So Many Hearing Aid Options. How do I choose one?
There has been a surge in demand for first-time hearing aid customers since the FDA announced new regulations allowing consumers to buy hearing aids over-the-counter. However, there are a lot of choices available, each with unique features and price points. We want to help you find the technological settings and products that best suit your needs.
Due to decades of investment in chip miniaturization and sound processing capability, hearing aids are technological miracles. Let's go over the various model types, the features that are offered, and what you should anticipate from the hearing aid provider.
Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids
BTE hearing aids sit behind or on top of the outer ear with silicone tubing that routes sound directly down into the ear canal via a dome style that doesn’t block the entire ear canal opening. BTE styles are available with an open-fit dome or a receiver-in-canal (RIC) model that improves sound quality and amplification. BTE’s tend to have the most advanced technology features and longest battery life.
Completely-in-the-Canal (CIC) hearing aids
CIC hearing aids are just barely visible. CIC styles are the smallest and most discreet hearing aids available. A wearer places them deep into the ear canal, and they must be removed by tugging on a small pull-out string. Because of their small size, they don’t usually come with any manual controls, like volume wheels or program buttons. They can also be susceptible to moisture damage and their small size can be a problem for dexterity.
In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids
ITC hearing aids sit in the lower portion of the outer ear bowl, making them more visible than a CIC. Because they’re slightly larger than CIC styles, they tend to have a longer battery life and can fit a wider range of hearing loss. Because they cover the ear canal, the user may experience more occlusion (hearing one’s own voice when speaking). They also do not fit securely in the ear and can fall out easier than a CIC or BTE.
Rechargeable Hearing Aids - a popular option, considered the best, are lithium-ion batteries that are rechargeable. The hearing aids should last a minimum of 18 hours off of one charge. This means you will not need to pay for new batteries or fiddle with replacing them. A free portable charging case should be provided as well. Rechargeable hearing aids are better for the environment as well, because there is no waste with discarded batteries.
Bluetooth Control and Streaming - with the advancement of hearing aids comes connectivity features like Bluetooth. Many users like to have the option to connect and monitor their hearing aids through their mobile devices, which is possible with Bluetooth connection. Bluetooth allows you to connect your hearing aids to an app, which allows you to adjust the settings of your hearing aids. For instance, you will easily be able to adjust the volume, treble base and monitor the battery life. More advanced hearing aids allow the user to stream music, television, as well as phone calls.
Preprogrammed by Licensed Specialists - online and in-store Retailers are now offering their hearing aids to come preprogrammed. Ensure that the retailer has the expertise and experience to program hearing aids prior to purchasing. They should have a licensed specialist on-staff who you can speak with regarding the programming levels. Hearing aids can damage one’s hearing if they’re not programmed properly.
Multi-Channel Processor – the channels represent the number of sections in the hearing aid that can process the various parts of incoming sound. The more channels a hearing aid has, the more flexibility it has in programming and performance. Hearing aids with more channels allow the device to be customized across various pitches and frequencies, which is called frequency response. A hearing aid’s quality is determined by its processing abilities as it is able to be customized to benefit the unique needs of the user. There should be a minimum of eight channels in a quality hearing aid.
Layered Noise Reduction - the algorithm can identify more precisely which frequency region is noise (and which speech) and reduce gain only in the frequency region where noise is present. This preserves speech audibility while improving listening comfort.
Dual Microphones - they capture the natural sound surrounding the hearing aid user. Microphones can be either directional, picking up sound in front of the wearer, or omni directional, where sound is captured from every direction.
Automatic Noise Reduction - many hearing aids feature automatic noise reduction. This will capture loud noises and ensure they are not amplified too aggressively into the ear. Instead, they will pick up loud or background noises and reduce them. This will improve the quality of hearing and make it as close to normal as possible.
Memories – situational memories refer to different environmental programs that can be accessed by the hearing aid user. These memories manipulate the hearing aid’s gain, frequency response, and microphone mode (directionality) in order to provide optimal sound quality in specific listening situations. Most advanced hearing aids have a minimum of three listening memory settings to select from.
Low Battery Indicator - your hearing aids will likely require charging. Low battery indicators will ensure that you do not go without hearing aids. If you are heading out for the day, the low battery indicator will catch you before leaving to ensure that you charge them or enable you to take the charger with you.
Warranty - a standard two-year warranty that covers damage and manufacturer’s defects is common, but brands vary on their policies and length of coverage.
Risk-Free Trial Period and Financing Options - only purchase from a hearing aid supplier who offers a trial period of at least 30 days. During that time, you can return the hearing aids for any reason if they aren’t a good fit for you. This is important because it takes time to become accustomed to hearing aids. Inquire about financing options from your retailer with “buy now, pay later” programs.
Customer Service and Long-term Care - see what options are offered for reaching customer support as well as their hours of operation. While some direct-to-consumer companies like www.RxHearing.com provide unlimited support from audiologists or other hearing aid specialists via phone, video sessions and custom messaging apps, others may not offer that level of support.
For people with underlying medical issues that may affect their hearing, it’s best that they speak with their primary physician before deciding on what the best hearing aid solution is for them.