When faced with the predicament of choosing a pair of hearing aids to treat hearing loss, it’s common to feel overwhelmed with the many options that have flooded the hearing aid market. While it’s always the best practice to heed the advice of a hearing professional you trust, and to get a thorough in-person evaluation when attempting to decide which hearing aid style is the best for you, it’s also helpful to come into these appointments knowing how to make the best choice.
It’s often said that the hearing aids available today are “not the hearing aids of your grandparents” and in almost every sense, this is true. Hearing aid technology has made leaps and bounds during the digital revolution of the 1980’s and 90’s, and the improvements don’t appear to be slowing down as microchips and wireless technology continue to improve.
The most important factor to consider when looking over your hearing aid options is the hearing aid’s effectiveness for your specific level of hearing. This important detail will be where your hearing professional is most helpful, as he or she will guide you to the best hearing aids for the type and level of hearing loss your hearing evaluation revealed. Depending on the type of hearing loss you’re experiencing, and the degree of severity of your loss, some hearing aids might not be able to deliver the amount of amplification you need to hear better.
The next most important aspect of choosing a hearing aid is selecting one that feels comfortable in your ear canal or possibly behind your ear. This one can be tricky, as almost all hearing aids feel somewhat strange when you first begin to wear them. Luckily, most states require that hearing aids have a money-back guarantee policy, so you should be able to try out whichever model you choose for a while before deciding if it’s getting comfortable or not. Most hearing aids begin to feel normal within 10 days of wearing them, and allowing yourself to gradually get used to them (wearing them a bit longer each day) is highly recommended to avoid making your ears sore (and your brain tired!).
While it’s common for this detail to occupy most of our attention when perusing hearing aids, considering the aesthetic design of the hearing aid is best left as part of the final evaluation. In other words, try not to let it sway you too much. Even the largest hearing aids today are still a fraction of the size of what they were 20 years ago, and whatever reservations we might have about people being able to see the hearing aids behind our ears should be considered alongside how we come across to others when we can hardly make out what they’re saying. This isn’t to say that the completely discreet, Invisible-In-the-Canal options aren’t excellent options, but it’s wise to put effectiveness and comfort above anything else. Even if no one else can see them, if your aids aren’t giving you good results or are difficult to wear, it’s likely you’ll stop wearing them at all.
When you begin your selection process, after your complete hearing evaluation, the first thing you’ll need to decide is whether you want a “custom” or “standard” hearing aid. Custom hearing aids include an earmold that is custom fit to the unique shape of your ear canal. These require that an impression is taken of the shape of your ear so that the hearing aids can be individually produced to fit your ears perfectly. Standard hearing aids don’t usually require a custom-fit ear piece and can be fit “off the shelf,” allowing you to try on the various options.
Both custom and standard hearing aids include custom programming or “fitting” so that they are attuned to your specific levels of hearing, leaving the difference between them in the customization of the physical hearing aid itself. Custom hearing aids are typically more expensive than standard hearing aids, and all of the smallest hearing aids that sit completely in the ear canal are custom. Standard hearing aids are typically always the Behind-The-Ear models, but include options for smaller and more discreet options as well (such as the Receiver-In-the-Canal style).
Selecting a hearing aid can feel like a heavy choice to make, but it’s important to remember that you are really just “trying them out,” so be sure to ask about the return policy and warranty of any hearing aid you consider.