You are here:

Choose a hearing aid that works for you

Image: Thinkstock

A behind-the-ear hearing aid provides ample volume and easily accessible controls.

Look for one that offers ample volume and the ability to turn it up and down as needed.

How many times during recent conversations have you said “What?” or “Excuse me?” or “Speak up!” If the answer is “More than occasionally,” then your hearing may be impaired.

Many men who could benefit from a hearing aid don’t use one. One common hurdle is a misperception of the problem. Family and friends may plead for men to “get their hearing checked,” but they insist that they can hear just fine. It’s true that they can generally follow conversations, but at what cost?

“What makes you hearing impaired is not the failure to hear, but the struggle to hear,” says Chris Halpin, an audiologist at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and associate professor of otology and laryngology at Harvard Medical School.

Getting a hearing aid that you will actually use because it works for you can be tricky. Most people simply need an aid that provides plenty of volume and the ability to control it, Halpin says. But the most expensive, high-tech devices sold today may not deliver.

How to choose a hearing aid

Hearing aid manufacturers push high-tech solutions that they can charge a lot of money for, like miniature in-the-ear devices with advanced computerized signal-processing software. These devices try to maximize hearing in a variety of sound environments.

Halpin advocates that what most people with age-related hearing impairment really need is a hearing aid with two qualities:

  • The amplified sound is sharp and clear.

  • You can turn it up as loud as you need with no whistling, shrieking, or other feedback.

High-tech in-the-ear devices may try to adjust the volume for you, but may not always produce enough volume when you want it. “Just like when you buy a television, you want a hearing aid that can be loud if you want it to be, but that you can then turn down,” Halpin says.

What type to buy

To produce lots of volume, a hearing aid often needs to be larger than a completely-in-the-ear device. That’s because it has to move a larger volume of air—like the huge speakers at sports stadiums. It may be worn behind the ear and funnel sound into your ear canal through a tube. Like other modern hearing aids, it will be digital and programmable.

Hearing aids can be very expensive. A programmable behind-the-ear device can cost a couple of thousand dollars, and the smaller in-the-ear-canal models go up from there. Medicare and many insurance plans don’t cover the cost of a hearing aid.

The value of an audiologist

Various products for the hearing impaired are advertised in print and online—some at substantially lower cost than medically prescribed hearing aids. It is possible to purchase true hearing aids yourself over the phone or on the Internet after having a hearing test and sending the results to the company.

But do-it-yourselfers may have to trade some service for the lower price. Audiologists conduct hearing assessments and then program your hearing aids to suit your needs. They also offer office visits for adjustments, repairs, and advice on how to use the hearing aid. “If you buy direct you may not get the support system,” Halpin says.

Halpin also says to be wary of low-price “personal sound amplifiers” that are worn in the ear, which may cost less than $100. “They are cheap but fairly ineffective hearing aids,” he says.

On the other hand, in some cases an inexpensive hearing helper might solve your problem for some period of time. An audiologist can help you decide.

“You maximize your chances for success by working face-to-face with a qualified audiologist,” Halpin says. “Getting the most out of these devices requires ongoing access to their expertise and plenty of input from you.”

Watch for these red flags of hearing impairment

  • Difficulty hearing on the phone or when there is noise in the background (in a restaurant, for example).

  • Straining to understand conversations, especially when two or more people talk at the same time.

  • It often seems that other people mumble or do not speak clearly.

  • Misunderstanding what others are saying and responding inappropriately.

  • Often asking people to repeat themselves.

  • People complain that you turn the TV volume up too high.

SOURCE: National Institute on Deafness & Other Communication Disorders

Posted by: Dr.Health

Back to Top