April 3, 2024

How to Choose the Right Hearing Aid: Selecting the Perfect Device for Your Needs

Selecting the right hearing aid is pivotal for enhancing the quality of life for those experiencing hearing loss. With a multitude of options available, it can be a complex decision.

Selecting the right hearing aid is pivotal for enhancing the quality of life for those experiencing hearing loss. With a multitude of options available, it can be a complex decision. We understand the importance of finding a device that not only improves hearing but also comfortably fits into one’s lifestyle and budget. Estimates suggest that millions of adults could potentially benefit from hearing aids, so addressing this need is more important than ever.

The first step in this journey is to accurately assess the degree and type of hearing loss, which will heavily influence the choice of hearing aid. Various styles, from behind-the-ear models to those that fit completely in the canal, are available, each designed for different hearing loss levels and user preferences. Furthermore, factors such as ease of use, features, and cost are often top concerns for buyers.

Moreover, as we navigate our everyday environments, from quiet conversations to bustling social settings, the functionality of a hearing aid becomes crucial. We will explore the technological advancements that have made hearing aids more effective and user-friendly. This includes digital hearing aids capable of fine-tuning to specific environments and connectivity features that allow for seamless integration with other devices. Our comprehensive guide aims to provide you with all the necessary tools to make an informed decision about which hearing aid is best suited for your needs.

Understanding Hearing Loss

As we explore hearing aids, it's crucial to grasp the nature of hearing loss and the importance of addressing it promptly.

Types of Hearing Loss

There are primarily three types of hearing loss:

  • Sensorineural: This is the most common type, where the inner ear or nerve pathways to the brain are damaged. Aging, loud noise exposure, and certain medical conditions can cause it.
  • Conductive: This type involves the outer or middle ear where sound waves are blocked from reaching the inner ear. It can result from infections, earwax buildup, or structural abnormalities.
  • Mixed: A combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss.

Significance of Early Intervention

  • Prevents Further Decline: Early intervention can help prevent the progression of hearing loss and its impact on communication.
  • Improves Quality of Life: Timely use of hearing aids or other interventions enhances the ability to communicate, thereby boosting the overall quality of life.

Types of Hearing Aids

When selecting a hearing aid, it's essential to understand the different types available. Each style offers unique benefits in terms of visibility, size, and power to match various degrees of hearing loss.

Behind-the-Ear (BTE)

BTE hearing aids are designed with a casing that rests behind the ear, housing the device's technology. A clear tube directs amplified sound into an earmold inside the ear canal. This type is versatile, suitable for most hearing loss levels, and can be easier to handle and maintain due to its size.

In-the-Ear (ITE)

ITE hearing aids fit within the outer part of the ear bowl and are custom-made to the wearer's ear shape. These devices are less visible than BTE ones and can incorporate various features, including directional microphones. Their larger size can benefit users with dexterity issues.

In-the-Canal (ITC)

ITC hearing aids are customized to sit inside the ear canal, making them more discreet than ITE models. They're a compromise between visibility and functionality, capable of accommodating mild to moderately severe hearing loss, while offering an array of technological advancements.

Completely-in-Canal (CIC)

The smallest type, CIC aids, fit deeply and entirely within the ear canal, making them nearly invisible. These are intended for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss and benefit from being less susceptible to wind noise due to their placement. However, their small size may make them challenging to manipulate for some users.

Key Features to Consider

Several key features must be considered when choosing the right hearing aid for optimal hearing improvement and comfort.

Directional Microphones

Directional microphones are critical for focusing on the sounds you want to hear. By reducing noise from other directions, these microphones enhance the audio that comes from in front of you, which is especially useful in noisy environments. Most modern hearing aids come with this feature, allowing for better speech understanding in social settings.

Noise Reduction Capabilities

Hearing aids with noise reduction capabilities can help minimize background noise, making it easier to focus on conversations. The effectiveness of noise reduction varies between models but is invaluable for those who often find themselves in loud environments.

Wireless Connectivity

Wireless connectivity in hearing aids offers significant benefits, such as direct connection to smartphones, TVs, and other devices. This feature lets you stream audio directly to your hearing aid, giving you a personalized listening experience. Look for models that support Bluetooth or other wireless technologies to enjoy these conveniences.

Personalization and Fitting Process

When choosing the right hearing aid, personalization and a proper fitting process are crucial to ensure comfort, effectiveness, and satisfaction. At Audiology & Hearing Services of Charlotte, our team of audiologists will take you through each step to understand what it entails and why each one is vital.

Tinnitus Features

Some hearing aids have features to help mask tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. This is important since many people with hearing loss also experience tinnitus. 

Initial Hearing Assessment

Our audiologists conduct a thorough hearing evaluation to determine your specific hearing challenges. This assessment is not merely about determining the level of hearing loss; it involves understanding the nuances of how you interact with different environments and what auditory difficulties you face in daily life. Armed with this information, we can match you to the appropriate hearing aid technology.

  • Frequency Specificity: Identifying which frequencies you struggle with helps tailor the hearing aid’s response.
  • Lifestyle Considerations: Analyzing your lifestyle determines your needed features, such as noise cancellation or wind resistance.

Custom Fitting

Once we've selected a suitable hearing aid model, the next step is fitting your hearing aids. This is where personalization truly comes into play. A custom-fit hearing aid is molded to the contours of your ear to provide both physical comfort and optimal sound delivery. Techniques utilized in this process may include:

  • Ear Impressions: Creating a unique mold of your ear canal.
  • Program Adjustments: Fine-tuning the aid's settings based on the initial assessment data.

It's pivotal to ensure that the device fits snugly without causing discomfort as this can greatly affect the user experience and the hearing aid's performance. The fitting continues once the hearing aids are in your ears to ensure they are properly programmed to address your hearing needs.

Real Ear Measurement & Hearing Aids

Real Ear Measurement (REM) is a critical procedure in the fitting and fine-tuning of hearing aids, essential for ensuring optimal performance and user satisfaction. It involves measuring the sound level in the ear canal while the hearing aid is in place, allowing audiologists to accurately assess how the device is amplifying sounds for the individual wearer. This process provides valuable insights into whether the hearing aid delivers the prescribed amplification according to the individual's hearing loss and unique ear canal characteristics.

REM offers several key benefits in hearing aid fittings. Firstly, it ensures that the prescribed amplification reaches the eardrum, accounting for factors such as the ear canal's shape and the hearing aid's specific properties. By verifying the accuracy of amplification levels, REM helps prevent under- or over-amplification, which can result in suboptimal hearing aid performance or discomfort for the wearer.

Additionally, Real Ear Measurement allows us to make precise adjustments to the hearing aid settings based on real-time data, fine-tuning parameters such as gain, frequency response, and compression to better match the individual's hearing needs and preferences. This personalized approach enhances the overall effectiveness of the hearing aid fitting, improving speech intelligibility, comfort, and user satisfaction.

REM contributes to transparency and accountability in the hearing healthcare process, enabling audiologists to demonstrate to patients the actual performance of their hearing aids and the rationale behind specific adjustments. This fosters trust and confidence in the treatment plan, empowering individuals to participate actively in their hearing healthcare journey. By incorporating REM into the fitting process, we deliver superior outcomes and enhance the overall quality of life for individuals with hearing loss.

Maintenance and Care

Wearers should be diligent about maintaining their hearing aids to ensure optimal performance and longevity. Regular cleaning, battery replacement, and professional servicing are key to keeping these devices functioning well.

Regular Cleaning

We always start by wiping the exterior with a soft, dry cloth to remove the daily accumulation of earwax and debris. For in-the-ear models, we use a gentle brush to clear the microphone ports and sound openings, while behind-the-ear models require us to clean the ear molds and tubing separately. Adopting a daily cleaning routine is important to prevent sound quality degradation.

  • Exterior: Wipe daily with a dry cloth.
  • Microphone ports: Brush gently.
  • Ear molds: Detach and clean separately with mild soap and water; dry completely before reattaching.

Battery Replacement

We must change batteries promptly to prevent power loss at inconvenient times. We check battery levels regularly, and when power diminishes, we handle batteries with clean fingers and store them at room temperature to extend their life.

  • Check battery levels regularly.
  • Change batteries with clean hands.
  • Store at room temperature.

Repairs and Servicing

When we encounter performance issues, we seek professional repair services. It's also recommended to schedule regular check-ups every 6 months to address any potential issues before they become problematic.

Hearing Aids at Audiology & Hearing Services of Charlotte

If you're in the Charlotte area and seeking the latest hearing aid technology, Audiology & Hearing Services of Charlotte is notable for its selection. We recognize that hearing aids are not one-size-fits-all, hence our approach is to provide a diverse array of options tailored to individual needs.

We encourage you to book a fitting with one of our audiologists to ensure optimal fit and satisfaction. They offer their expertise to guide you through the selection process, keeping in mind factors such as:

  • Type of hearing loss: Understanding the degree and nature of your hearing loss is foundational to finding the correct hearing aid.
  • Lifestyle needs: We consider your daily environments and activities to determine your best device.
  • Comfort and aesthetics: Our range includes behind-the-ear models and others that afford discretion and comfort.

We also conduct Better Communication Classes, crucial for those new to hearing aids or aiming to optimize their use. This is part of our aural rehab program designed to help adults, children, and families communicate more effectively despite hearing loss.

Whatever your hearing needs are, we are here to help. Contact us today!

Written by
Reviewed by
Dr. Melissa Karp, Au.D.
Read full bio

Melissa Karp is a board-certified audiologist with special expertise in tinnitus treatment, auditory processing disorder (APD) evaluation, hearing aid fitting and aural rehabilitation.