Guide to the most important considerations you need to take into account when you are considering buying a hearing aid.
1. Hearing loss
Not all types are suited to all losses. You need to consider the type of hearing loss you have, the extent of loss (how bad your hearing is), and the configuration of your hearing loss (what your test results look like).
The configuration of hearing loss is usually the main consideration when a particular style is recommended to you The most common hearing loss configurations are a sloping loss and a flat loss.
The sloping hearing loss is the most common configuration seen by audiologists. These types of losses are common for those suffering presbycusis (age-related hearing loss), or noise induced hearing loss. Broadly speaking, hearing aid style can be broken up into two categories, behind-the ear and in-the-ears styles.
Behind-the-ear (BTE) come in a few sub-categories, Standard, Open fit, and receiver in canal. They all are comprised of the hearing aid which sits behind the ear, and something which delivers the sound into the ear canal.
Open fit BTE's are designed for sloping losses. They reduce the amount of occlusion effect the wearer may experience, and will minimize the adverse effect (echo, loudness) of your own voice that you perceive whilst using the hearing aid. People with sloping losses are most susceptible to this effect, which and is a high area of concern for users. The drawback of open fit aids is the higher risk of acoustic feedback (or whistle) which the user may experience. If you have a loss which goes into the moderately-severe range, you may be best suited to a standard BTE. This will minimize feedback whilst leaving the ear canal as open as possible through venting of the ear mold. Cosmetically, the open fit BTE or RIC aid are the most appealing on the market, particularly if the wearer has hair covering the behind the ear part of the device.
Receiver-in-canal (RIC) share almost all the beneficial properties of open fit aids, but often have a larger volume range before feedback is an issue. These are now some of the most popular on the market. They have the same cosmetic appeal as open fit BTE's, and are able to fit much more severe losses than them.
In-the-ear (ITE) are fitted less commonly nowadays given the introduction of open-fit BTE's and RIC's. They are more suited to flat losses where the risk of occlusion is less. There are varying sizes in these styles ranging from the smallest completely-in-canal (CIC) to the largest in-the-ear (ITE) device.
2. Lifestyle Factors
Your lifestyle and therefore the situations you want to use them in in will greatly determine which types are best for you. Lifestyle factors will determine what prices you should be looking at, as the more demanding the hearing situations will require higher level features, which in turn increase prices. Features range from basic to very high level. Basic are more suited to quieter situations, like at home, one-on-one meetings in quiet, and TV and radio listening. Mid level are good all-round devices, as they have more advanced technology to help you more in social situations (clubs, shopping centers, family gatherings) if you find yourself in these situations fairly frequently. If you are in demanding situations almost every day, socializing, in business meetings or with groups in noisy areas, then high level hearing aids will likely suit you best. For a more detailed breakdown of which one may be best suited to you, please download our free online report and we will send you another bonus report "Determining Listening and Device Needs" which will help you further decide which level will best suit your needs.
When choosing a hearing aid, ensure you get the correct hearing aids to suit your needs. Like anything, if you do not buy the suitable product for yourself, your likelihood of success will diminish. If you are buying an automobile and you want to take it off road four wheel driving, you will need to buy a 4WD. If you want your hearing aids to help you in noisy areas and more demanding listening areas, you will be best served with more advanced noise reduction features in the hearing aid.
The look of the hearing aid is also important to many hearing aid wearers. Choose a hearing aid you will be comfortable wearing so you can get on with listening and communicating effectively. For most females and males with hair behind the ears, the most discreet hearing aid styles are open fit BTE's or RIC hearing aids. This is because you will not see the majority (which is very small in any case) of the hearing aid as it will be covered by your hair. The only visible portion will be the thin tube which inserts into the ear canal which is barely noticeable if in fact it is noticeable at all.
Many potential hearing aid users want to be fitted with CIC styles, and these are indeed very discreet fitting in the canal only, with very little actual aid showing. These hearing aids are most suitable to mild to moderate flat losses as the risk of occlusion is quite high. Another consideration is your ear canal size. If you have a small ear canal, the manufacturer may not be able to make the device small enough to fit you. Also consider the amount of wax you produce, as they can easily block up if you produce a lot of wax, and comfort issues should also be considered, as these hearing aids go farthest down the ear canal than any other hearing aid style. In saying this, many people wear CIC style hearing aids successfully, but be flexible about your options going into your hearing specialist appointment.
4. Management Considerations
Hearing aids have different levels of automation, and different sized controls which can allow you to change volumes and settings while you are using the devices. Fully automatic hearing aids generally require very little if any manual controlling, as the device will analyze the situation you are in (quiet vs. crowd for example) and choose the settings it feels will best suit that environment. Basic hearing aids require more manual adjustments by the user if you are to get the most flexibility out of the device. If you are someone who would prefer to put the hearing aid in and just forget about it, then an automatic style device may suit you best. If you are someone who would prefer to have control over the device, than some degree of manual controls will suit you best.
For those with arthritis or manual dexterity issues, consider automatic hearing aids and/or hearing aids with remote control connectivity. Remote controls can be an easy way to adjust the volume and listening programs, as the controls are much larger than the controls on the aids themselves. You can also see the controls you are manipulating also, rather than manipulating controls behind the ear as you are wearing them.
There is a wide range of hearing aid prices in Australia. Broadly speaking, for private clients the range is around $1400 for two basic aids costs up to around $10000 for two top of the range devices. And there is everything in between too! It is often a fine line to choose the perfect device for yourself without over or underspending. You want to ensure you get the device which has enough features to suit your listening needs, but also want to ensure you are not paying for features which you don't need. If you want more information on prices please see our Australian Prices Guide.
There are many digital hearing aid types, features, functions, and styles available. Although the above information is very general and should only be used to give you some starting information for your final decision, careful consideration of all the above factors will go a long way towards choosing the right one for you.
If you require any further information or to discuss how we can help you further, please visit our website www.hearingaidsuccess.com.au