A Guide to Choosing Hearing Aids
When buying hearing aids, it’s important to weigh your options carefully and consider what you want from them. While hearing care professionals can give you valuable insight on how to make this decision, going into your consultation well-informed can make the decision-making process easier on everyone, including you.
The Different Hearing Aid Styles
Depending on what you want from your hearing aid and what you are compatible with, you might be able to choose between a few different types of hearing aids. These product types/styles vary in size, but the primary differences are where they go. Some go in your ear, while others sit behind the earlobes. Different kinds of hearing loss call for different hearing aid styles, so you might not be compatible with every one on this list. However, knowing about each one can help you make a decision if you have to choose between two or more.
BTE, or behind-the-ear hearing aid. This is the largest type of hearing aid, and one of the most common. While BTE models sometimes come in mini versions, both kinds sit behind the shell of your ear, and run tubing over the top. Pros: easy to adjust, lots of features, and compatible with severe hearing loss. Cons: bulky and might cause a plugged feeling in the ear.
ITE, or in-the-ear hearing aid. These sit in the bowl of the ear, lightly plugging the entrance to your ear canal. Smaller than BTE models, though somewhat more noticeable. Pros: easy to insert, and relatively flexible features. Cons: visually noticeable and less powerful than most BTE models.
ITC, or in-the-canal hearing aid. Similar to the ITE model, but even smaller. This hearing aid sits just within the ear canal. Pros: relatively unnoticeable, and less of a “plugged” feeling during wear. Cons: discomfort, short battery life, and challenging removal.
CIC, or completely-in-the-canal hearing aids. These are the smallest type. Aptly named, they sit completely inside the ear. Pros: almost invisible, less phone feedback, and less wind noise. Cons: hard to adjust, fewer features, and short battery life.
RIC, or receiver-in-canal hearing aid. Also referred to as receiver-in-the-ear or canal receiver technology, these are smaller than BTE models, but are easy to maneuver and offer a wide variety of high-tech features. They sit comfortably behind the ear while – unlike with a BTE – the RIC’s loudspeaker or “receiver” is located at the end of a thin earwire, producing a superior listening experience with less energy consumption.
SLIM-RIC, or slim lithium-ion module RIC. These are a unique new design pioneered by Signia. They work just like a normal RIC but offer a stylish slim-line form that redefines how a hearing aid can look and feel.
CROS or BiCROS devices enable people with unaidable hearing loss in one ear to hear what’s going on around them by receiving sound on that side and transmitting it to a hearing aid in the other ear.
Depending on the hearing aid you choose, you might also be able to select colors, features, and other customizations as well. Here’s some info on some features you might find. As mentioned above, not all of these features are compatible with every hearing aid.
Noise reduction. While it is not infallible, this technology works to reduce background noise, improving your understanding of speech.
Directional microphones. This allows noises in front of you to sound louder than those behind you, improving spatial awareness.
Rechargeable batteries. Rechargeable hearing aids don’t need battery replacements. Just place them in the charger at the end of the day, and you’re done.
Telecoil. T-coils are sensors that pick up on magnetic signals. If the signal is hearing-aid-compatible, you can pick up on the hearing loops found in conference rooms, music halls, and other locations.
Environmental noise control. Many hearing aids come with pre-set settings depending on your environment, which might include quiet rooms or noisy places.
Connectivity. Usually refers to wireless connections to smartphones or televisions using Bluetooth, easyTek, or other forms of technology. Connectivity can also refer to the wireless linking of two hearing aids.
Remote controls. This allows you to toggle settings like volume without taking out your hearing aids.
Direct audio input. This allows you to connect directly to another audio source, such as your cellphone or television.
Variable programming. Data logging and memory can allow your hearing aids’ programming to adapt according to your preferences and surroundings.
Synchronization. This refers to the use of hearing aids in tandem with apps and accessories.
How to Choose a Hearing Aid
The first step to choosing a hearing aid is deciding on a style. Depending on the severity of your hearing loss and what type of hearing loss you have, these options can change. Once you’ve decided on a style, you can move on to features.
Before you buy hearing aids, you have to decide what features you can get, and what features you need. While you might have certain options available to you, there’s no use spending money on them if you don’t need them. For example, spending extra for a hearing aid with Bluetooth connectivity might be pointless for an older wearer who just wants a simple hearing aid.
When weighing a feature of a hearing aid, ask yourself how much use you will get out of it. If you and your HCP agree that it’s not important, you can focus your attention on the features you do need. Having a trusted hearing care provider is especially important during this step, as they can offer insight and experience to inform your decisions.
Finding a Hearing Care Provider
A hearing care professional offers more than just advice, however. They can explain hearing aid products, show you how certain models work, and even help you pinpoint your priorities. If you’re curious about a certain hearing aid, they might be able to offer a demonstration or test drive. If you’ve decided upon a hearing aid, or want to start a trial period, they can help with the hearing aid fitting process.
To find a hearing care professional in your area, you need to search among verified professionals. However, scrolling through Google page results might not glean the most helpful options. The Signia store locator acts as a phonebook and GPS, pulling up potential providers in your area. From there, you can choose the one that’s closest or most accessible to you.
Regardless of what hearing aid you choose, your HCP will be there to make sure everything goes smoothly, from the decision-making to the fitting.