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The process of buying hearing aids was in the past a lot easier. There were only a few styles to choose from and they all in essence worked 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 viable options for the restoration of hearing. And with digital technology, several features became available to handle a multitude 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 improvement in hearing you can attain. It’s also why it’s crucial to work with a reputable hearing specialist that can guide you through all of the important considerations.

Here are six factors to look for when purchasing hearing aids, along with the questions to ask your hearing professional.

1. Programmability

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

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

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

Ask your hearing specialist about programming functionality, including pre-programed settings you can use in different scenarios, like at a restaurant versus at home.

2. Style

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

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

3. Directional microphones

People invest in hearing aids for a range of reasons and to hear an assortment of sounds, but the most common reason is to hear and understand speech.

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

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

This helps the hearing aid to focus on 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 suppression are built into the majority of digital hearing aid models, but you’ll want to confirm this with any model you’re considering.

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

5. Telecoils

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

Telecoils allow you to speak 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 more details.

6. Wireless connection

Did you just purchase a brand new iPhone or smartphone?

If so, you may want to give some thought to purchasing compatible hearing aids that connect wirelessly to these devices. That way, you can stream cell phone 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 adjust the volume and settings.

There’s a lot to consider when selecting a hearing aid, which is why it’s crucial to work with a reputable and knowledgeable hearing care expert.

Are you ready to discover your optimal hearing aid?