If you have been identified with a hearing deficit and have been told you could benefit from amplification (hearing aids), you’re probably asking “how do I decide what is right for me? “
Hearing aids have come a long way
Hearing aid technology has certainly advanced over the years and continues to improve. We are far from old “analog” hearing aids that were manually adjusted with a screwdriver to state of the art digital instruments that are programmed using propriety software. Today’s hearing aids no longer simply “make sounds louder” but now utilizes complex algorithms and processing strategies to make specific adjustments to sound based on the hearing configuration and the acoustic environment. There are small microphones that collect sound and the internal chip converts this into a digital code. This is analyzed and processed then converted back into sound and delivered to your ears through the speakers. Today’s hearing aids are available in various styles and in various levels of technology from entry level to high end circuitry therefore these are the two key selections made when deciding to move forward.
Find an audiologist you trust
One of the most important steps after you are identified with a hearing deficit is to find an audiologist that you trust. Taking the step to pursue hearing aids becomes the start of a life long journey between you and your audiologist towards improved communication. There are many brands and types of hearing aids and your audiologist will provide the education and recommendations to help guide you through the selection process. You and your audiologist will continue to work very closely together through several initial appointments during your trial period along with routine maintenance and follow up visits through the life of the instruments. Your hearing will also be tested routinely and programming adjustments can be made. The average hearing aid lasts for approximately 5-7 years which means you will also have another discussion with your audiologist when ready to pursue new instruments at that time. You may have heard of individuals “shopping around” for hearing aids but some will also shop around for providers. You want to be sure you find someone you are comfortable with.
Your hearing aid experience will be unique to you
It is important to remember that what may have worked (or didn’t work) for others does not mean you will have the same experience. There are a variety of factors that can influence the outcome which includes (but not limited to) severity and type of hearing loss, cognitive status, technology, motivation, and expectations. It is also important to be aware of misleading marketing claims and have realistic expectations. Hearing aids can improve your hearing but they cannot restore normal function or eliminate background noise. When you meet with your audiologist, they will ask questions regarding your lifestyle, listening needs and preferences. There will be different features that you could benefit from depending on the types of environments you are in. For example someone who has a very active lifestyle or finds themselves in situations with more background noise or large groups will likely benefit from a higher level technology. Someone who lives a quieter lifestyle may not necessarily need the highest level of technology. It is important to discuss specific goals and areas that you want to improve. This information helps to determine which technology would be the most appropriate for your needs.
Hearing aid styles include devices that go all in your ear or with a part that goes over/behind your ear and will vary in size. There are advantages and disadvantages of each style and these are components that your audiologist will review so that you can make the best choice. The most appropriate style will be dependent on your preferences regarding cosmetics, your degree and configuration of hearing loss. What would be appropriate for one person may not be appropriate for another. Other biological factors such as ear canal size/shape, perspiration, oils from the skin and hair, degree of cerumen (ear wax) buildup can also impact what style option may be best for you.
With continued advancements in hearing aid technology there are also various accessories available. Occasionally hearing aids are not enough to reach your full hearing potential and to do this will sometimes require the addition of an assistive listening device. There are also accessories such as remote controls and other mechanisms that will allow Bluetooth connectivity with cell phones and other devices. Some hearing aids also allow integration with your smartphone (either directly or indirectly) giving the user access to applications to make minor tuning changes to the hearing aids.
When pursuing amplification you are entitled to a trial period. It takes time to acclimate to wearing any hearing device and you will work with your audiologist during the trial period to be sure it is adjusted and fine-tuned to what is most comfortable for you. Ultimately if you are unsatisfied with your devices you do have the ability to switch to a different option or return it. Most often the best choice is made right away but sometimes finding the best option requires trial and error.
If you are interested in learning about what options may be right for you, please feel free to contact any one of our Audiology locations to schedule an appointment.