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The process of purchasing hearing aids used to be much easier. There were only a small number of 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 incorporated into the design that hearing aids became viable solutions for the recovery of hearing. And with digital technology, several features became available to regulate a wide variety of listening circumstances.

But that’s the tradeoff—simple choices that led to inadequate results are now complicated choices with a number 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 factors to consider.

Here are six factors to look for when purchasing hearing aids, along with the questions to ask your hearing professional.

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 available, the principal difference you should be worried about between a personal amplifier and a hearing aid is programmability.

Hearing aids must be programmed to amplify sounds according to your distinctive hearing loss. Otherwise, all sound is amplified uniformly 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 scenarios, like at a restaurant versus at home.

2. Hearing aid style

Hearing aids come 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 appearance when making your choice on hearing aid styles. You’ll also want to work with a hearing professional on this one, as numerous factors should be taken into consideration, including the severity of your hearing loss.

3. Directional microphones

People invest in hearing aids for a number 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 considering.

Hearing aids with directionality contain two or more microphones located at a specific 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 helps 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 reduction

Background noise and feedback inhibition are built into most digital hearing aid models, but you’ll want to verify this with any model you’re considering.

Hearing aids contain a microprocessor that can discern between high-frequency sounds (like speech) and low-frequency sounds (like background noise). The microprocessor can then enhance speech while suppressing everything else.

5. Telecoils

A telecoil is a small copper coil built into the hearing aid. While that doesn’t sound all that impressive, what it can achieve certainly 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 movie theater, sound will be transmitted directly to your hearing aid for optimum clarity.

Hearing loops can also be installed in home theater systems for the equivalent effect. Ask your hearing professional for more information.

6. Wireless connection

Did you just buy a new iPhone or smartphone?

If so, 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 inconspicuously regulate the volume and settings.

There’s a lot to take into account when choosing a hearing aid, which is why it’s vital to work with a reputable and knowledgeable hearing care expert.

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