Compare hearing aids

Compare hearing aids

If you are one of the three million Canadians living with hearing loss, do you wear hearing aids? Hearing aids offer an effective treatment for hearing loss and come with a variety of features that not only improve your hearing but also enhance your daily life. But despite this, just one in five people who would benefit from using hearing aids wear them.

Some people are put off wearing hearing aids because they find them uncomfortable or the hearing aids don’t work for their type of hearing loss. That’s why comparing hearing aids before you buy is crucial in helping you narrow down your choices to a set of hearing aids that match your hearing needs and lifestyle and cosmetic preferences.

Types of hearing aids

Several factors will determine which hearing aid is right for you. This includes the type and severity of your hearing loss, your lifestyle, the activities you do regularly, your eyesight and dexterity and the size and shape of your outer ear and inner ear canal. But with such a large number of brands and styles of hearing aids on the market, being able to choose the one specific model that’s right for you can be a daunting prospect.

A good way to start is by comparing the main types of hearing aid and then choosing the type of hearing aid that will offer the best treatment for your hearing loss and matches with your cosmetic preferences. The most common types of hearing aids are:

Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids

These hearing aids are the largest type of hearing aid and possibly the most recognizable. The microphone, receiver and processor are all housed together in the hearing aid case which is worn behind your ear. A tube then connects to an earmold that fits in the ear canal. BTE hearing aids can be used to treat all types of hearing loss and provide many extra features that aren’t available with smaller hearing aids.

Receiver-in-canal (RIC) hearing aids

A smaller type of BTE hearing aid, the receiver-in-canal (RIC) hearing aids use a wire to connect the body of the hearing aid with a soft tip that sits in the ear canal. But unlike more traditional BTE hearing aids, the RIC hearing aid’s receiver is at the end of the wire which is positioned near to the eardrum. This delivers a high-quality sound with reduced transmission loss.

In the ear (ITE) hearing aids

In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids are smaller than BTE hearing aids and fit in the outer ear. They have plastic cases that are custom made to fit your ear.

In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids

In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids are extremely discreet hearing aids, however, their small size does limit the number of features they offer. These hearing aids are custom made to sit inside the ear canal with just the outer case and control buttons visible.

Invisible-in-the-canal hearing aids are the smallest type of hearing aids on the market. They fit entirely in the ear canal and can only be seen if someone looks very closely.

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Hearing aid features

Your main priority when choosing new hearing aids should be how well the hearing aids improve your hearing. You can then focus on comfort. After all, if you don’t like the fit of your hearing aids, you are unlikely to want to use them regularly. Once you have been able to narrow down your hearing aid choice based on feel and performance, you can then look at features. Today’s hearing aid market offers hearing aids that come with an array of additional features. But there’s simply no point in paying extra for technology that you will be unlikely to use, so spend some time thinking about what you need. Popular hearing aid features include:

  • Directional microphones
  • Wireless connectivity
  • Telecoil
  • Digital noise reduction
  • Multiple listening programs

Comparing hearing aid brands

There are many hearing aid brands on the market offering a wide range of hearing aid models and styles. However, what one brand may offer in terms of style, technology, hearing experience, connectivity and features may not be right for you and your hearing loss. When researching and comparing hearing aids, make sure you look at both the hearing aid brand and their range of hearing aids to help you narrow down your list. Some of the hearing aid brands you may want to consider comparing include:

  • Signia
  • Oticon
  • Phonak
  • Widex
  • Starkey
  • ReSound

How to compare hearing aids

While there is a lot of value in researching the styles and features of hearing aids, the only way you can effectively compare hearing aids is by trying them for yourself. Most hearing care professionals will allow you to try their demonstration models so you can get an idea of the look, fit and performance. You may even be allowed to take a demonstration model home with you for a trial period.

Trying the hearing aids for the first time

When you first hear with a hearing aid, you may find that sounds seem much louder than before. Hearing aids cannot revert your hearing to what it was before. However, they can amplify the sounds around you to help you hear better. This can often feel very strange at first, but once you have begun wearing the hearing aids for a while, you will soon get used to the new heightened sounds and your enhanced hearing.

Listen to your voice and those of your loved ones

A useful way to compare hearing aids is to listen to your voice and that of your friends and family. Do the voices sound different and louder than what you are used to? This is to be expected as the hearing aid’s microphone will pick up the sounds of their voices and transmit them through the hearing aid’s speakers. To enable you to compare how each hearing aid changes sounds, ask them to repeat a certain phrase to help you determine the level of consistency.

Try out the controls

The majority of hearing aids on the market today have one single button that operates the setting controls. Most also feature automatic volume adjustment, so you no longer have to worry about changing the volume levels yourself. The features and settings on your hearing aids will likely be controlled by an app on your smartphone. Try out these apps to see how effective and useful they are and also to determine how you get on with using them.

Have a go at adjusting the settings to see what difference it makes to the sounds you hear. If you can, it’s a good idea to spend some time outside while wearing the hearing aids so you can see how outside noises affect the hearing aids' performance.

Try out the controls


Try out the controls

 

 

Practice replacing the battery

Depending on how regularly you use your hearing aids, you can expect to change the hearing aid batteries once every 5 to 7 days. Make sure you ask how long you should expect the batteries to last before they need replacing and how much replacement batteries cost. It’s also a good idea to practice opening the battery compartment and take the batteries out and put them back in to see how easy this is for you.

The smaller and more discreet hearing aids can make replacing batteries more difficult. Therefore, if you experience dexterity of vision problems, you may wish to choose a hearing aid that’s a larger style or one that has built-in rechargeable batteries.

Test out your hearing aid with your phone

We use our smartphones a lot each day, so it’s worth spending some time trying the hearing aid with your phone. When you wear a hearing aid it can change how you use your phone. You may find that you now hold your phone at a different angle, particularly if you wear a behind-the-ear hearing aid or in-the-ear hearing aid. To thoroughly test it out, call someone to see how effectively the hearing aid picks up sounds. Most if not all hearing aids you can buy today can connect to smartphones wirelessly using Bluetooth.

Ask about accessories

Accessories that come with hearing aids play an important role in keeping your hearing aids in the best possible condition so they can always give their best performance. These accessories may not affect your choice of hearing aid, but it’s helpful to know what’s available. Accessories that are designed to clean your aids, dry them out overnight and protect the microphones from earwax should come as standard with all hearing aids.

Take a hearing aid for a test drive

The most effective way to be able to compare hearing aids is by taking them home and using them for several days. If your hearing care professional provides trial hearing periods, then you should consider taking them up on this offer. It can often take a little time to adjust to the feel of wearing a hearing aid and also hearing with a hearing aid. If you can take them home for a while then you will have the chance to decide if they are the right model and style of hearing aids for you and if there are any additional features that you could benefit from.

Before starting your trial period, it’s a good idea to check whether there are any additional costs for trialling the hearing aids. Make sure the cost of the trial is put in writing along with any refunds you will be entitled to if you return the hearing aid before the end of the trial period.

Comparing hearing aids is an important step in your journey to good hearing health. The right set of hearing aids offers you the potential of not just improving your hearing but transforming your life.

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