More than 30 million Americans are hearing impaired, but only 28% of Americans who have hearing difficulty use hearing aids. Why are so many people living with hearing aid difficulties rather than seeking out relief?
Financial need sometimes plays a role, as does the perception that wearing a hearing aid makes you “old”. Financial solutions are available for those who cannot afford hearing aids, and the perception that hearing aids are only for the elderly is slowly but surely fading away, much as the stigma against glasses disappeared over time.
Other Americans own hearing aids, but don’t use them because they are not fitted correctly or don’t have the right features. If you compare hearing aids before making a purchase, you’ll be able to narrow your choice down to a set that meets your hearing needs with the features you want. The right set of hearing aids greatly increases the chance you’ll use them to improve your hearing and quality of life.
With so many brands and styles of hearing aids on the market, choosing one particular model can seem overwhelming. Start by comparing the four major types of hearing aids, selecting a type that best treats your hearing loss and matches your cosmetic needs.
The four types of hearing aid include:
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The most important aspect of hearing aids is how well the device improves your hearing. After that, comfort is the next major consideration. If you don't like the fit of your hearing aids, you’re less likely to use them. If you’re satisfied with the feel and performance of a particular style of hearing aid, your next step is to explore the additional features the hearing aid offers. Does the hearing aid offer wireless connectivity, directional microphones, or a telecoil for use with public assisted listening systems? Choose a hearing aid with the extra features you’ll use. There’s no point paying extra for technology you won’t utilize.
Researching the styles and features of hearing aids provides you with a lot of great background information, but to really compare hearing aids you’ll need to try them on. Most licensed hearing care professionals have in-office demonstration models you can try, and some may even allow you to take a demo model home for a short trial run.
In the past, different styles of hearing aids had very different volume and setting controls. Playing with the controls of each hearing aid to determine their ease of use was part of the selection process. However, most hearing aids on the market now have a single button, not multiple controls. Most hearing aids also feature automatic volume adjustment, so you don’t have to worry about manually raising and lowering those levels.
The special features and custom settings on your hearing aids can be controlled via various phone apps. Explore these apps as well to make sure they’re intuitive and functional. Try adjusting these settings to see what the differences sounds like. If possible, step outside of the hearing care professional’s office to evaluate how wind and other outside noise affects the hearing aid performance.
Wearing a hearing aid can change how you use your phone. You may find you have to hold the phone at a different angle, especially if you are wearing a behind-the-ear or in-the-ear hearing aid. Call someone to see how well the hearing aid picks up sound from the phone, and whether you hear any feedback.
Pretty much all hearing aids are able to connect to phones wireless through Bluetooth technology. Ask your hearing care professional to show you how to connect the hearing aid to the phone and make a call to evaluate quality of sound.
Perhaps the best way to compare hearing aids is to take them home and use them for a few days. If your hearing care professional offers trial periods, take advantage of the offer. It can take time to adjust to hearing with a hearing aid, so taking them home for a period of time helps you determine if you've selected the right model and style, and whether you’ll use any extra features.
Before starting a trial period, ask the hearing aid dispenser to put the cost of the trial in writing, along with whether the trial cost will be credited towards your final purchase. You should also ask whether a portion of the trial cost will be refunded if you return the hearing aid before the end of the trial period.