Hearing aid guides are not hard to find, but the majority are not exactly reader-friendly, either. Many are generally too lengthy or complex, generating more perplexity rather than 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 a lot more interested in identifying the ideal technology at a reasonable price. Your intent is to hear better, not to read a 10-page manual.
If that describes you, then you’ll enjoy this brief guide to hearing aids. We’ll cover four small sections, and when we’re finished, you’ll be ready to work with your hearing care professional to find the technology that’s most suitable for you. Let’s get started.
How All Hearing Aids Work
Deciding on a hearing aid can seem overwhelming—there are several brands and seemingly endless factors to consider. But it’s not as complicated as it seems. As you progress through this guide, bear in mind that all digital hearing aids function essentially the same way, and consist of these four fundamental parts:
- The microphone picks up environmental sound and directs it to the digital processor.
- The digital processor modifies the sound signal based on the settings programmed by the hearing specialist. The modified sound signal is then delivered 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 delivers the magnified sound to the ear, producing louder, clearer sound.
In addition, all hearing aids contain a battery, volume and setting switches, and remote controls.
Hearing aids really only differ in two 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 principal styles:
1. Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids hook over the top of the ear and rest 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 visible than the BTE style.
3. In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids and completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids fit partly or completely within the ear canal, causing them to be almost or entirely invisible. ITC and CIC hearing aids are custom molded to the contours of the ear, and some can be worn for months at a time.
When deciding on a style, think about the tradeoffs among ease of use, battery life, and concealment. Your hearing care professional will help you prioritize your preferences and find the best suited style.
Hearing Aid Advanced Features and Accessories
Once you’ve decided on the most suitable style, you can determine which of the following advanced features you need—and which you don’t.
- Directional microphones allow you to concentrate on the sounds and conversations directly in front of you while decreasing the interruption of loud background noise.
- Telecoils, or T-coils, allow you to talk on the phone while decreasing the static induced by by background noise.
- Environmental noise control allows you to enhance hearing based on your environment, for example in a quiet room at home as opposed to in a busy 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 turns your hearing aids into top-notch wireless headphones. The hearing aid settings can be controlled from your phone (or smart 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 on which hearing aid accessories you may need or want.
Choosing the Right Hearing Aids
Before investing in hearing aids, take these four steps:
- Find a reputable, local hearing care professional. Only professionals with ample experience can evaluate your hearing properly, which is vital for when it comes time to program, fit, and calibrate your hearing aids.
- Discuss hearing aid styles and advanced features. Your selection of hearing aids will hinge on your preference of style and function. Discuss these two factors with your hearing specialist and your options will become manageable.
- Establish a budget. Some would say 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 affordable price.
- Test drive your new hearing aids. inquire about trial periods and test out your new hearing aids. Work with your hearing specialist to establish reasonable expectations and give your hearing aids a chance 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 complex process is in reality easily manageable, once you understand how to prioritize your needs and constrict your options. With the assistance of your local hearing care professional, you can obtain the ideal technology at the right price—so you can start taking pleasure in all of the advantages of better hearing.