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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 essentially 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 practical solutions for the recovery of hearing. And with digital technology, a multitude of features became readily available to deal with a multitude of listening situations.

But that’s the tradeoff—easy choices that produced poor results are now difficult choices with lots of options.

But complicated does not mean impossible, and the time spent is well worth the improvement in hearing you can achieve. It’s also why it’s important to partner with a reputable hearing specialist that can walk you through all of the relevant factors to consider.

Here are six things to look for when selecting hearing aids, in combination 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 lowest end personal sound amplifier and the highest end digital hearing aid is the distinction between a Ford Pinto and a Porsche.

Even though you may not need the highest end hearing aid model available, the principal difference you should be concerned about between a personal amplifier and a hearing aid is programmability.

Hearing aids should be programmed to enhance sounds based on your distinct hearing loss. Otherwise, all sound is amplified evenly and that’s not going to make it easier to hear speech any better than before.

Ask your hearing professional about programming potential, including pre-programed settings you can use in different scenarios, like at a restaurant as opposed to at home.

2. Hearing aid style

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

You’ll want to balance cost, performance, ease-of-use, and aesthetics when making your choice on hearing aid styles. You’ll also want to work together with a hearing professional on this one, as several elements should be taken into consideration, including the severity of your hearing loss.

3. Directional microphones

People buy hearing aids for a range of reasons and to hear a mixture of sounds, but the foremost reason is to hear and understand speech.

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

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 permits the hearing aid to target the specific sound origin in front of you, which if it’s a person, will be the sounds of speech.

4. Background noise reduction

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

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

5. Telecoils

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

Telecoils allow you to speak on the phone without feedback and hook up 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 same effect. Ask your hearing specialist for additional information.

6. Wireless connection

Did you just buy a brand new iPhone or smartphone?

If so, you may want to consider investing in compatible hearing aids that link up wirelessly to these products. That way, you can stream cell phone calls and music directly to your hearing aids for optimal 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 think about when choosing a hearing aid, which is why it’s critical to work with a reputable and knowledgeable hearing care professional.

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