Approximately 48 million people in the country are dealing with some form of hearing loss. A majority of this statistic includes elderly individuals. Some studies have demonstrated the link between deafness and other health problems such as a slump in concentration and memory, depression, and in some cases even dementia. Needless to say, this condition has a significant impact on the quality of a senior’s life. However, it can be effectively tackled with the use of hearing aids.
Thanks to technology, today we can have small and intuitive hearing aids. However, since there are so many options, it can be a bit difficult to choose the right one. To help you get started, here are some factors that you should consider while shopping for hearing aids.
The type of hearing aid that you will be needing entirely depends on the severity of the hearing loss. The audiologist will be the best judge of what will improve your hearing. If the damage is minor, an in-the-canal hearing aid would suffice. Conversely, if the hearing loss is moderate, then in-the-ear models will be used. For severe cases, behind-the-ear and receiver-in-canal hearing aid variants will be apposite. Whatever type and model you choose, make sure that it has all the essential features and good customer ratings.
The quality of a hearing aid is something that you don’t want to compromise on. So your priority in the checklist should be scrutinizing all the features that can not only help you hear better but also comfortably. The following are some key features that a top-rated hearing aid should ideally have.
- Telecoil – You will find a telecoil in most new hearing aids. It is a tiny sensor or a copper wire that wirelessly picks up magnetic signals from hearing aid-compatible telephones and public address systems including concert halls, museums, conference rooms, subway trains, and taxis, converting energy into sound. The telecoil helps the seniors with moderate to severe hearing loss to understand the speaker’s voice by making it louder.
- Directional microphone – Directional microphone makes the audio signal louder in front of the listener than the voices from sides or rear, enabling voice clarity in a noisy environment. It works best when you are closer to the audio source. Typically, most hearing aids switch between directional and omnidirectional settings according to the environment. One downside is that it can pick up on noises like the wind.
- Feedback suppression – Also known as digital feedback reduction, this features helps subdue any high-pitched whistling sounds. While most modern hearing aids comprise feedback suppression, its effectiveness varies across models. It can come in handy to lower feedback when the device is slightly dislocated from your ear or when you are close to the telephone.
- Digital noise reduction (DNR) – This feature enhances the listener’s communication and comfort by restricting certain background noises. DNS will make it simpler to hear and comprehend speech, although it might not work in every environment.
Apart from the useful features mentioned above, the latest hearing aid models also have additions such as wax guards to prevent buildup, wireless connectivity between hearing aids, low-battery indicator, automatic and manual volume controls, data logs, and listening preferences. Direct audio input is another new feature that enables users to directly connect to electronic devices.
Some hearing aids on the higher end of the price spectrum also provide Bluetooth technology so that users can stream music and divert calls and other media from their smartphones and computers.
There are hundreds of hearing aid models, however, not all of them might fit your needs and expectations. So always look up customer ratings for hearing aids. These can help you understand multiple user experiences with the product and help you identify any deal-breaker. You can easily find hearing aid ratings either on the manufacturer’s site or on popular retail sites. While perusing through ratings, specifically check opinions about parameters such as performance, comfort, battery life, and price.
At the same time, when you are researching top providers for hearing aids, look for expert reviews and ratings on shortlisted models. Some of the best-rated hearing aid manufacturers include Phonak, ReSound, Starkey, Widex, Bernafon, Signia, Unitron, Oticon, and Hansaton.
Unfortunately, the prices of hearing aids have significantly soared in the past decade. Typically, every pair costs around $3,000 to $8,000. These prices are only expected to rise. The Original Medicare plan will help cover the diagnostic charges, however, they don’t reimburse the cost of hearing aids.
The Veterans Administration will cover the cost of the hearing aids but only if the hearing loss is caused during the service or due to a health condition that is being treated at a VA medical facility. Likewise, nonprofits like Sertoma, The National Hearing Aid Project, and Hear Now also help the elderly to cover the cost of hearing aids. This expense can also be covered via an HSA (health savings account) or FSA (flexible spending account).