Buying your first set of hearing aids or buying a new set is a big decision. It should never be an impulse buy. Your first or new devices will be a big part of your life. They will play a significant role in your future quality of life so you want to make sure you choose wisely.
I’m often asked “What are the best hearing aids?” The answer is simply, the best hearing aids are the ones that suit YOUR needs. For those of us that need them they are not just another thing to purchase. They are our friends. They are our link to our family, friends and the rest of society.
It is the same if you are getting hearing aids for a young person or child. Don’t just presume that you (or the supplier) know what is best for them. Discuss their needs and wants. Make them a part of the decision making process. After all they are the ones who will be wearing them.
When I am buying new hearing aids, I go through a 6 step process. If you follow this guide then you can be pretty sure that when you finally buy your devices you will be satisfied that you have made the correct decision.
Step 1 – Type of hearing loss.
Not all hearing aids are suitable for all levels of hearing loss. This issue is going to be particularly important in America in the coming months. The FDA are changing how they regulate the hearing aid market. This is to allow a new classification of hearing aid which can be sold over the counter in places such as WalMart and others.
The very real danger from these changes is that the market gets flooded with cheap and inferior devices and people are sold hearing aids that could actually do more harm than good in the long term. Check out the FDA changes here.
You should always know your level of hearing loss. Speak to the person who diagnosed your loss. They will be able to provide you with your audiogram results. Your hearing loss level will be within the parameters of MILD, MODERATE, SEVERE or PROFOUND. There may also be individual issues with your hearing that you need to take into account.
Being armed with this information gets you off to the best possible start. This is your foundation and all the other steps you take from now on will always be subject to your level of hearing loss.
Step 2 – Social situations.
This is where you begin to think about what type and style of hearing aid you want. Look at your lifestyle. The type of lifestyle you lead should have a influence on the type of hearing aid you buy.
Are you the sporty type. If you take part in a lot of activities then you will be in situations where you sweat a lot. Water and moisture are the arch enemy of hearing aids. It can very easily damage the delicate circuits inside them. If this is you then you may want to be thinking about a device that sits deep in the ear canal to protect it from getting wet.
Are you the business type? Do you attend a lot of meetings with clients? Are you on the telephone a lot or in conferences most of the time? If this is your typical day then being able to connect to your phone wirelessly or having a portable loop system with you devices may be the way for you to go.
Perhaps you are the socialising type. Do you go out a lot with friends to bars, nightclubs, music festivals or concerts? If so then you may be looking for something with volume control or background noise reduction availability.
Even if you are the homing type. If you just love to stay at home watching the television then you will want to be thinking about a device that can connect directly to the tv to give you a better clarity of sound.
Take a bit of time to think of the type of lifestyle you lead. With the technology available today your hearing aid should be designed to fit into your lifestyle. Not the other way round.
Step 3 – Style of hearing aid for you.
This step will tie in with step 2 above. There are a number of different styles of hearing aid on the market today. Different manufacturers will describe them in different ways. The basic styles are,
Behind the ear (BTE) hearing aids. These devices are where the main body of the hearing aid sits behind the ear. It is connected via a tube to either a small bud tip that can sit inside the ear canal or a mould that sits at the outer edge of the ear canal.
In the ear (ITE) hearing aids. These are where the whole of the hearing aid sits in the ear. There is nothing sitting behind the ear. A lot of them are now described as hidden hearing aids because they are virtually impossible for anyone else to see.
These two categories can be broken down further but they essentially represent the two main styles produced today.
Step 4 – Hearing aid features.
This is where you want to decide what features you need your hearing aid to have. This can be tricky due to the ever evolving technology that is going into hearing devices today. They can be broken down into three ranges.
Basic range. These hearing aids will be very much at what is termed the entry level. They will be pretty basic in nature and will generally be programmed to suit your level of hearing loss and not much else
Mid Range. Devices in the mid range will start to give you options in term of what extra help your hearing aids can give you. You should expect to see features such as background noise control, whistling noise reduction, directional sound pick up and volume controls. It will really be up to you to pick and choose what features are most important to you.
Top range. As the name suggests, these hearing aids will come with every available feature they can pack into the device. Some of these are truly amazing. At this level you should expect full connectivity to the likes of your iphone, smartphone or other devices. They will be multi channel and can be operated remotely. The sky’s the limit with the top models.
Step 5 – The dreaded pricing.
The price of hearing aids remains one of the major barriers that prevent people from buying these devices. Some of the models can cost as much as $/£2500 for one. Yet, a very good quality mid range hidden hearing aid can cost as little as £199.
My advice on this is to get the very best that you can afford. Your hearing aids are an investment in your future and your hearing health. Not everyone will need the models with all the bells and whistles. Remember, the correct device for you may not necessarily be the most expensive one in the store. This is why step 6 is so very important.
Step 6 – Research – Research and Research again.
The key here is to make a plan. Write down everything you have come up with from step 1 through to step 5. Don’t just try and do it in your head. Put a plan down on paper.
When done your plan will show, your level of hearing loss, the type of lifestyle you live, the style of hearing aid you want, the features you would like your device to have and the price range you can afford.
Once you have this in front of you then hit the internet. Do this before you go to a supplier. The internet will have reviews and details on every hearing aid on the market. If you aren’t confident on the internet then find someone who is and get them to do this step with you.
This will take a while but is well worth the effort. Ideally you would want to have a list of approximately 5 different models that would be ideal for you. Now you can go confidently into buying mode.
You can either go to an online supplier or a high street store. There are some very good online hearing aid suppliers, who have a great reputation for service and quality. Check out my recommended online supplier here. High street suppliers do tend to be a bit more expensive but you have the advantage of being there in person.
Finally, if you have gone through the steps above then you have a very good idea of exactly what you want. When you go to buy don’t be put off by sales patter. Don’t be talked into something you neither want nor need. This is your hearing health. This is your quality of life. Make the decision that is right for you. Happy hunting.
I hope I have helped. That is the purpose of this website. I appreciate all comments and suggestions. Please leave them below. I will answer back asap.
Regards and good hearing health,