Hearing Aid Buying Guide
So you’re ready to explore the world of hearing aids and you need an honest guide to help you make the right decision. That’s where this hearing aid buyers guide will come handy.
The first thing to understand is that hearing aids will not restore your hearing to 100% normal, regardless of what you’ve read or been told. Hearing aids function by picking up sounds in your environment, processing it through an algorithm to determine which sounds need to be amplified and which sounds don’t, and then output the sounds at the right levels according to your hearing thresholds. This leads us to our first point of advice:
It’s important to know that the earlier you make the decision to seek out hearing amplification the more likely you are to have a positive outcome. The old adage “use it or lose it” holds true to your sense of hearing. A lack of stimulus can cause your nerves to become “lazy”. Seeking hearing amplification after many years of having hearing loss makes it more difficult for the brain to adapt. This brings us to our second point of advice:
Finding A Clinic
You’re now ready to take the next step, and that is finding a reputable hearing clinic. There are four types of hearing aid clinics:
- Independently owned clinics
- Manufacturer owned clinics
- Wholesale dispensers of hearing aids
- New and emerging field of remote dispensing of hearing aids
For new hearing aid users we recommend that you seek out an independently owned hearing clinic with Audiologists and Hearing Instrument Specialists as they are trained and experienced in the sole task of conducting hearing tests and prescribing hearing aids. Look for a clinic with good reviews and short wait times and those that are open to walk-in visits in case your hearing aids break down. Convenience & quality of service is a big advantage here.
As opposed to independent clinics, manufacturer owned hearing clinics are limited in the number of brands they will likely dispense. It is in their interest to only dispense one brand of hearing aid, namely the one they produce themselves. This limits the choices you are given and so you may end up with a device that does not fit all your needs.
Wholesale retailers of hearing aids, unlike independent clinics are also limited in the brands and models they dispense, and can have waiting times of weeks or even months. If waiting times are long and appointments are short, the service one receives can be limited. A business model whose sole goal is to sell as many hearing aids as possible in a short period of time can lead to a bad customer experience, particularly for new hearing aid users.
The newest model of hearing aid dispensing is the online one which has taken ahold since the pandemic in 2020. Manufacturers have updated their smartphone apps allowing the clinician to perform nearly all fine-tuning tasks remotely. If you’re looking for quality hearing aids at lower prices, this could be a good option. Make sure the clinic offers a number of brands and models if you decide to go this route. Read our article on online hearing aids to learn more.
You’ve now found a reputable clinic and will require a hearing test. The hearing test should take place in a quiet room and inside a sound-treated booth. The tests that should be performed are 1. Pure tone audiometry, 2. Speech Audiometry, 3. Tympanometric assessment.
Based on the results above, the clinician will determine whether you qualify for the smaller In-The-Ear models or whether a Behind-The-Ear model is more appropriate. The clinician will also take note of type of hearing loss, whether it’s conductive or sensorineural, and if there is an asymmetrical component.
Ruling Out Urgent Medical Reasons
If there is an underlying cause for your hearing loss which is not congenital or age related you may require medical attention. In this case your family physician should refer you to an Ear-Nose-Throat Specialist before considering hearing aids.
Choosing The Right Hearing Aid
We now have an understanding of the type and degree of your hearing loss, and it’s time to pick a hearing aid model and style.
Hearing aids come in four technology levels and three different styles. The four technology levels are Essential, Standard, Advanced, Premium.
As you go up in technology levels the more natural the sound and the better it will be at processing speech in noisy environments. The differences in technology levels lie within the chip and the algorithm inside the device.
The three styles of hearing aids are Behind-the-ear, Receiver-in-the-ear, Inside-the-Ear.
When choosing an aid it is wise to keep the future in mind as well as your immediate needs. Should your hearing change over the next few years, can the chosen hearing aids be programmed to accommodate any changes? This is a good question to present to your hearing professional.
The smaller the hearing aid the less space there is to pack features in and the more restricted it is in terms of sound amplification. Based on your lifestyle, cosmetic preferences, and budget needs, your clinician will recommend the most appropriate hearing aid. Make sure to ask what brands are available. The brands we recommend are Phonak, Resound, Signia, Bernafon, Oticon, Starkey, Widex, Unitron, Beltone.
Demo The Hearing Aids If Possible
Depending on your hearing loss, you may be able to demo the hearing aids in the clinic for a better understanding of what they sound like, although it’s important to keep in mind that a demonstration in a clinic is not entirely reflective of how the hearing aids will perform in normal everyday situations. Also, the demo hearing aids are limiting in the amount of fine-tuning that can be done. Your very own hearing aids will come with custom parts made to your ear and your clinician should be performing a number of fine-tuning tasks to fit your particular needs and wants, something that a demo hearing aid will never be able to achieve.
More models these days offer direct streaming to your smartphone. This is a very handy feature as long as your smartphone is compatible. Many of our clients find this feature extremely useful. Make sure to ask about this feature and whether it is available in the model that has been recommended.
Ask About Terms of Sale
You’ve now picked a model and agreed to a price. It’s time to go over the warranty and services that will be provided along with your purchase. Ask about the warranty period, the loss & damage insurance, and the service plan. Inquire about the return policy along with the upgrade/downgrade option in case you wish to go with a different set of hearing aids. When presented with the purchase agreement, make sure to read all of the clauses and ask questions when you’re unsure of what is being said.
Some clinics offer a financing plan. For example, at House of Hearing we offer a 0% financing for those that qualify.
Getting Fitted With Your Hearing Aids
After placing your order, it typically takes 1-2 weeks for your order to be customized and shipped to your clinic. You are now ready to be fitted, here’s what to keep in mind.
- If you order a BTE or RITE model, your hearing aids may come with a custom tip or ear piece. If you find these uncomfortable they may be replaced with domes.
- In-The-Ear hearing aids are usually manufactured to the shape of your ears. By their nature they will cause occlusion (blocking feeling), which you will have to adapt to over a couple of weeks. Take note of any feedback (whistling issues) and comfort issues. If you are having consistent trouble with feedback or comfort the shell should be remade at which point the clinician may take a new earmould impression.
- The clinician should perform a real-ear measure to make sure that the hearing aids are performing according to your needs. Sometimes this is done during your fitting appointment and other times during a follow up visit.
- Make note of the quality of the sound and ask for any fine-tuning requests. Perhaps the sound is too sharp, or the volume is too loud, or the hearing aids are picking up too much background noise. These are all qualities that can be tweaked through programming.
- Oftentimes as a new user, your clinician may set your hearing aids to a beginner’s volume and gradually increase it over time at your follow visits. This allows for your brain to comfortably adapt to the things you hear around you.
An independent clinic typically follows up with you on a regular schedule. Our recommendation is that they should follow up with you 2 days after the fitting, 2 weeks after the fitting, one month after the last follow-up and then every six months until the expiry of your service plan. Also you should have the ability to visit the clinic during business hours whenever an issue arises. Visiting the clinic should be easy and convenient. If it takes more than 3 days for the clinic to book you in, this should be a cause for concern.
During your appointments your clinician should be connecting your hearing aids to the computer to detect whether any firmware updates are available. These software updates can make a big difference in the way your hearing aids function, similar to how updating the operating system of a computer can result in big changes.
Talk to your clinician about any issues you experience as they arise. If they don’t know about the issues, they won’t be able to correct them for you. Their goal is your overall satisfaction and that you gain all the benefits your hearing aids are designed to provide. With modern digital hearing aids most issues hearing aid users of the past may have experienced can now easily be taken care of. Your clinician just needs to know about them!
Although hearing aids are remarkably resilient, taking a few minutes every day to clean and maintain them will make sure that they last a long time. Regularly change the filters and if you’re fitted with domes have them changed every 3 months. Make sure you’re using high quality batteries as cheap ones can corrode the internal components and may not last long. Investing in a dehumidifier or dry-aid kit can significantly prolong the lifespan of your hearing aids.
Do Annual Hearing Tests
Hearing loss tends to fluctuate with time. Your hearing aids are programmable devices and you should take advantage of this feature.
Ask your clinic to book you in for annual hearing tests followed up with reprogramming. This ensure that you are maximizing the potential of your hearing aids.
At the end of your service plan ask the clinician if there is any new technology which you may benefit from.
You are now an avid and experienced hearing aid user. However take advantage of the service plan included in your purchase. Regularly be in touch with your clinician or hearing clinic so that you can benefit from any firmware updates. Annual hearing tests should be conducted at no cost to monitor your hearing followed by appropriate programming changes in your hearing aids.
In order to have a positive outcome when purchasing hearing aids our recommendations above are summarized as follows:
- Have realistic expectations about hearing aids. If you’re motivated they can make a big difference in your ability to hear, hence your quality of life.
- Once you detect a decrease in your hearing, do not wait to seek out advice. Postponing hearing amplification can make it significantly more difficult to achieve a good outcome when purchasing hearing aids.
- Find an independent hearing clinic with a good reputation which focuses primarily on the quality of service.
- The hearing test should consist of a pure-tone test, speech test and tympanometric test.
- In some cases you should be seeking medical attention before pursuing hearing aids, these include instances of sudden hearing loss, asymmetrical hearing loss, and conductive hearing loss.
- Having taken into consideration your hearing loss, cosmetic concerns, budget and lifestyle needs, your clinician should be making a recommendation from all the world’s top brands and models. Be wary of clinics that limit your options.
- When possible, ask the clinician to demo your choice of hearing aids for a better understanding of the quality of sound and hearing aid performance.
- Make sure to ask about the warranties, insurance, and service plan included in your purchase. Do not hesitate to ask questions about the purchase agreement.
- When being fitted with the hearing aids, make sure they feel comfortable and ask the clinician to run a real-ear measurement test.
- Your hearing clinic should be following up with you on a regular basis. The first month of use is critical in the successful outcome of your hearing aids. Hearing aids should not be a one-time visit type of purchase.
- Maintain your hearing aids by cleaning them and changing the filters on a regular basis.
- Do annual hearing tests and if changes are noted, your clinician should perform programming changes to your hearing aids.
As an independent clinic, House of Hearing is free to prescribe and dispense hearing aids from all the available brands to best suit your specific needs. Call us today to talk to one of our hearing professionals. Learn more about the current top models available here.
We now also have an online model of hearing aid dispensing by which we offer unbeatable prices with top-of-the-class remote service. This is a good option for existing hearing aid users who are looking to upgrade their technology and own a smartphone. To find out more about our current offers please call our head office and inquire about remote dispensing of hearing aids and current promotions.
At House of Hearing you will receive a personalized service plan that meets your specific needs
30 Day Trial with Money Back Guarantee
You have 30 days to assess the hearing aids to determine whether they are a good fit for you.
Complementary Hearing Test & Consultation
We will conduct the hearing test at no charge and explain the results of the test.
No Pressure to Buy Hearing Aids
There is no pressure to buy, we encourage you to take your time to decide.
Instalment Payments Available
Factors That Matter To You
- Highly competitive prices
- Latest hearing technology from all top manufacturers
- Purchase from an actual clinic, not just an online store
- Offer services in multiple languages
- We pride ourselves on our quality of service
- Custom tailored hearing solutions based on your needs
- No pressure tactics – we want you to be comfortable with the steps you’re taking, and to only purchase when you’re ready
- Financing as an option
- Loaner hearing aids while yours are being repaired
- Quick access to your designated hearing professional
- Consistent ongoing care and follow-up
Multiple locations around Toronto
Call our office if you have any questions about our hearing aids or the process. We are here to answer any questions you may have.