmed to enhance sounds according to your distinct 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 expert about programming potential, including pre-programed settings you can use in different circumstances, like at a restaurant as opposed to at home.

2. Hearing aid style

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, functionality, ease-of-use, and appearance when making your decision on hearing aid styles. You’ll also want to work together with a hearing specialist on this one, as numerous factors should be taken into consideration, including the extent of your hearing loss.

3. Directional microphones

People buy hearing aids for a variety of reasons and to hear an assortment 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 inserted at a specified distance from each other within the hearing aid. The contrast in arrival time of sound to each microphone then dictates how the hearing aid responds to the sound.

This allows 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 minimization

Background noise and feedback inhibition are featured in most digital hearing aid models, but you’ll want to validate this with any product 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 boost speech while curbing everything else.

5. Telecoils

A telecoil is a small copper coil built into the hearing aid. While that doesn’t sound all that remarkable, what it can achieve definitely is.

Telecoils make it possible for 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 maximum clarity.

Hearing loops can also be set up in home theater systems for the equivalent effect. Ask your hearing professional for additional information.

6. Wireless connection

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 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 inconspicuously adjust the volume and settings.

There’s a lot to think about when picking out a hearing aid, which is why it’s vital to work with a trustworthy and knowledgeable hearing care professional.

Are you ready to find your ideal hearing aid?