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The process of purchasing hearing aids used to be a lot easier. There were only a small number of styles to choose from and they all ultimately functioned the same way, which was to say not very well.

It wasn’t until digital technology was incorporated into the design that hearing aids became practical options for the restoration of hearing. And with digital technology, a multitude of features became readily available to control a multitude of listening situations.

But that’s the tradeoff—simple choices that resulted in poor results are now difficult choices with lots of options.

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

Below are six things to look for when selecting hearing aids, along with the questions to ask your hearing professional.

1. Programmability

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

Although you may not require the highest end hearing aid model on the market, the primary difference you should be worried about between a personal amplifier and a hearing aid is programmability.

Hearing aids should be programmed to amplify sounds based on your particular hearing loss. Otherwise, all sound will be amplified evenly and that’s not going to help you hear speech any better than before.

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

2. Style

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

You’ll need to balance price, performance, ease-of-use, and aesthetics when making your choice on hearing aid styles. You’ll also want to seek advise from a hearing professional on this one, as numerous factors should be taken into consideration, including the extent of your hearing loss.

3. Directional microphones

People invest in hearing aids for a variety of reasons and to hear a mixture of sounds, but the principal reason is to hear and understand speech.

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

Hearing aids with directionality contain two or more microphones situated at a specific distance from each other within the hearing aid. The contrast in arrival time of sound to each microphone then dictates how the hearing aid reacts to the sound.

This allows 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 minimization

Background noise and feedback inhibition are built into the majority of digital hearing aid models, but you’ll want to confirm this with any device you’re considering.

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

5. Telecoils

A telecoil is a small copper coil built into the hearing aid. While that doesn’t sound all that spectacular, what it can accomplish certainly is.

Telecoils make it possible for you to talk on the phone without feedback and connect 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 installed in home theater systems for the equivalent effect. Ask your hearing specialist for additional details.

6. Wireless connectivity

Did you just purchase a brand new iPhone or smartphone?

If that’s the case, you may want to consider investing in compatible hearing aids that link up wirelessly to these products. That way, you can stream telephone calls and music directly to your hearing aids for optimum sound quality.

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

There’s much to think about when choosing a hearing aid, which is why it’s vital to work with a reputable and knowledgeable hearing care professional.

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