Additional features (such as smaller sizes, Bluetooth® audio streaming capability, and multiple sound-clarity options and program modes) tend to increase cost.
Different products are made for different listening lifestyles. Different devices will have more and less sophisticated technology inside of them which controls how the device responds to different listening environments. Some less expensive devices may have the same chip, but will still not have all of the features of the more advanced, expensive devices. The quality of the workmanship, and the services included in the maintenance of the device also affects the cost of the device.
You will also need to know what services your audiologist’s office will extend to support your device. Does your provider include cleaning and checking your technology? Does your provider include cleaning and checking your ear canals for ear wax? Does your provider include comprehensive hearing evaluations in a sound-treated testing chamber? What is the training and background of your audiologist?
All of these issues are very important when considering purchasing hearing technology, as your device will require maintenance and your hearing can change over time. You need a comprehensive team in place to keep your technology working its best and to keep you hearing your best.
The ability to hear with both ears, also known as binaural hearing, is essential to humans’ ability to understand speech, maintain balance, and localize noises. Hearing helps with spatial awareness and understanding where your body is in relation to objects around you. Knowing where sounds are coming from helps us keep our balance and identify where sounds are coming from. Our auditory system was designed to process information from all directions, and hearing with only one ear makes that process less than half as effective as hearing with both ears.
A hearing aid has three basic parts: a microphone, amplifier, and speaker. The hearing aid receives sound through a microphone, which converts the sound waves to electrical signals and sends them to an amplifier. The amplifier increases the power of the signals and then sends them to the ear through a speaker.
A hearing aid magnifies sound vibrations entering the ear. Surviving hair cells detect the larger vibrations and convert them into neural signals that are passed along to the brain. The greater the damage to a person’s hair cells, the more severe the hearing loss, and the greater the hearing aid amplification needed to make up the difference. However, there are practical limits to the amount of amplification a hearing aid can provide. In addition, if the inner ear is too damaged, even large vibrations will not be converted into neural signals. In this situation, a hearing aid would be ineffective.
You and your Audiologist should select a hearing aid that best suits your needs and lifestyle. Price is also a key consideration because hearing aids range from hundreds to several thousand dollars. Similar to other equipment purchases, style and features affect cost. However, don’t use price alone to determine the best hearing aid for you. Just because one hearing aid is more expensive than another does not necessarily mean that it will better suit your needs.
A hearing aid will not restore your normal hearing. With practice, however, a hearing aid will increase your awareness of sounds and their sources. You will want to wear your hearing aid regularly, so select one that is convenient and easy for you to use. Other features to consider include parts or services covered by the warranty, estimated schedule and costs for maintenance and repair, options and upgrade opportunities, and the hearing aid company’s reputation for quality and customer service.[.accordion]
You cannot tell much about the quality of a hearing aid just by looking at it. Many devices look similar to each other. While one device may be a very simple, basic device which amplifies sound but is not designed to function in a complex listening environment, another device may be very sophisticated with advanced sound processing that can distinguish voices from other room noise and amplify speech more than mechanical and other ongoing noise sources. All hearing aids have similar basic parts. The design and programming of the computer chip inside the device has a significant impact on how the device works.
- Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids consist of a hard plastic case worn behind the ear and connected to a plastic earmold that fits inside the outer ear. The electronic parts are held in the case behind the ear. Sound travels from the hearing aid through the earmold and into the ear. BTE aids are used by people of all ages for mild to profound hearing loss. A new kind of BTE aid is an open-fit hearing aid. Small, open-fit aids fit behind the ear completely, with only a narrow tube inserted into the ear canal, enabling the canal to remain open. For this reason, open-fit hearing aids may be a good choice for people who experience a buildup of earwax, since this type of aid is less likely to be damaged by such substances. In addition, some people may prefer the open-fit hearing aid because their perception of their voice does not sound “plugged up.”
- In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids fit completely inside the outer ear and are used for mild to severe hearing loss. The case holding the electronic components is made of hard plastic. Some ITE aids may have certain added features installed, such as a telecoil. A telecoil is a small magnetic coil that allows users to receive sound through the circuitry of the hearing aid, rather than through its microphone. This makes it easier to hear conversations over the telephone. A telecoil also helps people hear in public facilities that have installed special sound systems, called induction loop systems. Induction loop systems can be found in many churches, schools, airports, and auditoriums. ITE aids usually are not worn by young children because the casings need to be replaced often as the ear grows
- Canal hearing aids fit into the ear canal and are available in two styles. The in-the-canal (ITC) hearing aid is made to fit the size and shape of a person’s ear canal. A completely-in-canal (CIC) hearing aid is nearly hidden in the ear canal. Both types are used for mild to moderately severe hearing loss. Because they are small, canal aids may be difficult for a person to adjust and remove. In addition, canal aids have less space available for batteries and additional devices, such as a telecoil. They usually are not recommended for young children or for people with severe to profound hearing loss because their reduced size limits their power and volume.