Hearing aids are no longer limited to a one-size fits all solution. With so many models, styles and technology levels it’s worth taking the time to choose the best hearing aid to meet your lifestyle needs and to suit your hearing loss. Finding the right audiologist is an extremely important step in this process.
A good audiologist will take the time to help you clarify your listening requirements and explain how particular brands and models might be more suited to specific hearing loss challenges. A good audiologist will also make sure your hearing aids are optimised for you and will follow up your progress as you adapt to your new hearing abilities.
Learning about the many different options that modern technology is bringing to hearing aid design will allow you to ask the right questions and help you choose the best hearing aid for you. We’ve put together this helpful guide to help you with that process. You’ll want to think about the following five key things.
- Severity of your hearing loss
- Your job and daily requirements
- Your physical and visual abilities
- Technology requirements
- Social needs
Severity of your hearing loss
Some hearing aid models will suit the degree of your hearing loss more than others. As a general guide, Behind-the-ear models tend to be more appropriate for severe to profound hearing loss because they can house more powerful componentry.
This means that you might have to weigh up the importance of features such as invisibility if your hearing loss is very severe.
Your job and daily requirements
Think about how hearing loss affects your ability to do your job. What do you need from hearing aids to make daily life easier for you? Do you struggle to follow conversations on the telephone in the middle of a busy office? Are fast-paced meetings a challenge because you miss out on important information?
Do you dread the office social events because the noise is unpleasant? Is your hearing loss a safety issue because you miss danger signals such as vehicles arriving in the unloading bay? Are there particular sounds that cause you discomfort? Does your hearing loss leave you feeling exhausted and frustrated at the end of the day?
Like most people, you probably spend a large part of your life at work so it’s important to find a hearing aid that will help you thrive in the workplace. Asking these types of questions is a great way to identify a hearing aid that will best fit your needs.
And you really do need to do this because hearing loss can affect much more than simple job satisfaction. Studies have shown that untreated hearing loss can have a dramatic impact on your income—reducing it by as much as $12,000 each year. Hearing loss may also reduce your chances of finding other work. But the good news is that research shows that hearing aids can reduce these negative income impacts by 50%.
The reality is the right hearing aid can significantly improve your on-the-job performance and productivity levels as well as your overall job satisfaction.
Physical and visual abilities
How nimble are your fingers and what’s your vision like? Some hearing aid styles feature batteries and settings adjustments that are a little awkward or fiddly. The Completely in the Canal (CIC), IIC (invisible in the canal) and ITC (in the canal) hearing aids might pose handling problems for some people.
Fortunately, many hearing aids now come with rechargeable batteries such as the Phonak range, Signia Charge and Go and Oticon’s OPN S range. The Phonak products also include the Lyric, which can remain in your ears 24/7 for up to 120 days at a time. A hearing professional needs to install or replace the Lyric but it means you have don’t have to worry about batteries at all.
Some hearing aids feature Smartphone apps that can make adjusting and monitoring your hearing aids really easy. These types of hearing devices might be ideal for you if your vision makes it hard to read dials or other small adjustment features. Check out the Widex Beyond I-Phone app or Signia easy-Tek app.
Some physical features such as the size and shape of your ear and ear canal will also rule out certain hearing aid types and models.
The role technology plays in your life is another key factor that will help you choose the right hearing aid. Modern technology can transform your listening experience in a wide range of ways including:
- Tinnitus management
- Speech and music enhancement
- Background noise reduction
- Automated listening programmes
- Wireless connectivity
- Sudden noise protection
Think about how you live each day, the range of listening environments you move through, and which of the various technology levels can give you the optimal communication enjoyment and convenience.
Think about the social activities you’d like to try as well as the events you’d like to attend but have given up. Ask yourself:
- What hearing situations are the most challenging?
- Do I find particular sounds or voices difficult to hear?
- What is my daily routine and where do I go?
- How often do I attend noisy settings such as restaurants, shopping centres, or sporting facilities?
Discuss your lifestyle needs with your family and friends as well as your hearing professional to help you identify the best hearing aid for how you want to live your life.
And finally, your budget may also influence your choice of hearing aids. Some people still believe the myth that hearing aids are too costly. But there are financial aid programmes that can help you and if you’re a resident of Ontario you may be eligible for 75% of the cost of your hearing aids.
The simple reality is that hearing aids cost as little as $1,000 but the cost of ignoring your hearing problems could be far higher than you imagine. Untreated hearing loss will not only cost you in terms of income but may have significant long-term impacts such as increased likelihood of cognitive decline, poor mental health outcomes, and accidents.