How to choose the right hearing aid

by Nancy Salim

Hearing aids have many features and styles to offer users, so finding the right one on your own can seem confusing. With the help of a hearing professional, and a proper hearing exam, you’ll be able to choose the kind that will best suit your lifestyle and listening needs.

Here is a quick and easy guide to understanding hearing aid technology and common hearing aid features.

Hearing aid technology

Digital vs analog– The earliest hearing aid models were analog. Analog hearing aids took sounds and made them louder. Digital hearing aids do so much more. Today’s digital aids take in sound waves, translate them into a digital format, process, filter, distort, amplify and then deliver the sound signal into your ear canal. They are also custom-tailored to your hearing needs. Digital technology gives you the most flexibility and the clearest sound, while analog hearing aids offer very few adjustments that can be made to suit your listening needs.

Digitally programmable analog hearing aids–These have an underlying signal processing that is analog, but adjustments can be made by connecting the hearing aid to a computer (digital). This type of hearing aid can provide a better fit than a conventional analog circuit.

Hearing aid sizes & styles

Depending on the type and degree of a hearing loss, users may be able to choose from the following hearing aid styles:

Behind-the-Ear (BTE) hearing aids rest comfortably behind the ear, and usually come in colors that match your hair or skin with a clear plastic tube that sits close to the head and directs sound into the ear canal.

Open-Fit Behind-the-Ear hearing aids also fit behind the ear, but are generally much smaller and more comfortable than conventional BTE hearing aids.

In the Ear (ITE, or Full Shell) hearing aids sit inside the ear canal making them unnoticeable. They have the most power and the longest battery life of all the in-the-ear styles. They are appropriate for a wide range of hearing losses and can accommodate almost all of the features and options currently available.

In the Canal (ITC, or Half Shell) hearing aids fill the bottom part of the outer ear. They’re discreet, but less powerful and have a shorter battery life than the others.

Completely in the Canal (CIC) hearing aids are the smallest kind available and are completely invisible. They aren’t suitable for all kinds of hearing loss and have the shortest battery life.

Hearing aid features

Depending on your personal preference, you can choose from a wide variety of hearing aid features, including:

Bluetooth compatible hearing aids allow you to connect wirelessly to mp3 players, televisions, cell phones and landline phones. The sound is delivered wirelessly to the hearing aid—just link the devices you want to connect to your hearing aid. With the click of a button, you can answer and talk on the telephone hands-free, watch TV or listen to your favorite music.

Waterproof hearing aids are great for those who spend time doing water sports, exercising or swimming. A waterproof hearing aid is protected from perspiration, humidity and water while delivering clear sound quality.

FM compatible hearing aids have a receiver which allows listeners to overcome a variety of challenging listening environments including background noise and distance from a person.

Directional microphones may make it easier to hear in noisy environments by reducing background noise from the back and side directions and allowing you to focus on who is speaking.

Noise reduction works in combination with directional microphones to reduce unwanted environmental sounds. Advanced technology has made it possible to track and reduce multiple noises from different directions.

Impulse noise reduction allows the hearing aid to “soften” sudden loud sounds.

Multiple channels can be compared to the sliders on a stereo equalizer, the number of channels/sliders determines how much the sound can be fine-tuned to suit you. When your hearing aid offers many channels, a hearing care professional will be able to adjust each frequency that is too loud while still allowing you to hear the sounds you want to focus on.

Telephone/telecoil switch (“T” setting) filters out background noise while on the phone. Individuals can also use the “T” setting with the hearing loops available in many public places to listen to plays, concerts, meetings and more.

Multiple memories are settings you can choose from for different environments, including for quiet and loud environments and for talking on the phone.

Wind noise reduction reduces the unwanted sound of wind rushing past the hearing aid microphone.

Remote controls allow you to adjust the volume or switch between settings in the hearing aid.

To see how the different hearing aid styles and features look on a individual, check out the 360° viewer on our product page. 

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