Since the FDA established new regulations enabling consumers to purchase hearing aids over-the-counter, there has been a wave of interest for first-time buyers of hearing aids. However, there are many options on the market, each with different features and price ranges. We hope to assist you in identifying the right product fit and technology settings that best meet your needs.
Hearing aids are modern marvels as a result of decades of investment in chip miniaturization and sound processing power. Let’s review the different model types, what features are available and what you should expect from the Hearing Aid retailer.
Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids – BTE hearing aids sit behind or on top of the outer ear with silicone tubing that routes sound directly down into the ear canal via a dome style that doesn’t block the entire ear canal opening. BTE styles are available with an open-fit dome or a receiver-in-canal (RIC) model that improves sound quality and amplification. BTEs tend to have the most advanced technology features and the longest battery life.
Completely-in-the-Canal (CIC) hearing aids – CIC hearing aids are just barely visible. CIC styles are the smallest and most discreet hearing aids available. A wearer places them deep into the ear canal, and they must be removed by tugging on a small pull-out string. Because of their small size, they don’t usually come with any manual controls, like volume wheels or program buttons. They can also be susceptible to moisture damage and their small size can be a problem for dexterity.
In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids – ITC hearing aids sit in the lower portion of the outer ear bowl, making them more visible than a CIC. Because they’re slightly larger than CIC styles, they tend to have a longer battery life and can fit a wider range of hearing loss. Because they cover the ear canal, the user may experience more occlusion (hearing one’s voice when speaking). They also do not fit securely in the ear and can fall out easier than a CIC or BTE.
Rechargeable Hearing Aids – a popular option, considered the best, are lithium-ion batteries that are rechargeable. The hearing aids should last a minimum of 18 hours off of one charge. This means you will not need to pay for new batteries or fiddle with replacing them. A free portable charging case should be provided as well. Rechargeable hearing aids are better for the environment as well, because there is no waste with discarded batteries.
Bluetooth Control and Streaming – With the advancement of hearing aids come connectivity features like Bluetooth. Many users like to have the option to connect and monitor their hearing aids through their mobile devices, which is possible with a Bluetooth connection. Bluetooth allows you to connect your hearing aids to an app, which allows you to adjust the settings of your hearing aids. For instance, you will easily be able to adjust the volume and treble base, as well as monitor the battery life. More advanced hearing aids allow the user to stream music, television, as well as phone calls.
Preprogrammed by Licensed Specialists – Online and in-store Retailers are now offering their hearing aids to come preprogrammed. Ensure that the retailer has the expertise and experience to program hearing aids before purchasing. They should have a licensed specialist on staff who you can speak with regarding the programming levels. Hearing aids can damage one’s hearing if they’re not programmed properly.
Multi-Channel Processor – The channels represent the number of sections in the hearing aid that can process the various parts of incoming sound. The more channels a hearing aid has, the more flexibility it has in programming and performance. Hearing aids with more channels allow the device to be customized across various pitches and frequencies, which is called frequency response. A hearing aid’s quality is determined by its processing abilities as it can be customized to benefit the unique needs of the user. There should be a minimum of eight channels in a quality hearing aid.
Layered Noise Reduction – the algorithm can identify more precisely which frequency region is noise (and which speech) and reduce gain only in the frequency region where noise is present. This preserves speech audibility while improving listening comfort.
Dual Microphones – they capture the natural sound surrounding the hearing aid user. Microphones can be either directional, picking up sound in front of the wearer, or omnidirectional, where sound is captured from every direction.
Automatic Noise Reduction – many hearing aids feature automatic noise reduction. This will capture loud noises and ensure they are not amplified too aggressively into the ear. Instead, they will pick up loud or background noises and reduce them. This will improve the quality of hearing and make it as close to normal as possible.
Memories – situational memories refer to different environmental programs that can be accessed by the hearing aid user. These memories manipulate the hearing aid’s gain, frequency response, and microphone mode (directionality) to provide optimal sound quality in specific listening situations. Most advanced hearing aids have a minimum of three listening memory settings to select from.
Low Battery Indicator – Your hearing aids will likely require charging. Low battery indicators will ensure that you do not go without hearing aids. If you are heading out for the day, the low battery indicator will catch you before leaving to ensure that you charge them or enable you to take the charger with you.
Warranty – A standard two-year warranty that covers damage and manufacturer’s defects is common, but brands vary on their policies and length of coverage.
Risk-Free Trial Period and Financing Options – only purchase from a hearing aid supplier who offers a trial period of at least 30 days. During that time, you can return the hearing aids for any reason if they aren’t a good fit for you. This is important because it takes time to become accustomed to hearing aids. Inquire about financing options from your retailer with “buy now, pay later” programs.
Customer Service and long-term Care – See what options are offered for reaching customer support as well as their hours of operation. While some direct-to-consumer companies like RxHearing.com provide unlimited support from audiologists or other hearing aid specialists via phone, video sessions and custom messaging apps, others may not offer that level of support.
People with underlying medical issues that may affect their hearing, should speak with their primary physician before deciding on what the best hearing aid solution is for them.