Choosing the right hearing aid is like choosing the right car: there are so many on the market that will work, but it’s hard to tell which one is best. They all have pros and cons, and many will work just fine—but you want to have all the facts in order to make an informed decision about your treatment. So how can you tell which hearing aid features you need and which are just so many bells and whistles?
What Do All Hearing Aids Have in Common?
Most hearing aids contain a microphone, amplifier, and receiver. The microphone picks up sound, the amplifier increases the volume and delivers it to the receiver where it is heard by the ear. They also require batteries to power the device, and a manual on/off switch. Beyond these components, the individual parts and abilities of hearing aids can vary widely.
What Are the Biggest Differences Among Hearing Aids?
The number one function of a hearing aid is to correct a certain type of hearing loss. When shopping for a hearing aid, you should first ask your hearing care professional which device offers the right level of amplification to best correct your specific hearing condition.
From the range of these devices, you can now consider the many functions hearing aids have to offer, including:
- Automatic directional microphones. Directional microphones offer improved speech understanding while reducing background noise and can improve your ability to hear when you're in an environment with a lot of background noise. Many hearing aids have automatic directional microphones, which will focus on the person in front of you and drown out background noise without any input from you.
- Bluetooth. Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids can pipe sound directly from mobile phones and televisions to the hearing aid, as well as pick up FM signals, interact with assistive listening devices, and connect to other modern audio systems. Some smartphone-compatible devices have their own apps which can be used as remote controls for volume and other adjustments. Your hearing care provider will be able to tell you which devices can pair with Bluetooth and which ones require an intermediary device to transmit the signal.
- Telecoils. Telecoil systems were created to work with telecoil-compatible telephones, but are also used in public induction loop systems in many public buildings, churches, and theaters. Like Bluetooth, a telecoil in a hearing aid connects your device to a broadcast signal, allowing you to hear the broadcast without background noise.
- Noise reduction. While all hearing aids offer some degree of noise reduction, some are specifically designed to reduce unwanted sounds. For example, wind noise reduction suppresses the “blowing” sound of wind rushing over the device’s microphone, while transient noise reduction detects and drowns out keystrokes, barking animals, and other background sounds and amplifies speech signals.
- Remote controls. Hearing aids can be made smaller and lighter if the controls are not placed within the device itself. Many hearing devices come with a remote control, allowing the patient to make adjustments without taking the hearing aid off.
- Adjustable / automatic programming. Hearing aids can operate in many different modes to enhance each listening environment. Many allow these settings to be programmed so the wearer can switch between driving, talking on the phone, or speaking face-to-face with the push of a button. Some even “learn” the user’s preferences based on their settings, adjusting volume levels and increasing directional listening when a user enters different listening environments.
How Can I Tell Which Features Will Benefit Me?
While magazines and consumer sites may differ on which features are must-haves, the “best” hearing aid features will always be the ones that enhance your favorite activities and make your life easier. When discussing a new device with your hearing care specialist, you should carefully consider:
- Daily life events. Give your hearing care provider a glimpse into your daily life. Mention the things you enjoy doing (babysitting, windsurfing, reading at night) as well as the activities where hearing is an issue. This allows your care provider to choose a device with specific benefits, such as custom-fitting, reducing wind noise, and masking tinnitus to enhance concentration.
- Ease of use. Your arthritis may be unrelated to your hearing loss, but it can make adjusting the volume on your hearing aid a nightmare. Your hearing care specialist should give you a few devices to hold and test out, allowing you to see if you can make adjustments yourself without difficulty.
- Future needs. Your hearing aid should last five or six years if maintained properly, so make sure the device you have chosen can be adjusted to compensate for any further hearing loss.
Our hearing care providers always work one-on-one with patients to find their ideal device. Call the number on this page to set up an appointment, or visit our Florida office location nearest you to explore your hearing aid options!