What hearing aid technology level should I select?
This is one of the most common questions we hear as audiologists at The Hearing Room. The decision on which technology level to select is determined by the type of hearing loss you have, what type of results you are hoping to achieve with your hearing aids, the environments you are in, and what your personal desires are when it comes to advancements in technology. Higher end hearing aid technology has more advanced features within the processing chip to help the end user extract speech out of background noise in a greater variety of environmental situations. As you move down in technology levels, some features that help a user understand speech in noise are not present and therefore, the user might have a more difficult time in some challenging listening environments (e.g restaurants or busy sporting events). Please be advised that this explanation is oversimplified as hearing aids are quite complicated devices. Your audiologist will be able to describe feature breakdowns between hearing aid brands or even within the same brand in a if you are interested in learning more. If finances are not a concern, the majority of patients would perform significantly better if they chose a high-end hearing aid. If financial constraints exist, audiologists believe that “something is always better than nothing” and a suitable hearing aid within the patient’s budget can still be selected and prescribed.
Which hearing aid style is right for me?
Hearing aid technology has advanced significantly over the last decade. When the time comes to choose a style of hearing aid, almost all of them can accommodate the majority of hearing losses. There are essentially two types of hearing aid styles: custom hearing aids and behind-the-ear hearing aids. The receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) type or receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) style are very popular and compose approximately 80% of the market. They can accommodate almost all degrees of hearing losses, they are small, and extremely comfortable. Most people become accustomed to the RIC/RITE more readily than custom hearing aids. This is because custom hearing aids are generally made of acrylic material, resulting in the patient being able to “feel” it more while it is in the ear canal.
However, there are certainly reasons to select a custom hearing aid. If dexterity is a concern, then a custom hearing aid is often a suitable choice. Custom hearing aids are composed of just one piece that is easy to insert in the ear and can be made large enough for arthritic fingers to grasp. One important thing to note is that style does not dictate price! This is an important myth that should be debunked. A very discrete hearing aid can be purchased for the same price as a large hearing aid as it is the technology on the inside that counts, and determines how well the hearing aid will work in a variety of different environments.
What about rechargeable hearing aids?
Rechargeable hearing aids can be a great option for those who do not want to change hearing aid batteries. Currently, rechargeable hearing aids are only available in the RIC/RITE behind-the-ear hearing aid described above. Dexterity issues could make changing batteries a challenge, and if you are capable of putting on a behind-the-ear hearing aid, then this might be a great option for you. Whether you choose disposable hearing aid batteries or rechargeable, it is important to note that the cost usually evens out over time. While you will pay initially more upfront for a rechargeable hearing aid, the cost of purchasing batteries over the life of the hearing aid will add up to the same amount. Of course, there exist variations in this as battery life is dependent on the amount of time the hearing aids are worn, how much the user streams audio with hearing aids, the amount of hearing loss the patient has, and if the patient uses the aids while sleeping to address tinnitus concerns. The majority of rechargeable hearing aids provide 12-30 hours on a full charge. Click on the rechargeable hearing aids tab to learn more about this topic.
Accessories, Bluetooth and Made for iPhone… what do I need to know?
The add-on accessories available for hearing aids are bountiful and can be very helpful once you are comfortable with using them. They are typically easy to use and involve streaming the sound from your TV, phone, and so on, to the hearing aid accessory and then, into the hearing aids. This improves the overall comprehension of the streamed signal as it is being relayed directly into the user’s hearing aids. The usual add-on accessories include TV devices, remote microphone options and phone devices for both landlines and cell phones. Typically these add-ons connect with some sort of Bluetooth connection or a wireless signal.
Made for iPhone hearing aids are quite are an excellent option due to their ability to connect directly to TV devices, iPhones, iPads, and remote microphones. If you are an Android user, many manufacturers have released a small and discreet clip to allow streaming phone calls. If the accessory options sound overwhelming, a demonstration in the clinic might help as overall, the devices are designed to be user-friendly. Your local audiologist will be happy to help!
Do I really need hearing aid accessories?
Hearing aid accessories can be very helpful and if used correctly, can vastly improve a person’s hearing and quality of life. The amount of hearing loss and how much a user struggles in certain environments can help determine the need for a hearing aid accessory. Your local audiologist would be a good person to walk you through the various options if you are considering any of the add-ons discussed above.
Hopefully this brief overview of the hearing aid selection process was helpful. If you have more detailed questions, call The Hearing Room. Audiologists, Irene Nicholaou and Natasha Manji, would be happy to assist!