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The process of buying hearing aids used to be much easier. There were only a few styles to select from and they all in essence 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 realistic options for the restoration of hearing. And with digital technology, several features became available to accommodate a wide variety of listening scenarios.

But that’s the tradeoff—easy choices that resulted in inadequate results are now difficult choices with several options.

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

Here are six factors to look for when purchasing hearing aids, along with the questions to ask your hearing specialist.

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 difference between a Ford Pinto and a Porsche.

Even though you may not require the highest end hearing aid model in the market, the principal difference you should be concerned about between a personal amplifier and a hearing aid is programmability.

Hearing aids should be programmed to amplify sounds based on your unique hearing loss. Otherwise, all sound will be amplified uniformly and that’s not going to make it easier to hear speech any better than before.

Ask your hearing professional about programming potential, including pre-programed settings you can use in a variety of situations, like at a restaurant versus at home.

2. Hearing aid style

Hearing aids are available in several sizes and styles, ranging from behind-the-ear to entirely in the ear canal.

You’ll need to balance price, functionality, ease-of-use, and aesthetics when making your decision on hearing aid styles. You’ll also want to seek advise from a hearing professional on this one, as several elements should be taken into consideration, including the extent of your hearing loss.

3. Directional microphones

People buy hearing aids for a range of 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 inquire about directional microphones in any hearing aid you’re interested in.

Hearing aids with directionality contain two or more microphones located at a specified distance from each other within the hearing aid. The contrast in arrival time of sound to each microphone then determines how the hearing aid reacts to the sound.

This makes it possible for the hearing aid to focus on the specific sound origin in front of you, which if it’s a person, will be the sounds of speech.

4. Background noise minimization

Background noise and feedback inhibition are featured in the majority of digital hearing aid models, but you’ll want to verify this with any product 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 impressive, what it can achieve undeniably is.

Telecoils make it possible for you to talk on the phone without feedback and connect 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 equivalent effect. Ask your hearing professional for more details.

6. Wireless connectivity

Did you just buy a new iPhone or smartphone?

If that’s the case, you may want to consider 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, where you can inconspicuously regulate the volume and settings.

There’s a lot to think about when selecting a hearing aid, which is why it’s critical to work with a reputable and knowledgeable hearing care professional.

Are you ready to discover your optimal hearing aid?