It’s a big question on many people’s minds: how do you sort through the many features, costs, and styles to choose the right hearing aid? Here is an overview of the (many) hearing aid functions available and what to look for before making a decision.
Features To Look For In A Hearing Aid
Most hearing aids, even budget brands like Audicus and MDHearing, come with feedback cancellation. This feature cancels out interference from other devices held near your hearing aid, such as a telephone, which could otherwise cause whistling.
Digital noise reduction
Along with feedback cancellation, digital noise reduction is now also a standard feature. That’s good news, according to our March 2022 hearing aid customer survey, which found that digital noise reduction is the most important feature people look for in a hearing aid. Digital noise reduction can help you hear and understand conversations better by reducing background noise.
Although directional microphones are not included with all brands of hearing aids, they are included with the majority of models. Directional microphones pick up and amplify sound from certain directions, most commonly from the front, although some microphones, such as those in the Phonak Paradise range of hearing aids, include motion sensors that adjust the direction of the microphone when they detect you move and have a conversation.
Directional microphones and digital noise reduction work together to let you focus on important sounds without being distracted by background noise.
Although not all hearing aids include a telecoil, also called a T-coil, according to the Arizona State University Speech and Hearing Clinic, many RIC and BTE models and especially the smaller CIC models do. The T-coil allows you to connect to hearing aid technology, called a hearing loop, in some public facilities.
This direct connection between your hearing aid and the hearing loop will allow you to hear sounds without the interference sometimes caused by the acoustics present in large spaces. Places of worship, theaters and museums are often equipped with feedback loops.
Additional hearing aid features
Although not necessary, Bluetooth hearing aids offer great convenience as they essentially work like a set of headphones when connected to your phone, tablet or other device.
Keep in mind that some hearing aids offer Bluetooth connectivity, but not Bluetooth streaming. One example is the Eargo hearing aids, which all include Bluetooth connectivity for making adjustments with a smartphone app, but are too small to contain the parts needed for Bluetooth streaming.
If you want to stream music, movies, or phone calls to your hearing aids, look for a brand that offers a variety of models with Bluetooth streaming capabilities, such as Widex, ReSound, Oticon, Phonak, Starkey, and Signia.
Advanced sound technology
Companies like Phonak and Oticon offer some of the most advanced hearing aid technologies on the market. In addition to the features listed above, these companies have designed their devices to automatically change sound profiles as you move from place to place, adjust sound processing based on your movements, and even use algorithms to artificial intelligence to instantly process sound with greater precision than a few other brands.
You’ll pay more for these features, of course, but if your budget allows for the extra expense, your listening experience with the latest high-tech hearing aids should be seamless.
Waterproof or water-resistant hearing aids
By definition, there is no truly waterproof hearing aid. Some manufacturers claim their devices are waterproof, but the fine print says they can withstand water for a certain amount of time to a certain depth.
Johns Hopkins Medicine advises hearing aid users to keep their hearing aids away from heat and moisture, including sweat. This encompasses things like:
- Showers or baths
- Sports or other types of exercise
- Outdoor activities like gardening, walking, and amusement parks
- A hair dryer or hairspray
Respondents to our March 2022 hearing aid survey ranked rechargeable batteries as the second most important feature of a hearing aid, behind only digital noise reduction. Many hearing aid manufacturers give you the choice of disposable or rechargeable batteries, but rechargeable batteries are so popular that some companies, such as Audien and Eargo, don’t offer a disposable option.
The benefits of rechargeable batteries include:
- No recurring charges for replacement batteries
- No need to change batteries every few days
- Easier to manage for people with poor eyesight or those who have difficulty handling small parts
In addition to the hearing aid itself, your hearing aid may come with additional accessories. Some brands like Eargo offer a variety of domes and earmolds when you order a pair of their hearing aids so you can find the perfect fit for your ears.
Some companies also provide accessories, such as wax guards, cleaning tools, and other supplies, when you purchase their hearing aids.
While most hearing aids are intended to be put on and taken off by the user at home, Phonak Lyric IIC hearing aids are placed deep in the ear canal by an audiologist or other hearing aid specialist and worn for long periods without removal or cleaning. .
Care and cleaning
How often should hearing aids be cleaned? The lifespan and performance of your hearing aids largely depends on how often you clean them. As mentioned above, ITE and CIC styles of hearing aids require more frequent and thorough cleaning than BTE and RIC styles due to their continued proximity to moisture and earwax.
When you receive your hearing aids, read the cleaning instructions carefully. Then follow the steps each time you clean your hearing aids, using the tools provided by the manufacturer or other recommended supplies.
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices to the top two or three, take a look at each brand’s website. See how easy it is to navigate and if their pricing is transparent. Can you find the details you are looking for on each model?
Are customer support options easy to locate? Some hearing aid companies, such as Lively, provide detailed information about hearing aids in general — not just the models they carry — as well as in-depth how-to guides, videos, and tutorials.
See what options are available to reach customer support and their hours of operation. You don’t want to be stuck with a problem with your hearing aids after hours and not be able to get help.
It’s also important to know who you’ll be talking to when you call customer service. While some direct-to-consumer companies like Lively provide unlimited support from audiologists or other hearing care professionals via phone or video sessions, others may not offer this level of support.
For people new to hearing aids or who have more complex underlying medical conditions affecting their hearing, this is one of the advantages of buying them from an audiologist’s clinic. Anytime you have problems with your hearing aids, you can come to the clinic and get in-person assistance from your audiologist or other hearing care provider.
Look at the BBB and Trustpilot to see if the company is registered and what its business rating is. Also check how long they have been in business – in general, the longer the better.
What kind of warranty does the company offer on its hearing aids? A three-year warranty covering damage and manufacturing defects is common, but brands vary on their policies and length of coverage.
Risk-free trial period
According to the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) (PDF), most, but not all, states are required by law to provide a trial period of at least 30 days. During this time, you can return the hearing aids for any reason if they are not suitable for you. Keep in mind that you will still have to pay them upfront, but you can get a refund if you decide to make a return.
This is important because hearing specialists say it takes time to get used to hearing aids. If you have any problems with the fit, sound quality, or any other aspect of your new hearing aids, contact your hearing care professional or the company’s help line immediately.
It is essential to ensure that your hearing aids fit properly during the trial period. If you can’t solve the problem, you can send them back and try another model.