Hearing aid guides are not rare, but most are not quite reader-friendly, either. Many are simply too lengthy or complicated, adding more confusion instead of less.
My guess is that you’re a great deal less interested in the physiology of hearing or in the particulars of acoustical engineering and more interested in identifying the proper technology at a reasonable price. Your goal is to hear better, not to read a 10-page manual.
If that represents you, then you’ll welcome this concise guide to hearing aids. We’ll cover four brief sections, and when we’re done, you’ll be set to work with your hearing care professional to discover the technology that’s best for you. Let’s get started.
How All Digital Hearing Aids Work
Selecting a hearing aid can feel overwhelming—there are several brands and seemingly never-ending factors to consider. But it’s not as complex as it appears. As you move forward through this guide, keep in mind that all digital hearing aids work essentially the same way, and include these four fundamental parts:
- The microphone registers external sound and sends it to the digital processor.
- The digital processor modifies the sound signal according to the settings programmed by the hearing specialist. The modified sound signal is then transferred to the amplifier.
- The amplifier increases the volume of the sound according to the programmed settings, amplifying only the frequencies the person has trouble hearing (while suppressing background noise). This signal is next transmitted to the speaker.
- The speaker supplies the enhanced sound to the ear, resulting in louder, clearer sound.
In addition, all hearing aids include 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 address these in the next two sections.
Hearing Aid Styles
You have your choice of three primary 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 convenient to handle and clean, normally have a longer battery life, and can manage severe hearing loss.
2. In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids fill the exterior part of the ear with a custom-molded shell. ITE hearing aids are smaller than the behind-the-ear hearing aids but bigger than the in-the-canal styles. This renders ITE hearing aids easier to handle than the smaller styles but less detectable than the BTE style.
3. In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids and completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids fit partially or completely inside of the ear canal, causing them to be nearly or completely invisible. ITC and CIC hearing aids are custom molded to the shapes of the ear, and some types can be worn for months at a time.
When selecting a style, think about the tradeoffs among ease of use, battery life, and concealment. Your hearing care expert will help you prioritize your preferences and identify the most suitable style.
Hearing Aid Advanced Features and Accessories
Once you’ve decided on the most suitable style, you can decide which of the following advanced features you need—and which you don’t.
- Directional microphones permit you to focus on the sounds and conversations directly in front of you while reducing the diversion of loud background noise.
- Telecoils, or T-coils, allow you to talk on the phone while cutting down on the static induced by by background noise.
- Environmental noise control allows you to enhance hearing based upon your environment, for instance in a quiet room at home as opposed to in a bustling restaurant.
- Direct input to sound sources such as televisions, radios, computers, and music players allow for clear sound without background noise.
- Wireless connection to mobile phones turns your hearing aids into high-quality wireless headsets. The hearing aid settings can be regulated 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 reputable, local hearing care professional. Only professionals with sufficient experience can examine your hearing accurately, which is essential for when it comes time to program, fit, and fine-tune your hearing aids.
- Discuss hearing aid styles and advanced features. Your selection of hearing aids will depend on your preference of style and function. Discuss these two aspects with your hearing professional and your options will become manageable.
- Establish a budget. Some would say that your hearing is priceless, but that doesn’t imply you have an unlimited budget. With all of the hearing aid options available to you, you and your hearing professional can uncover the right hearing aid at an acceptable price.
- Test out your new hearing aids. inquire about trial periods and test out your new hearing aids. Work with your hearing specialist to set reasonable expectations and give your hearing aids an opportunity to work. Your perseverance will be rewarded when you recognize the difference better hearing will make in your life.
And that’s it. What might appear to be a complicated process is in fact easily workable, once you know how to prioritize your needs and limit your options. With the help of your local hearing care professional, you can uncover the right technology at the right price—so you can start experiencing all of the advantages of better hearing.