Hearing aid guides are not hard to find, but the majority are not quite reader-friendly, either. Many are simply too lengthy or complex, resulting in more confusion rather than less.
My guess is that you’re a great deal less interested in the physiology of hearing or in the intricacies of acoustical engineering and much more interested in finding the most appropriate technology at a reasonable price. Your intent is to hear better, not to read a 20-page manual.
If that represents you, then you’ll benefit from this concise guide to hearing aids. We’ll cover four small sections, and when we’re finished, you’ll be prepared to work with your hearing care professional to discover the technology that’s best for you. Let’s get started.
How All Hearing Aids Work
Selecting a hearing aid can feel overwhelming—there are a number of brands and seemingly limitless factors to consider. But it’s not as complex as it appears. As you move forward through this guide, bear in mind that all digital hearing aids function basically the same way, and include these four basic parts:
- The microphone registers external sound and directs it to the digital processor.
- The digital processor adjusts the sound signal based on the settings programmed by the hearing specialist. The customized sound signal is then sent to the amplifier.
- The amplifier increases the volume of the sound based on the programmed settings, amplifying only the frequencies the individual has difficulty hearing (while suppressing background noise). This signal is then delivered to the speaker.
- The speaker supplies the magnified sound to the ear, resulting in louder, clearer sound.
In addition, all hearing aids contain a battery, volume and setting buttons, and remote controls.
Hearing aids really only differ in two very important ways: 1) style, and 2) advanced features. We’ll cover these in the next two sections.
Hearing Aid Styles
You have your choice of three main styles:
1. Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids hook over the top of the ear and sit behind the ear. The case is then attached to an earmold in the ear canal by a piece of clear tubing. BTE hearing aids are simple to handle and clean, typically have an extended battery life, and can accommodate severe hearing loss.
2. In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids fill the outer part of the ear with a custom-molded shell. ITE hearing aids are smaller than the behind-the-ear hearing aids but larger than the in-the-canal styles. This renders ITE hearing aids easier to handle than the smaller styles but less visible than the BTE style.
3. In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids and completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids fit partially or entirely within the ear canal, which makes them almost or entirely invisible. ITC and CIC hearing aids are custom molded to the contours of the ear, and some can be used for several months at a time.
When picking out a style, consider the tradeoffs among simplicity of use, battery life, and concealment. Your hearing care professional will help you prioritize your preferences and find the most suitable style.
Hearing Aid Advanced Features and Accessories
Once you’ve decided on the right style, you can establish which of the following advanced features you need—and which you don’t.
- Directional microphones permit you to concentrate on the sounds and conversations directly in front of you while lessening the distraction of loud background noise.
- Telecoils, or T-coils, allow you to talk on the phone while reducing the static induced by by background noise.
- Environmental noise control allows you to optimize hearing based on your environment, for example in a quiet room at home as opposed to in a bustling restaurant.
- Direct input to sound sources such as TVs, radios, computers, and music players allow for clear sound without background noise.
- Wireless connection to mobile phones converts your hearing aids into top-notch wireless headphones. The hearing aid settings can be manipulated from your phone (or digital watch), and sound can be wirelessly streamed straight from the phone to the hearing aids.
Optional accessories include cleaning systems, storage cases, ultraviolet sanitizers, battery-changers, and more. Your hearing care professional can help you decide which you may need or want.
Selecting the Right Hearing Aids
Before investing in hearing aids, take these four steps:
- Find a trustworthy, local hearing care professional. Only professionals with adequate experience can assess your hearing properly, which is vital for when it comes time to program, fit, and fine-tune your hearing aids.
- Discuss hearing aid styles and advanced features. Your pick of hearing aids will hinge on your preference of style and functionality. Discuss these two variables with your hearing specialist and your options will become manageable.
- Develop a budget. Some would assert that your hearing is priceless, but that doesn’t imply you have a limitless budget. With all of the hearing aid options available to you, you and your hearing professional can find the right hearing aid at an acceptable price.
- Try out your new hearing aids. inquire about trial periods and test out your new hearing aids. Talk with your hearing specialist to set reasonable expectations and give your hearing aids an opportunity to work. Your perseverance will be rewarded when you realize the difference better hearing will make in your life.
And that’s it. What appears to be a complicated process is in fact easily manageable, once you understand how to prioritize your needs and constrict your options. With the help of your local hearing care professional, you can uncover the most suitable technology at the right price—so you can start experiencing all of the rewards of better hearing.