Hearing Aid Selection

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Hearing Aid Selection

Choosing the Right Hearing Aid

When it comes to selecting hearing aids, you have a vast multitude of available options.  You may be curious about how a pair of hearing aids may look, or if they will truly be of benefit to you.  Though hearing aids do not restore your hearing, they work by amplifying the sound that reaches your ear.  At FOCUS Audiology, our hearing aid specialists work with you to discuss and explore all of your options so to ensure that you get the best pair of hearing aids for your specific needs.  Here we will discuss the key elements to investigate when selecting hearing aids.  

How hearing aids work

Hearing aids are battery-powered digital instruments all composed of the same basic pieces to carry sound from external sources into your ear and increase their audibility.  Parts of a hearing aid include a microphone to collect external noises, an electronic chip and amplifier to digitize the noise in a specified manner calibrated to match your particular hearing loss conditions, and a converter that reconfigures the digitized signal back into sound waves that are transmitted into your ear via the receiving speaker (receiver).  

 

Types of Hearing aids

The pricing, features, and fit of hearing aids differ greatly.  Below are listed the various types of hearing aids you may want to consider and learn about as you explore the perfect hearing aid for you.   

Completely in the canal (CIC)

Completely-in-the-canal hearing aids are custom molded for mild to moderate hearing loss in adults and fit within the ear canal.  Some considerations for CIC hearing aids include:

  • catch less ambient wind noise
  • smallest and least visible style
  • can result in earwax buildup in the receiver 
  • use tiny, short-lived batteries
  • generally lack volume control and microphone directionality features

In the canal (ITC)

In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids are custom molded for mild to moderate hearing loss and partially fit in the ear canal.  Some considerations for ITC hearing aids include:

  • lower external visibility compared to larger hearing aids
  • has more features than CIC hearing aids
  • hard to adjust features due to small size 
  • can result in earwax buildup in the receiver

In the ear (ITE)

In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids are custom molded for mild to severe hearing loss, can include directional microphones, and are either full shell (fill the whole area of the outer ear) or half shell (fill the lower region of the outer ear). Some considerations for ITE hearing aids include:

  • easier to manually adjust due to larger size
  • uses larger, longer-life, rechargeable batteries 
  • has more features (like volume control) than other smaller hearing aid styles
  • greater visibility than CIC and ITC styles
  • can result in earwax buildup in the receiver
  • may catch more ambient wind noise than CIC and ITC styles

Behind the ear (BTE)

Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids are custom molded for any type of hearing loss, loop around the top of the ear, and rest behind the ear with a tube connecting to an earpiece receiver that is placed in the ear canal.  Some considerations for BTE hearing aids include:

  • have directional microphones
  • can amplify more sound than other hearing aids
  • largest style of hearing aids but now have new, less visible designs
  • may have rechargeable battery options 
  • can result in earwax buildup in the receiver
  • may catch more ambient wind noise than other styles

Receiver in canal (RIC) and receiver in the ear (RITE)

Receiver-in-canal (RIC) and receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) styles resemble BTE hearing aids but consist of a small wire rather than a tube to connect the ear piece with the receiver.  Some considerations for RIC and RITE hearing aids include:  

  • have manual control features
  • have directional microphones
  • lower visibility than BTE hearing aids
  • may have rechargeable battery options
  • can result in earwax buildup in the receiver

Open fit

Open-fit hearing aids are designed as BTE or RIC/RITE variants with an open dome in the ear for mild to moderate high-frequency hearing loss.  The ear canal remains open to naturally hear low frequency noises while amplifying high-frequency noises.  Some considerations for open-fit hearing aids include:

An open-fit hearing aid:

  • does not block the ear canal
  • less prone to earwax buildup issues since the ear canal is open
  • the sound of your own voice is better since the ear canal is open
  • non-custom domes may make wearing it more challenging
  • more visible than other hearing aid styles

Extra features

 

Certain hearing aid styles may enable you to consider more features that could aid in your hearing:

  • Wireless connectivity to interface with electronics like phones, speakers, computers, tvs, etc.
  • Remote controls or digital apps to adjust features without manipulating the hearing aid itself. 
  • Direct audio input to hardwire connect electronics like tvs, computers, etc. to the hearing aid directly.
  • Variable programming to store preprogrammed settings for different environments.
  • Synchronization so that whatever settings are changed in one hearing aid of a pair also changes in the other.
  • Noise reduction to diminish ambient noises.
  • Directional microphones to pickup sounds focused in certain directions, especially those from in front of you.
  • Rechargeable batteries to reduce the number of time you need to change batteries. 
  • Telecoils to enhance audibility of compatible telephones and public speaker systems (movie theaters, etc).
 

Before you buy

 

When looking for a hearing aid, explore your options to understand what type of hearing aid will work best for you. Also:

  • Get a checkup. See your doctor to rule out correctable causes of hearing loss, such as earwax or an infection. And have your hearing tested by a hearing specialist (audiologist).
  • Seek a referral to a reputable audiologist. If you don’t know a good audiologist, ask your doctor for a referral. An audiologist will assess your hearing, help you choose the most appropriate hearing aid and adjust the device to meet your needs. If you have hearing loss in both ears, you will get best results with two hearing aids.
  • Ask about a trial period. You can usually get a hearing aid with a trial period. It may take you a while to get used to the device and decide if it’s right for you. Have the dispenser put in writing the cost of a trial, whether this amount is credited toward the final cost of the hearing aid and how much is refundable if you return the hearing aid during the trial period.
  • Think about future needs. Ask whether the hearing aid you’ve chosen is capable of increased power so that it will still be useful if your hearing loss gets worse. Hearing aids do not function indefinitely, but they should last about five years.
  • Check for a warranty. Make sure the hearing aid includes a warranty that covers parts and labor for a specified period. Some dispensers may include office visits or professional services in the warranty.
  • Beware of misleading claims. Hearing aids can’t restore normal hearing or eliminate all background noise. Beware of advertisements or dispensers who claim otherwise.
  • Plan for the expense. The cost of hearing aids varies widely — from about $1,500 to more than a few thousand dollars each. Professional fees, remote controls, hearing aid accessories and other hearing aid options may cost extra. Talk to your audiologist about your needs and expectations.

    Some private insurance policies cover part or all of the cost of hearing aids — check your policy to be sure. Medicare doesn’t cover the cost of hearing aids for adults. In many states, private insurers are required to pay for hearing aids for children. Medical assistance covers hearing aids in most states. If you’re a veteran, you may be able to get your hearing aid at no cost through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Getting used to your hearing aid

 

Getting used to a hearing aid takes time. You’ll likely notice that your listening skills improve gradually as you become accustomed to amplification. Even your own voice sounds different when you wear a hearing aid.

When first using a hearing aid, keep these points in mind:

 
  • Hearing aids won’t return your hearing to normal. Hearing aids can’t restore normal hearing. They can improve your hearing by amplifying soft sounds.
  • Allow time to get used to the hearing aid. It takes time to get used to your new hearing aid. But the more you use it, the more quickly you’ll adjust to amplified sounds.
  • Practice using the hearing aid in different environments. Your amplified hearing will sound different in different places.
  • Seek support and try to stay positive. A willingness to practice and the support of family and friends help determine your success with your new hearing aid. You may also consider joining a support group for people who have hearing loss or are new to hearing aids.
  • Go back for a follow-up. Specialists may include the cost of one or more follow-up visits in their fees. It’s a good idea to take advantage of this for any adjustments and to ensure that your new hearing aid is working for you as well as it can.

Your success with hearing aids will be helped by wearing them regularly and taking good care of them. In addition, an audiologist can tell you about new hearing aids and devices that become available. He or she can also help you make changes to meet your needs. The goal is that, in time, you find a hearing aid you’re comfortable with and that enhances your ability to hear and communicate.

The diagnostic hearing evaluation consists of a variety of tests to determine the unique aspects of your hearing loss, as well as the level at which you can detect and understand speech. This evaluation can be conducted on people of any age, from newborn infants to seniors

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