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Loss in hearing can be quite debilitating. It can affect your work, relationships and also your emotional health.
With proper hearing aids, you can experience a positive change in your hearing, particularly if you choose the right hearing aids.
Are you looking for good quality hearing aids?
Want to know how to choose the right one?
Here is a complete guide that explains all information you need to know about hearing aids before you buy them.
What are hearing aids?
Hearing aid denotes an electronic device which you wear behind or in your ear.
The device is very small but is capable of turning sounds louder so a person who has hearing loss will be able to
- Listen to sounds in a better way
- Understand speech clearly
- Communicate more effectively
- Participate in his or her daily activities more fully
The hearing device is designed to assist people hear in noisy and quiet situations. Unfortunately of the people who would find the hearing aid beneficial, only one in five use it.
There is a difference between hearing aids and hearing amplifiers. Please consult your audiologist or one of our expert before purchasing hearing devices.
Parts of a hearing aid
Hearing aid is basically made of three parts namely:
- Microphone that picks up all sounds near you
- Amplifier for making sounds louder
- Speaker or receiver that sends amplified sounds to your ear
Sound is received through the hearing aid via the microphone. The microphone converts the sound waves into electric signals. The signals are then passed on to the amplifier. The amplifier boosts the electric signals and passes them to the ear via the receiver or speaker.
How do hearing aids work?
The main purpose of using a hearing aid is to improve hearing of the person and understand speech better. It is useful in people with hearing loss due to damage caused to hair cells, which are tiny sensory cells present in the inner ear. The loss of hearing in this way is termed as sensorineural loss of hearing. This damage can be caused by aging, disease, medications or from noise.
Hearing aids typically work by magnifying sound vibrations that enter the ear. The hair cells that are present identify the larger sound vibrations and change the vibrations to neural signals, which are sent to the brain.
If the hair cell damage in a person is severe, the loss of hearing will be more and the person will need more amplification in the hearing aid to compensate for the difference.
But there are limits to the extent of amplification that can be done to hearing aids. If the damage to inner ear is severe, vibrations of larger magnitude will not be converted as neural signals. Using a hearing aid in such a situation is ineffective.
Here are the steps to show how hearing aids function in general. This is the mechanism in most hearing aids even if the outcome requires to be customized according to the person wearing the device.
- Sound reaches the tiny microphone device which converts it into digital signal.
- This digital signal is processed by the device, boosted and altered to meet the specific hearing needs of the user.
- The small loudspeaker or receiver passes the converted sound via the ear fitting that is suitable for the hearing aid of the user.
Your audiology professional will test your hearing and discuss on the hearing aid types that would work for you. The hearing aid is chosen based on the extent of hearing loss and also on the specific lifestyle needs of a person. For hearing loss in both ears, you need two hearing aid devices as one is not adequate.
Hearing aids differ in their function based on their electronic components
There are two main electronics used in hearing aids namely
1. Analog hearing aids
Analog hearing aids are designed to alter sound waves to electrical signals. The signals are then amplified.
Analog hearing aids are adjustable devices tailored to suit the specific needs of the user. The manufacturer programs the hearing device based on the recommendations provided by the audiologist.
The analog type of hearing aids is programmable with multiple settings or program features. The program can be done by an audiologist with the help of a computer. The user too can alter the program for different types of listening situations such as a noisy restaurant, huge open spaces or a quiet room.
The analog circuitry design is applicable in all hearing aid types. These are usually not as expensive as the digital hearing aids.
2. Digital hearing aids
Digital form of hearing aids alters sound waves to numerical codes. This is identical to binary code use in a computer after which the codes are amplified.
As the code has information related the loudness or pitch of a sound, it can be programmed specifically for amplifying certain frequency ranges more than the rest.
An audiologist can have better flexibility in customizing a digital hearing aid based on the specific needs of a user and also program it to specific listening environments.
It is also possible to program these aids to concentrate on sounds emerging from a particular direction. Just like analog type, digital circuitry is usable in all hearing aid types.
How can you know which type suits best for you?
To choose a hearing aid that is right for you, there are two important considerations namely the type of hearing loss you have and its severity.
If hearing loss is present in both ears, you will need to use hearing aids for both ears. This helps in providing proper signal to your brain. Furthermore, hearing with both ears is necessary for better speech recognition and location of the direction from which a sound originates.
The best way to choose the right hearing aid for you is to consult with your audiologist and find a device that suits your specific lifestyle and needs best.
Price of the hearing aid is a big influence as the cost ranges from a few hundred dollars to as high as several thousands. The cost is affected by factors like style and the features present. But an expensive model need not be the right one for you, so price should not feature prominently when you shop for a hearing aid.
And remember that hearing aid is just a device to assist and does not restore your hearing. However with time your hearing aid can increase your response to sounds and the sources they originate from. To enable this, you have to wear the device regularly. Hence it is very important that the device you choose is easy and convenient to use.
Other factors to consider include
- Repair and maintenance costs
- Opportunities for upgrade and other options
- Top quality product
- Good customer support
Types of Hearing Aids
Hearing aids are available in many styles or types. Here are five most commonly found hearing aid types in the market:
Behind The Ear (BTE)
Mini Behind The Ear (Mini BTE)
In The Ear (ITE)
In The Canal (ITC) / Receiver In Canal (RIC)
Completely In Canal (CIC)
(BTE) Behind the ear
This type of hearing aid, as the name suggests, is worn behind your ear. It has a case made of hard plastic which is connected to an earmold also made of plastic, which is designed to fit in the outer part of your ear.
The plastic case present behind the ear has all the electronic parts. Sound passes from the hearing aid via the ear mold into the inner ear.
Who uses BTE?
BTE hearing aids are for people with hearing loss ranging from mild level to profound loss and are suitable for people of any age group.
Open fit is a new BTE hearing aid. It is small and fits compactly behind your ear. Only a very slim tube is placed inside ear canal opening up the canal permanently.
This type of hearing aid is ideal for people who have ear wax build-up, which can damage hearing aids. Furthermore many people prefer the open fit hearing aids as the sound perception when using this device is not plugged up but clearer.
This hearing aid style is designed to fit compactly in the outer ear. It is ideal for people experiencing minor to severe loss of hearing. The electronic components are present inside a plastic case.
In some cases, the in the ear devices for hearing loss have additional features such as telecoil. The telecoil is nothing but a tiny coil with magnetic properties. It allows the user to intercept sound via the hearing aid’s circuitry instead of the microphone. This feature allows for better telephone conversations.
Telecoil feature also assists in better hearing in public places, which have induction loop arrangements which are specialized sound systems. Such systems are present in schools, churches, auditoriums and airports.
In the ear hearing aids are not suitable for young children as the casings have to be changed frequently with ear growth.
ITC (In the Canal) and CIC (Completely in Canal)
Such devices, as the names imply, fit inside the ear canal. These are designed to fit snugly inside ear canal based on the shape and size of the canal.
Completely in canal aids are fully hidden inside the canal. The two types namely ITC and CIC are used for mild, moderate and moderately severe loss of hearing.
Due to their miniature size, many people find it difficult to remove, adjust or place the aids in the canal. Further canal aids do not have sufficient space for additional devices like telecoil or even for the batteries.
And the in the canal types are not suitable for young children as well as for people with profound loss of hearing as the small size restricts the power of the device and the volume.
Cost of Hearing Aids
Often compared to mini sized computers, hearing aids are infused with advanced technology. Their small size and the technology used in the hearing aids make them quite expensive. The prices start from $1000 to as high as $4000 for a single hearing aid. The cost differences are based on the features present, the size of the aid and personalization done in it.
If you find the cost too expensive, you can look for hearing healthcare services that offer financing which allows you to pay for the cost over a longer span.
Financing via third parties is also an option to consider
The state vocational rehabilitation system offers financial assistance in some states
Some states have advantage plans that cover the initial cost of purchase and consultation fees
Discounted prices on the device, consultation and batteries can be availed through the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons)
Eligible veterans can make use of the Veteran Administration offer of free consultation, purchase and also follow ups.
You can consult with your audiologist to find out about the total cost and the services that the cost includes.
In most cases, the after care and professional services are part of the hearing aid costs quoted by private audiologists. The price therefore may differ based on the services offered by the hearing healthcare professionals. Know about the services you will be eligible for once you start using the hearing aid.
Hearing Aid Brands
Just like any other product in the market, hearing aids are also available in many brands. So how will you choose the right one from the entire range available? Here are a few important considerations that will help you choose an appropriate brand:
Extent of hearing loss
For the hearing aid to work for you, it should be able to provide sufficient amplification. In case you have profound or severe loss of hearing, you should pick a device that has the capability of higher amplification or sound levels.
Hearing ability in noisy surroundings
During each hearing assessment, your speech capability in noise should be tested. If you score well on the amplified sound test, using a hearing aid can assist you in noisy surroundings.
Accessibility to brands
A few of the popular and quality brands you prefer may not be easy to access in your location which can restrict your choice of right hearing aid
To know which features are important for you, you should consult with your hearing healthcare professional. You will be able to find out your listening objectives and needs and the specific features that you will need for better hearing.
If you lead an active lifestyle you will need a hearing aid that has advanced technological features. For people who are often present in complex listening situations, sophisticated technology is the only choice for better hearing.
Quality hearing care professional
If your hearing professional does not follow best practices, you will not receive the appropriate ear measurement tests. This will result in selection of hearing aids that will not suit your specific needs in spite of the devices being of superior quality and expensive.
Always remember that the options open to you are best explained by your hearing healthcare professional.
Now that you know what to look for in a hearing aid, here are some of the top brands in 2019 that offer top notch quality sound, optimal speech understanding and other special features.
Launched in 1947, Phonak was one of the first companies in the market to introduce rechargeable hearing aids. The Zurich based company also operates a separate division for cochlear implants.
The brand is a popular choice for hearing aids worldwide and specializes in hearing aids for young children particularly the radio FM in-classroom technology and Roger Pen. The company is now acquired by Sonova, which is Unitron’s sister concern. Unitron is a US based company manufacturing hearing aids.
The main mission of Phonak is to help people with difficulty in hearing to interact socially with freedom and communicate confidently. The autosense OS tech helps to adjust hearing aids automatically to suit the user’s listening surroundings on the go.
The rechargeable hearing aids from Phonak use Lithium ion batteries. Other popular hearing aids Phonak is reputed for include CROS and Audeo B-R hearing aids. Lyric, an extended wear type of hearing aid is also from Phonak.
Phonak Audeo Marvel
The Audeo Marvel from Phonak is a device that has every feature you look for in a hearing aid.
It features the capability of streaming audio directly from iOS and Android devices without any accessory. This is not found in other hearing aid brands in the market.
Autosense 3.0 is the latest tech added to the hearing aid for enabling better adjustments automatically without any manual input.
Furthermore, Audeo Marvel is Roger Ready. By firmware update of your hearing aid (done by your hearing health care provider) you can activate the Roger Receiver installed internally allowing you to use all the efficient Roger FM features.
The company also plans to release the telecoil model of the Audeo Marvel brand and models with rechargeable battery.
Phonak Virto B-Titanium
The Virto B from Phonak is of Invisible in canal model. It is made from Titanium hence is 30% slimmer and also smaller in size when compared to the hearing aids made of acrylic. It is discrete and delivers good performance. However it requires an impression of deep ear for proper fit and also is not suitable for severe hearing loss situations.
Launched in 1943, ReSound is based in Denmark and is part of GN ReSound Group. The company has offices in more than 80 countries. The company aims at providing innovative hearing aid devices that constantly test limits of boundaries in hearing aid designs.
ReSound specialises in 2.4 GHz technology, which is a proprietary technology used for improving speech understanding.
ReSound is popular for its role in creating a unique sound processing method using WDRC (Wide Dynamic Range Compression). The company holds the distinction of the first hearing aid brand to launch open fit type of hearing devices which are very popular now. The company was also among the first few companies to launch hearing aids that were tailor made for use with iPhone.
Interton and Beltone hearing aid brands also belong to GN ReSound group. The group was the sole supplier of Kirkland hearing aids to Costco since 2013, but lost the contract in 2016 and Kirkland Signature 7.0 is now supplied by Sivantos.
ReSound LiNX Quattro
The Linx Quattro is a popular hearing aid model from ReSound. It substitutes the 3D device series of Linx. The Quattro boasts of features such as
- Long lasting rechargeable batteries of Lithium ion
- Streaming capability from iOS and Android devices
- The hearing aid also has a superior quality smartphone app that allows easy adjustments in the program settings. You can also receive adjustments remotely from your hearing healthcare professional via the app.
Unitron is a hearing aid manufacturing company based in Canada and the United States. It is part of the Sonova Group.
Ontario is the company’s base in Canada while Minnesota is the headquarters of the company in the US. The products are found in over 46 countries world over.
The company uses flex trial process for testing different levels of technology enabling them to make upgrades appropriately. Moxi, Stride and Max are the product lines offered by the company. Moxi Now is the smallest RIC (receiver in the canal) wireless hearing device present now.
This hearing aid from Unitron uses flex upgrade enabling a user to purchase a technology of lower level and later upgrade the device to a higher technology level. The physical device remains the same with just the technology used inside being upgraded. Thus you can choose when you upgrade your device.
Signia is the hearing aid brand owned by Sivantos. Sivantos launched the Signia product line in 2016 after it acquired the hearing aid division of Siemens in 2015.
Siemens is a pioneer in hearing aid manufacturing and is based in Germany. It introduced its hearing aids in 1913. The company was launched way back in 1878 under the stewardship of Werner von Siemens.
Werner von Siemens developed a special telephone to help people with hearing difficult understand phone conversations better. The first BTE (Behind the ear) device was designed by Siemens and named as Siemens Auriculette.
Other pioneering efforts of the company include designing the first hearing aids of digital type with directional or two microphones and first hearing aid using wireless technology and also the first hearing aid with waterproof feature.
Signia hearing device line features excellent speech identification and good reduction of background noise. Sivantos Group also owns Rexton, A & M Hearing and Audio Service.
Although the hearing aid industry has the same competitive spirit as any other industry, there have been several acquisitions in the industry resulting in certain companies taking up a major share in the market. Phonak and Unitron for instance, are owned by the same company named Sonova based in Switzerland.
The William Demant Group owns Bernafon, Sonic and Oticon brands. However Widex, GN Resound and Starkey are independent companies.
Now that you have seen the top brands available in 2019, choosing the right one will be easier. Irrespective of the brand you choose, you have to first undergo proper ear measurement, so you can get a suitable hearing aid. The measurement helps in programming the hearing aids you choose accordingly. And in the end the best brand differs from person to person.
While some brands are suited for an active lifestyle, there are devices that are programed to work in sync with your smartphone. The best brand for you would be the one that is suitable for the lifestyle you lead and your specific hearing difficult symptoms.
Also you should consider whether the hearing devices that you are getting come with bluetooth, which enables you to pair your devices to other bluetooth enabled devices and if they are rechargable:
Bluetooth hearing aids
Bluetooth hearing aids help you to connect wirelessly to devices like computer, TV, Smartphone etc. The Bluetooth technology allows streaming of audio of HD quality to your hearing device. Bluetooth hearing aids deliver superior sound quality so you will not have to hear the annoying whistling sound that occurs when sounds are over amplified or not tuned properly.
With Bluetooth hearing aids, you get several benefits like
- Greater control and convenience
- Improved sound quality and background noise is reduced
- You can stream audio to your hearing aid from any other device that is Bluetooth enabled
- Talk stress free and easily on your phone
- Watch TV without having to wear headphones and make volume adjustments on an app in your hearing device instead of doing it on your TV.
Rechargeable hearing aids
Rechargeablehearing aids eliminate the hassle of frequently changing batteries. The hearing aids use lithium ion batteries that are rechargeable and are built-in in the hearing aid.
Further the lithium ion battery can provide about 24 hours of continuous hearing with a single charge. It has 40% higher power when compared to the traditional rechargeable batteries.
And the charging takes just 3 hours. If needed, you can also charge the battery for just 30 minutes, which will give you about 6 hours of performance.
And the smart charging options present with hearing aids like Phonak allow you to use the batteries without worrying about the power draining.
Where to get hearing aids
If you face difficulty in hearing and feel that you can benefit using a hearing aid device, the first step is to set up a consultation with your physician.
Your physician can refer you to an audiologist or otolaryngologist. An audiologist is a professional taking care of hearing health. He can identify hearing loss and measure the extent of loss and the type by performing the hearing test.
An otolaryngologist denotes a physician specializing in disorders of ear, nose and throat. The specialist will investigate the cause for your hearing loss. Once hearing loss is diagnosed, your audiologist can contact us. At hearplace, we offer all the latest brands of hearing aids that meet your specific hearing needs and budget.
Where to buy hearing aids online
Buying hearing aids online is easy now than ever before. You can order your hearing aids online at our store online store shop.hearplace.com
For a hearing aid that is customized to meet your specific hearing loss symptoms you can consult with your audiologist and discuss your needs and receive a proper diagnosis. With the audiologist recommendation we can provide a suitable hearing aid from the numerous brands available at our site.
Here are some considerations before you purchase your hearing aid
- Find out the features that will be most useful for you from your audiologist
- Consider the cost of the hearing aid. While higher costs indicate better quality, consider whether the upgraded technology features are worth the expense.
- Look for trial period offered by the manufacturer. Majority of manufacturers provide a trial period of 30 days to 60 days wherein you can return the device and get a refund, if you are not satisfied with it.
- Look for warranty and extended warranty. Find out whether the warranty covers repairs and maintenance that occur during use of the hearing aid
- Find out whether your audiologist can make the necessary adjustments and service the minor repairs that occur in the hearing aid.
- Also confirm about financing options available for repairs