Over the past few years, hearing devices such as hearing aids, personal sound amplifiers, and sound enhancers have become easier to purchase. Companies now provide several options for consumers, which can make the process of choosing a hearing aid difficult.
Online stores now offer private online hearing tests, questionnaires, and cheap options to consumers. Some stores offer sound enhancers and assistive listening devices that are much cheaper than traditional hearing aids. Although these stores provide a cheap and easy path toward buying hearing devices, there are some things you should consider when choosing the right hearing aid for you.
Where to Start
A hearing aid is an intricate medical technology, not a simple sound enhancer or amplifier. Buying a hearing aid is an investment in your health and should be treated as such. If you have hearing loss, you should see a hearing care professional – just like you would any other serious medical concern.
See an Audiologist or Hearing Instrument Practitioner
The FDA recommends individuals experiencing hearing loss to see a doctor to rule out other causes of hearing loss before buying hearing aids. The solution to hearing loss is not always to purchase hearing aids.
Hearing loss is a sensation that can be caused by a variety of factors. Hearing loss may be caused by something as harmless as earwax buildup, or by something as serious as an infection. An audiologist can often determine the cause of your hearing loss and direct an appropriate medical treatment through a hearing test.
The hearing test will provide the audiologist or hearing instrument practitioner with information that will help them personalize your hearing care and will guide them in finding the right hearing aid for you.
Cost vs. Quality
Cost is a very important aspect to consider when choosing the right hearing aid, but should not be the only one. Hearing aids vary in price due to their different components, features (see hearing aids and phones), and sizes. Generally, the smaller and more complex the hearing aid, the more complex and sophisticated the electronics are, which leads to an increase in price.
As with most other technologies, the quality you receive for hearing aids depends on the purchase price. A cheaper hearing aid may save you money up front, but may break or malfunction over time, costing more in the long run.
Talk to an audiologist or hearing instrument practitioner about different features that you may need to accommodate your lifestyle, such as a telecoil, Bluetooth compatibility, battery life, digital noise reduction, directional microphones, and feedback suppression. Additionally, the audiologist will provide information about the best steps for adjusting to hearing aids.
What to Avoid
Widely available “personal sound amplifiers” (PSAPs) and “sound enhancers” are not hearing aids and are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), meaning they have not been tested and have not been proved to improve your hearing. Although inexpensive, these devices may be inadequate for your condition and may break down quickly.
Online hearing tests and questionnaires provide comfort and convenience, but they cannot always determine the causes of your hearing loss. Your condition may be treatable or reversible; an online test would not reveal that option to you.