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The process of buying hearing aids was in the past a lot easier. There were only a few styles to select from and they all ultimately functioned the same way, which was to say not very well.

It wasn’t until digital technology was integrated into the design that hearing aids became practical solutions for the recovery of hearing. And with digital technology, a variety of features became readily available to accommodate a wide variety of listening scenarios.

But that’s the tradeoff—easy choices that resulted in inadequate results are now complicated choices with lots of options.

But complicated does not mean impossible, and the time spent is well worth the gains in hearing you can obtain. It’s also why it’s critical to partner with an established hearing specialist that can guide you through all of the relevant considerations.

Here are six factors to look for when selecting hearing aids, in conjunction with the questions to ask your hearing specialist.

1. Programmability

Hearing amplification products are not all created equal. In fact, the distinction between the lowest end personal sound amplifier and the highest end digital hearing aid is the difference between a Ford Pinto and a Porsche.

While you may not need the highest end hearing aid model on the market, the main difference you should be concerned about between a personal amplifier and a hearing aid is programmability.

Hearing aids must be programmed to enhance sounds according to your distinctive hearing loss. Otherwise, all sound will be amplified uniformly and that’s not going to help you hear speech any better than before.

Ask your hearing expert about programming capability, including pre-programed settings you can use in a variety of scenarios, like at a restaurant versus at home.

2. Hearing aid style

Hearing aids are available in several sizes and styles, ranging from behind-the-ear to completely in the ear canal.

You’ll need to balance price, performance, ease-of-use, and appearance when making your decision on hearing aid styles. You’ll also want to work together with a hearing professional on this one, as numerous elements should be taken into consideration, including the degree of your hearing loss.

3. Directional microphones

People buy hearing aids for a range of reasons and to hear a mixture of sounds, but the main reason is to hear and understand speech.

If that’s the case for you, you’ll want to inquire about directional microphones in any hearing aid you’re considering.

Hearing aids with directionality contain two or more microphones inserted at a specific distance from each other within the hearing aid. The variation in arrival time of sound to each microphone then determines how the hearing aid responds to the sound.

This makes it possible for the hearing aid to target the specific sound source in front of you, which if it’s a person, will be the sounds of speech.

4. Background noise reduction

Background noise and feedback inhibition are featured in most digital hearing aid models, but you’ll want to verify this with any device you’re considering.

Hearing aids contain a microprocessor that can distinguish between high-frequency sounds (like speech) and low-frequency sounds (like background noise). The microprocessor can then amplify speech while suppressing everything else.

5. Telecoils

A telecoil is a small copper coil integrated into the hearing aid. While that doesn’t sound all that impressive, what it can achieve undoubtedly is.

Telecoils make it possible for you to speak on the phone without feedback and hook up to hearing loop systems. For instance, if a hearing loop system is installed in a church or cinema, sound will be transmitted directly to your hearing aid for maximum clarity.

Hearing loops can also be set up in home theater systems for the same effect. Ask your hearing professional for additional information.

6. Wireless connection

Did you just buy a new iPhone or smartphone?

If that’s the case, you may want to give some thought to purchasing compatible hearing aids that connect wirelessly to these products. That way, you can stream telephone calls and music directly to your hearing aids for optimal sound quality.

Your smartphone can even be used as your hearing aid remote control, whereby you can subtly change the volume and settings.

There’s a lot to take into account when selecting a hearing aid, which is why it’s vital to work with a reputable and experienced hearing care expert.

Are you ready to discover your optimal hearing aid?

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