There’s no “perfect” hearing aid that’s right for everyone. The hearing aid you choose, therefore, will end up reflecting everything that’s unique about you and your hearing needs. That’s pretty cool when you think about it (I don’t mean to sound like an after-school special, but it’s true); you’ve got the opportunity to wield a fair amount of control over the future of your hearing.
Any time you’re given a healthy array of options, however, you also have to contend with a correlating number of choices. And choices can be tough (even deciding what to eat for dinner can ignite some epic debates), so it’s easy to see why selecting a hearing aid that will last you for a number of years might, at first, give you a lot to think about.
Knowing what to expect when the hearing aid selection process starts can help ease some of your decision-making anxiety. The more you know ahead of time, the better prepared you’ll be navigating your hearing aid options.
What Style of Hearing Aid Should You Choose?
When it comes to selecting a hearing aid style and substance are very much joined at the hip. That’s because hearing aids are usually available in four specific styles–and each of these styles has functional and aesthetic ramifications (so, you know, style and substance). The four basic models are:
- Invisible-in-the-canal (IIC): These are tiny hearing aids you place directly in your ear canal. The power tends to be on the limited size, but the advantage is that these hearing aids are virtually invisible.
- In-the-canal (ITC): There are some larger models that can sit right inside the hearing aid. They aren’t quite as small, but they still tend to be less conspicuous, which is something many individuals like.
- Shell-in-the-ear (ITE): Shell in the ear models are those that tend to be a bit larger, sitting comfortably in the opening of the ear canal. These tend to be larger and more powerful models–but definitely more noticeable.
- Behind-the-ear (BTE): Behind the ear models have two distinct sub-assemblies. One subassembly is tiny, sitting in the ear canal. Inconspicuous wires connect that tiny bit to a larger piece that sits behind the ears. This style of device can be both powerful and, to a certain degree, less noticeable. (They’re popular with children because the earpiece can be easily changed out as the child grows.)
Each style works best for specific hearing loss ranges, so your hearing test results will help guide you toward particular styles. Your hearing specialist will also help make sure to walk you through your options, so you’ll have some help in making the right choice for your level of need.
Premium vs. Basic Hearing Aids
The next decision you’ll have to make might sound pretty simple: do you want a premium set of hearing aids or a more basic pair? At first glance, you might be tempted to save a buck and go for the basic model (this impulse is particularly common among first-time hearing aid users).
But that’s not always going to be the best long term choice for your hearing health, especially if those basic models lack functionality that can improve hearing aid performance (and therefore make you more likely to keep wearing them). Premium features such as Bluetooth connectivity, easy-to-use controls, or automatic “smart” changes in sensitivity based on the environment may be worth it for your long term hearing health.
Durability Is an Important Feature in Hearing Aids
Some hearing aid models are backed up by an extensive warranty. Others are not. Most hearing models are probably somewhere in between, and it’ll be up to you and your hearing specialist to determine what’s most sensible for your needs and your budget. If you live a particularly active lifestyle, for example, a more robust warranty might be worth some additional cost.
Whatever warranty your hearing aids are packaged with, it’s important to ensure you follow your device’s maintenance schedule and instructions. The better maintained your hearing aids are, the longer they tend to last. So when you ponder your durability options, maintenance tasks and schedules are a factor to consider.
Your Hearing Specialist Will Help You
Your main guide throughout the entire hearing aid selection process will be your hearing specialist. When you’re sitting in the office for your first fitting, when you’re getting adjustments made during your follow up appointment, or when you go in for your annual hearing screening–your hearing specialist will be there to help you through the process of choosing the hearing aids that best fit your circumstances and lifestyle.