Hearing loss is a devastating but very common problem. Even though tens of millions of Americans struggle with clinically diagnosable hearing loss, there are still many misconceptions surrounding the use of hearing aids, which can leave buyers feeling confused and overwhelmed. This article will offer an introduction to what options are out there and how to choose the right one.
Factors to Consider
The first thing most people look at when they start investigating options for treating hearing loss is hearing aid prices. Unfortunately, they can still be quite expensive, but the dramatic improvements they offer to a wearer’s quality of living generally make prescription hearing aids worth the investment. The high prices also mean it’s very important to make an informed decision and find a product that will work, so start by considering these factors:
Level of Hearing Loss
Because the FDA recently approved the use of over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids, some people are waiting to see if prices will come down. While OTC hearing aids may be helpful for those with mild to moderate problems, they won’t resolve severe hearing loss. That will still require a prescription.
People who live active lifestyles need hearing aids that fit securely so they won’t fall out or get lost. Many opt for extended-wear devices rather than traditional hearing aids, as well, especially for trips away from home. These issues may not come up for people who live less active lifestyles.
As with those who live more physically active lifestyles, people who enjoy going out to eat, listening to live music, or visiting crowded public spaces need to take their preferences into account. Some hearing aids work better than others in environments with a lot of background noise.
Types of Hearing Aids
Today’s hearing aids are far more advanced than those of the past. They also come in a wider variety of styles, and many offer advanced features. Some of the most common styles include:
BTE hearing aids are very common. These models have all of their working parts encased in a plastic mold that sits behind the ear and feature speakers that rest in the opening of the ear canal. They are appropriate for treating all levels of hearing loss and often come equipped with features such as feedback reduction, directional microphones, and even Bluetooth capabilities.
RIC hearing aids look similar to BTE models but with a slimmer, less noticeable profile. The primary difference is that they feature a smaller receiver.
ITE models are much smaller than BTE and RIC alternatives, which allows them to sit completely within the ear opening. Some people like them because they don’t look like traditional hearing aids, although they still tend to be quite noticeable.
CIC hearing aids are the least noticeable. Because they sit entirely in the ear canal, they stay almost completely out of sight. However, their smaller size means that CIC hearing aids rarely have advanced features. Some models, known as invisible-in-canal (IIC) hearing aids, rest so deeply inside the ear that they must be placed by audiologists.
How to Make the Right Choice
Choosing the right type of hearing aid can be difficult. The best way to ensure that the model of hearing aid purchased will fit not just the wearer’s ear but also their lifestyle and aesthetic needs is to speak with a qualified hearing aid specialist about options and ask questions before choosing which product to buy.