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The process of purchasing hearing aids was in the past a lot easier. There were only a few styles to choose from and they all fundamentally functioned 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 restoration of hearing. And with digital technology, a number of features became readily available to handle a multitude of listening scenarios.

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

But complicated does not mean impossible, and the time invested is well worth the improvement in hearing you can enjoy. It’s also why it’s critical to partner with an experienced hearing specialist that can guide you through all of the relevant factors to consider.

The following are six factors 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. In fact, 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 require the highest end hearing aid model on the market, the primary difference you should be concerned about between a personal amplifier and a hearing aid is programmability.

Hearing aids should be programmed to enhance sounds according to your particular hearing loss. Otherwise, all sound will be amplified equally and that’s not going to make it easier to hear speech any better than before.

Ask your hearing specialist about programming capabilities, including pre-programed settings you can use in different situations, like at a restaurant versus 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, functionality, ease-of-use, and appearance when making your choice on hearing aid styles. You’ll also want to seek advise from a hearing specialist on this one, as many factors should be taken into consideration, including the severity of your hearing loss.

3. Directional microphones

People invest in hearing aids for various reasons and to hear an assortment of sounds, but the primary reason is to hear and understand speech.

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

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

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

4. Background noise minimization

Background noise and feedback suppression are featured in most digital hearing aid models, but you’ll want to verify this with any model you’re considering.

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

5. Telecoils

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

Telecoils allow you to speak on the phone without feedback and connect to hearing loop systems. For instance, if a hearing loop system is installed in a church or movie theater, 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 professional for more details.

6. Wireless connection

Did you just buy a 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 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 inconspicuously regulate the volume and settings.

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

Are you ready to discover your optimal hearing aid?