Essential hearing aids – the key features you want

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Buying hearing aids can be overwhelming. Hearing care professionals and audiologists are trained to walk you through the options and help equip you with devices that give you everything you need (and avoid unnecessary bells and whistles that add to the price).

However, it is always a good idea as a consumer to be informed.

This is especially true with hearing aids: With these small devices, people often have to make difficult compromises when it comes to functionality, explains the audiologist. Juliette Sterkens, a hearing loop advocate for the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA).

Plus, with so many options available, it can be difficult to know which features are must-have and which are optional.

Enter a new term, coined by Sterkens, to give you a place to start: superfecta hearing aids.

“Superfecta hearing aids” have these four characteristics

To qualify, superfecta hearing aids have four key features: they are rechargeable, aesthetically appealing, have built-in Bluetooth, and have the ability to activate the telecoil.

It’s tempting to compare hearing aids to glasses. Talk to hearing care professionals, however, and you can count on them to point out one key difference: Hearing aids improve hearing, but unlike glasses, they don’t restore hearing.

“Hearing aids don’t give you normal hearing,” says Sterkens. Instead, they amplify sounds.

This is why two of the features – Bluetooth and Telecoil – are so important, as they can be used in complicated hearing situations to take over for what a more basic hearing aid cannot.

Let’s take a look at the four features that make up superfecta hearing aids:

1. Telephone coils

Also known as T-coils, telephone coils are not a trendy new technology. In fact, they’re from the 1930s. But those little copper wires inside hearing aids do something powerful: they’re a wireless receiver that allows your hearing aid to connect to hearing aids. listening in public places.

Simply put: If you find yourself in a large room with a hearing loop, such as a theater, conference room, or place of worship, you can connect to the audio system by turning on your telecoil.

It’s an example of a feature that helps you hear in “public places where hearing aids alone don’t work,” says Sterkens. Using the telecoil removes background noise (so you can hear the speaker, not the rustle and hubbub of other participants), without you having to ask for a receiver. With the telephone coils on, it’s like hearing someone a few inches away, not the distance of an auditorium.

“I can definitely say I can hear better when it’s on,” says Doug Austin, who uses the telecoil feature in his hearing aids to hear better in some public places.

Think of the combination of hearing loops and voice coils as the original streaming technology, Sterkens says.

“I can definitely say I hear better when it’s on,” says Doug Austin, 73, of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Austin takes advantage of the T-coils built into their hearing aids in Oshkosh auditoriums that have the loop system in place. In her retirement community, many gathering places have hearing loops, including boardrooms (where sometimes chefs do demonstrations), a performing arts center that hosts guest speakers and groups, and performers. religious services.

Earlier, hearing aid manufacturers would do away with the telephone coils to make the devices smaller. But with superfecta hearing aids, T-coils are available, along with other features that consumers want.

TIP: Learn more about hearing loops and how to advocate for them in your community with this toolkit of HLAA.

2. Bluetooth connection

“Bluetooth technology allows sound to be streamed directly from personal devices,” says Sterkens, so you can hear what’s playing on your TV or the person speaking on your smartphone directly into your hearing aid.

“Consumers love it. They love it, ”says Sterkens.

With Austin’s first set of hearing aids, he had to wear a special device around his neck to operate the Bluetooth connection. If he got a phone call, he had to carry it and turn it on.

Things are easier with his latest hearing aids: when a call comes in, all he needs to do is press a button on his hearing aids and he is instantly connected. With that, he hears so much better. He has a pretty good soundbar on his TV, but “when I have it [the sound] straight into my hearing aids, it’s just a lot clearer, ”says Austin. This is also true for the phone: There is a “world of difference” when phone calls go through his hearing aids, he says.

3. Rechargeable

A pair of rechargeable Oticon More hearing aids.
Most people prefer rechargeable hearing
hearing aids rather than disposable hearing aids
button cell batteries.

Rechargeable hearing aid batteries have now become quite mainstream, and given their love for consumers, Sterkens believes they should be offered consistently. According to a March 2021 survey in Consumer Reports, 53% of hearing aid wearers prioritize rechargeable devices. It’s mainly a convenience factor: rechargeable devices “don’t help you hear better,” Sterkens notes. They are easy to handle, which makes them attractive to people with dexterity issues.

However, they do have a few drawbacks to consider. For example, you need to bring the charger with you when you travel and you need constant access to electricity.

4. Cosmetically pleasant

There are many types and styles of hearing aids. But in the most general terms, hearing aids are either in-the-ear (ITE) or behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids, with different subtypes within these categories.

“The fourth part of the superfecta is that it comes in aesthetically appealing packaging,” says Sterkens. Aka: Small. That’s because people prefer less visible and more discreet hearing aids, she says.

You might think that means that she recommends ITE hearing aids, but due to their size, they often lack advanced features. Better options are the little “mini” styles worn behind the ear, which are often available in a variety of skin or hair tones to blend in.

In-ear or behind-the-ear hearing aids - which hearing aid is right for you?
The earhooks allow more features like bluetooth and telecoil.

Other features of hearing aids

Of course, hearing aids offer many features beyond these four. A conversation with your hearing care professional can help you determine which ones make sense, given your hearing loss and your situation. Some characteristics of hearing aid technology to keep in mind:

  • Noise reduction: Although all hearing aids have this feature, some have more specific options, such as the ability to reduce wind noise or impulse noises, such as smoke detectors.
  • Directional microphones: Some hearing aids can focus in more than one direction.
  • Apps: Some hearing aids have smartphone apps, which can be used to adjust settings. Others may have remote controls, which also allow you to make adjustments.
  • Customizable hearing aid settings: With some hearing aids, you or your hearing care professional can configure programs for various soundscapes, such as music or tinnitus.
  • Artificial Intelligence: Some devices use AI to tap into the deep neural network, mimicking how the brain responds to sound.

Be patient with yourself and take the time to research your hearing aid carefully. There are so many options – different styles, sizes and levels of technology, says Sterkens. “When the consumer leaves the [audiologist’s] office, their heads are spinning.

Are superfecta hearing aids widely available?

For a long time, only three of the four features could be available in a hearing aid, says Sterkens. You could have a small, rechargeable hearing aid, but then it wouldn’t have a T-coil, she says.

Now more and more hearing aids have a T-coil along with these other important features, Sterkens said, mentioning top brands like Oticon, Phonak, Signia, Starkey and Widex.

“When you buy hearing aids, you have to make sure you have a hearing aid that can help you anywhere, that will allow you to hear anywhere,” says Sterkens, without any compromise, she adds.


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