Compare Hearing Aids

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. 

Types of hearing aids

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:

Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids

Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids are the largest type of hearing aid. The hearing aid case, which houses the microphone, receiver, and processor, is worn behind the ear, with a tube connected to an earmold that fits in the ear canal. Used for all levels of hearing loss, BTE hearing aids provide many features smaller hearing aids cannot, such as directional microphones and rechargeable batteries.

Receiver-in-canal (RIC) hearing aids

Receiver-in-canal (RIC) hearing aids are a smaller type of BTE hearing aid that use a wire to connect the body of the hearing aid with a soft tip that sits inside the ear canal. Unlike traditional BTE hearing aids, a RIC hearing aid’s receiver (the aid’s loudspeaker) is at the end of the wire, near the eardrum to produce a high-quality sound with less transmission loss. Close to 90% of all hearing aids are RIC. 

In the ear (ITE) hearing aids

In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids fit in the outer ear shell. Smaller than BTE hearing aids, ITE hearing aids have hard plastic cases custom made to fit your ear.

In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids

In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids are custom made to sit inside the ear canal with only the outer case and control buttons visible. The size of ITC hearing aids makes them extremely discreet, but also limits the amount of functions they offer.

Invisible-in-the-canal hearing aids

Invisible-in-the-canal hearing aids are the smallest type of hearing aid available. These fit entirely in the ear canal and cannot be seen at all without close examination. 

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Hearing aid features

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.

How to compare hearing aids

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. 

1. The first time you try them on

The first time you hear with a hearing aid, sounds will appear louder than you’d expect. The hearing aid won’t revert your hearing back to the exact way it was before your impairment. Instead, it amplifies sounds so you can hear them better. This can feel odd at first, but after using hearing aids for a while most people adapt well to the heightened sounds. 

2. Try listening to the voice of the ones you love

One way to compare hearing aids is to listen to the voice of a friend or family member. Their voice may sound louder and different from what you’re used to, as the hearing aid microphone is picking up their voice and transmitting it through the aid’s speakers. Have them repeat a specific phrase or tune so you pick up on the level of consistency. This will allow you to compare how each aid alters sounds around you. 

3. Play with the controls

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. 

4. Example the battery compartment

Unless you choose a rechargeable hearing aid, you’ll have to change the batteries every 5-7 days. Ask how long batteries will last before they need replacing, what type of batteries are used, and how much they cost. Try opening the battery compartment and practice taking the batteries out and replacing them. The smaller the hearing aid, the more difficult replacing batteries becomes. If you have dexterity or vision problems, you may want to choose a larger style of hearing aid or a hearing aid with built-in rechargeable batteries.

5. Try the hearing aid with your phone

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. 

6. Ask about accessories

Hearing aid “accessories” are actually the important additional components that help keep your hearing aids in the best possible condition. While these accessories probably won’t determine which hearing aid you choose, it’s a good idea to know what’s available. Accessories to help dry out hearing aids overnight, clean aids, and protect microphones from earwax should come standard with any hearing aids you purchase.

7. Take a hearing aid for a test drive

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.

8. Our Hearing Aids comparison

Questions to ask to compare hearing aids

  1. Are the hearing aids water resistant?
  2. What kind of warranty comes with the hearing aid?
  3. What’s the expected lifespan of this kind of hearing aid?
  4. How do I clean the hearing aid?
  5. What extra features does this model have?
  6. What is the expected battery life?
  7. How durable is it?
  8. Is there financing available for this hearing aid model?
  9. Does the hearing aid need periodic “tune ups” or professional cleanings?
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