Styles of Hearing Aids

Choosing a hearing aid can be a very confusing and sometimes stressful experience. Not only do you have to deal with the fact that you now have a diagnosed hearing loss, but you are bombarded with information from your audiologist, friends and family. From stories about nightmare experiences with hearing aids that whistle and are the size of ski boats, to complaints about noise and discomfort.

There are six easy steps in choosing a hearing aid.

1. What does your hearing loss look like?  Your audiologist can explain the type and degree of hearing loss.  This will also determine whether you would need one or two hearing aids.  Only in cases where the one ear is completely normal would it be advisable to wear only one hearing aid.  The effect of fitting one ear with a hearing aid while both ears have a hearing loss, will cause problems with localization of sound and also difficulty with hearing in noise.

2. What would you like the hearing aid to look like? The type and degree of your hearing loss affect the option available to fit your hearing loss.  A in the ear type hearing aid is not recommended for very mild or high frequency hearing loss since the fact that the hearing being fitted in the ear canal changes the acoustics of the ear canal resulting in amplified low frequencies, that is not the sound that you would like to amplify.  In the case of a profound hearing loss the behind the ear hearing aid with more power would be the better option.  For mild and high frequency hearing loss the RIC or receiver in the canal hearing aids are usually recommended since this allows the audiologist to amplify the high frequencies without amplifying the lows.

Styles of Hearing Aids

Behind the ear and Receiver in the canal hearing aids

Styles of Hearing Aids

In  the ear hearing aids.

3. What is your lifestyle:  Do you spend time in noisy environments and groups of people? Are you mostly in a quiet environment with a small group of people? This would determine the level of technology that you would need to cope with your sound environment. The more advanced the technology and the higher the level the better the hearing aid will be able to classify the environment and apply the appropriate noise reduction and speech enhancement to help you get the best quality of the voices that you want to listen to. The noise reduction will help lower the level of the background noise and the speech enhancement will lift the level of the speech. There are many different features running at the same time to help enhance the signal and lower the noise. This has a lot to do with the microchip that is in the hearing aid and the speed at which it samples the sound in your environment. The most recent technology is always the fastest and has the most advanced features to help you get the best sound quality and hearing.

4. Realistic expectations:  Having realistic expectations of what a hearing aid ia able to do is very important for the success of your hearing aid fitting. Reality: Hearing aids do not restore normal hearing- they “aid” your ability to hear. In fact, today’s devices do not amplify everything equally. Today’s technology permits the audiologist to selectively amplify only what you need. For example, if you hear low pitched sounds normally, they are not programmed to be amplified. All levels of sound are not amplified equally. This means that soft and average sounds may be increased but loud sounds are not. The following are the basic result you should be expecting from your hearing aid: Soft sounds should be audible, speech should be clear in difficult listening environments. Loud sounds should be in your range of comfort. Use of the telephone should be easy. Devices should be very comfortable.

5. Do you have physical limitations:  Changing wax guards and batteries can be a tricky business if you have dexterity problems or problems with your eyesight. Choosing a rechargeable hearing aid that does not need the batteries changed will make the management of the hearing aids much less complicated. Your audiologist would also take these factors into account when advising you on the style of hearing aid that would suit your needs.

6. What is your budget?  This will affect the level of technology that you are able to afford. We as audiologists try to match the best technology for your hearing loss and lifestyle but also stay within your budget.

If you suspect you have a hearing loss the best point to start is a full hearing test from an audiologist close to you. This will provide her with the information about you hearing loss to advise you on the type and style of hearing aid that would suit your hearing loss.

– By Carien de Jager