Learning for the first time that you require hearing aids can be a shock to the system. Trying to buy your first one or pair can be very stressful due to the vast range and quality available. Trying to compare hearing aids can seem like an impossible task.
Comparing hearing aids when choosing a new set really comes down to three main things. Your level of hearing loss, your own particular requirements and your budget.
The three criteria for comparing hearing aids.
1. Your level of hearing loss. This should always be determined by a health professional. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you know what level of hearing loss you have. Modern digital hearing aids are usually programmed specifically to the individual’s hearing level. Most digital hearing aid suppliers will offer a free audiogram to determine your exact level of loss.
2. Your budget. Hearing aid prices vary greatly. You can get simple analogue devices for as little as £/$10 on places like amazon. At the other end of the scale you can expect to pay up to and above £/$2000 for the very latest digital models.
Remember this however, the most expensive model may not suit your particular level of hearing loss. Set a budget but don’t automatically look to the cheapest aids on the market either. Look at purchasing your devices as an investment in your quality of life. Do a bit of research and find out what is available within the price range you can afford.
3. Your own requirements. This is the area I am going to look at more closely here. Once you have your hearing loss level and budget sorted, the actual type of hearing aid you want or need will be the biggest step of all.
What are the different types of hearing aids available.
I think that this is where the frustration begins to set in for most people when it comes to trying to choose hearing aids. There are so many variations and styles of devices out there, that it is hard to know what to chose. Even with years of experience in purchasing hearing aids I still get confused regarding the various types.
Also, different companies sometimes use the same category of hearing aid to describe two completely different devices. Anyway, I have devised my own list of the types of device that are available. I think it covers every type but if I have left something out then please get in touch and let me know.
The BTE (behind the ear) model.
The most common and the model that most people are familiar with. As the name suggests, the hearing aid sits behind the ear. Actually what sits behind the ear is the microphone (receiver) and the processor.
A tube leads from this part and is connected to the ear by an ear mould. The mould is produced as a custom fit by an impression being taken of the person’s ear canal ensuring a perfect fit.
This model can also come with a small soft earpiece rather than a mould. This small earpiece uses a much thinner tube to connect it to the processing unit. No impression of the ear is required which means the devices can be fitted almost immediately.
The RITE (receiver in the ear) or RIC (receiver in the canal) model.
This type of hearing aid probably started out as a subcategory of the BTE models mentioned above. They have a similar look in that the main casing sits behind the ear.
They are very different though. The thin tubing that runs from the casing into the ear actually contains a wire which in turn is connected to the receiver that now sits in the ear canal. By taking the receiver out of the main casing, manufacturers are able to make the casing much smaller and more discreet to wear behind the ear.
This type of device is particularly prone to a build up of wax as the receiver is right inside the ear. This can damage the receiver and be costly to repair. Wax guards have become increasingly popular with these devices to protect against this.
The ITE (in the ear) or ITC (in the canal) model.
Despite the casing units of the above models getting ever smaller, some people still prefer to go for these smaller and more discreet models. The whole of the device sits within the ear. There is nothing sitting behind the ear and there is no tubing on show either.
Even though these are sometimes referred to as hidden hearing devices, they can be seen as they sit towards the outer part of the ear canal. However they are much more discreet than the BTE models.
The main issues with these are wax build up and moisture. These are the two worst enemies for any hearing aid and with the ITE or ITC models much more care has to be taken in terms of device maintenance.
The CIC (completely in the canal) model.
As the name suggests, these devices are manufactured to sit completely in the ear canal. Some manufacturers have achieved this better than others. A good model will be almost completely hidden from view even if someone is looking directly at your ear.
The benefits of these extremely small devices are somewhat negated by the very fact of their size. Being so small they have to use the smallest of components therefore the amplification of sound will be lower than the other models. Also, they use the smallest battery size which means they have to be replaced more often.
Body worn hearing devices.
This device consists of an earphone and a small box. The box is worn somewhere on the body such as being clipped to a belt or even worn round the neck. A cord with the earphone attached is then placed in the ear.
With the microphone being placed within the small box users need to be aware that in order to pick up sound then the box must be situated where it can pick up that sound. For instance if the box is clipped to your belt and someone behind you is speaking you will have difficulty in picking up that conversation.
The big advantage of this device is the battery life and cost. They usually run on AA or AAA batteries that are cheaper than buying traditional
hearing aid batteries and last longer.
Bone conduction hearing aids.
These devices are only for people who cannot wear any of the traditional types of hearing aids. They are only used for people with conductive hearing loss. The sound is delivered by vibration through the skull. These are a medically attached device and only approved and inserted by a specialist in this field.
Spectacle worn hearing aids.
These devices were developed for people who have both hearing loss and needed to wear glasses. The device is built into the arm or body of the spectacles and when the glasses are put on the earpiece is slipped into the ear.
Having to wear hearing aids and glasses can be a bit of a problem and this may have looked like being a good solution at first but the big problem is that when you take the glasses off the hearing aids had to come out as well.
The above categories of ITE, ITC and CIC have pretty much made the spectacle hearing aids redundant. Because these models fit within the ear then glasses can be worn without and difficulty.
Sometimes the choice is just too much.
As I said at the beginning it can be a daunting task trying to choose a hearing aid, especially if is your first time. The variation in design and the technology available today is astounding. It is also a very important decision as it will effect the very quality of your life.
The more research you do before you purchase the better your final choice will be. Keep in mind the three criteria for choosing hearing aids that I mentioned above.
KNOW YOUR LEVEL OF HEARING LOSS.
SET YOURSELF A MINIMUM AND A MAXIMUM BUDGET.
RESEARCH IN RELATION TO YOUR OWN REQUIREMENTS. WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM YOUR HEARING AIDS.
I hope this post has thrown some light on what can be a confusing area. If you have any questions or comments then please leave them below and I promise to get back to you as soon as possible. You can also contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org