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The procedure for buying hearing aids used to be a lot easier. There were only a few styles to choose from and they all ultimately 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 options for the recovery of hearing. And with digital technology, numerous features became readily available to accommodate a wide variety of listening situations.

But that’s the tradeoff—simple choices that produced inadequate 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 obtain. It’s also why it’s essential to partner with an established hearing specialist that can walk you through all of the relevant factors to consider.

The following are six factors to look for when buying hearing aids, in conjunction with the questions to ask your hearing specialist.

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.

Although you may not need the highest end hearing aid model in the market, the primary difference you should be worried about between a personal amplifier and a hearing aid is programmability.

Hearing aids must be programmed to amplify sounds according to your distinctive 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 capability, including pre-programed settings you can use in different situations, like at a restaurant versus at home.

2. Style

Hearing aids are available in several sizes and styles, ranging from behind-the-ear to entirely 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 numerous factors should be taken into consideration, including the degree of your hearing loss.

3. Directional microphones

People invest in hearing aids for a variety of reasons and to hear a mixture of sounds, but the most common reason is to hear and understand speech.

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

Hearing aids with directionality contain two or more microphones situated at a specific distance from each other within the hearing aid. The variation in arrival time of sound to each microphone then dictates how the hearing aid responds to the sound.

This permits the hearing aid to focus on the specific sound source 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 confirm this with any product 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 intensify 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 spectacular, what it can accomplish undeniably is.

Telecoils allow you to speak on the phone without feedback and hook up to hearing loop systems. For example, if a hearing loop system is installed in a church or movie theater, sound will be transmitted directly to your hearing aid for optimum clarity.

Hearing loops can also be set up in home theater systems for the same effect. Ask your hearing professional for more details.

6. Wireless connection

Did you just purchase a brand new iPhone or smartphone?

If that’s the case, you may want to think about investing in compatible hearing aids that connect wirelessly to these devices. That way, you can stream telephone calls and music directly to your hearing aids for optimal sound quality.

Your smartphone can even be used as your hearing aid remote control, whereby you can subtly change the volume and settings.

There’s much to take into account when picking out a hearing aid, which is why it’s vital to work with a reputable and experienced hearing care professional.

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