5 Questions to Ask Before You Buy a Hearing Aid
Do you feel that your hearing seems a little muffled? Are those around you complaining that the TV volume is turned up way too loud? Whatever the signs, if you’re beginning to suspect that you may have some degree of hearing loss, the thought of looking into hearing aids may have crossed your mind. Because the internet has absolutely everything, you may have already noticed that it is possible to purchase hearing aids online. But before you click “add to cart” and offer your email in exchange for a whole lot of future advertising material, make sure you’ve done your due diligence. Here are 5 questions you should answer as you consider your first or next hearing aid purchase:
1. Are you sure these hearing aids are going to help you?
Not all types of hearing loss can be addressed with hearing aids. For example, if your hearing difficulties arise from auditory neuropathy (when the neural signals from the ear are impaired in reaching the brain), a hearing aid is going to be of little use to you; cochlear implants will be more helpful. Cerumen impaction is another example. Otherwise known as ear wax buildup that blocks the ear canal, a simple ear cleaning would improve your hearing.
The key takeaway is to first consult with your ENT doctor or your family physician if you experience hearing loss in one or both ears. They’ll be able to check whether you’ve got a plug of earwax or an ear infection underlying your hearing loss. If it seems that you may have a hearing problem that could be treated with a hearing aid, it may be suggested that you make an appointment with your hearing instrument specialist or audiologist who will/could perform the following exams/tests:
Ear exam – otherwise known as an otoscopy, this is a physical exam of your outer and inner ears
Pure tone testing (audiogram) – testing your hearing at different sound frequencies the results of which are recorded on an audiogram. The audiogram is able to outline which frequencies of your hearing range are experiencing loss, and to what severity
Speech audiometry – otherwise known as a speech test, this involves repeating words and phrases that are played at typical speech levels
Tympanometry test – basically a painless ear drum test that applies pressure to your eardrum to see how it responds and how well it moves
Acoustic reflex testing – a “beep” exam that tests the protection your eardrum gives you from loud noises
Distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAE) test – a “click” exam that tests the function of the outer hairs of your cochlea which produce sounds that are known as otoacoustic emissions
If a hearing loss is detected, your audiologist may then recommend certain types of hearing aids that have the capacity to support your type of hearing loss.
2. Which hearing aids are a good match for your lifestyle?
If you’ve looked into hearing aids, by now you’ll have realized there are a lot of options and price points to consider. Not only are we talking about myriad brands such as Signia, Sonic, Oticon, Phonak, Starkey, etc., but which hearing aid style is preferable? Behind-the-Ear (BTE)? Receiver-in-Canal (RIC)? In-the-Ear (ITE)? Invisible In-the-Canal (IIC)? Completely-in-the-Canal (CIC)?
All styles have pros and cons, including their visibility to others, their capacity to support more profound levels of hearing loss, their features, and their susceptibility to earwax blockage. Generally, a smaller hearing aid will be less obtrusive and visible but will offer fewer features and be less helpful to those with mild to moderate hearing loss.
And what about features?
Hearing aid technology improves seemingly each year as do features:
- Wireless connectivity with other compatible devices such as your smartphone, smart TV, speakers, and computers
- Remote control to allow you to adjust your hearing aid settings with a separate device or through your smartphone
- Multiple pre-programed settings to adapt to different listening environments
- Noise reduction to minimize the background noise
- Tinnitus relief function for those who experience tinnitus
Another consideration in choosing a hearing aid is determining how you want it to be powered. Rechargeable batteries use Lithium ion batteries, are energy-efficient, convenient, environmentally-friendly, and can hold a charge for up to 30 hours.
Hearing aid batteries allow for a smaller, more discreet hearing aid. Batteries have to be replaced every 3-22 days but the average is once per week if hearing aids are worn for 16 hours each day. Battery-powered hearing aids don’t have to be kept clean and free of moisture like a rechargeable battery and they’re easy to replace – you open the cartridge door, pop the battery in, close the door, and you’re good to go. Another advantage is that battery powered hearing aids are cheap (less than $1) and don’t require recharging which means that you don’t have to look for an outlet to recharge.
3. How much are you willing to spend?
In the US, Medicare doesn’t cover hearing aids for adults. However, some Medicare Advantage plans may offer some benefit toward the purchase of hearing aids as well as hearing tests. Coverage by your private health insurance may vary.
Listen 2 Life Hearing Centers is within network of most third party providers.
Some audiology clinics or hearing aid manufacturers may also offer financing options with affordable interest rates.
Unsurprisingly, if you prefer a modern, sleek hearing aid packed with all of the latest technology, it will be priced higher than older, low-tech devices that do nothing more than amplify sound. The range of hearing aid prices can vary from about $1500 up to $6000.
Hearing aids will most likely be cheaper online but remember that a hearing aid is only as good as the aftercare support you receive, i.e., learning how to use the hearing aid, what happens if something goes wrong, if you need fitting/recalibration, or what happens if you realize that you may prefer a different hearing aid style?
4. Do you get a trial period before committing to the purchase?
If you’re one who prefers to try before you buy, you may be interested in checking whether there’s a trial period available. Both hearing aid centers and online retailers may offer a trial period but it’s worth looking into the terms and conditions. Pay attention to any costs involved for the trial, and what happens if you either want to return the hearing aid or if you want to keep it.
Currently, Listen 2 Life Hearing Centers offer a 30-day risk-free trial. If you are not completely satisfied with your hearing aid, your purchase will be refunded.
5. Check you’re not about to fall for an online scam.
Unfortunately, with the digital age comes online scammers. Experts recommend ensuring that the hearing aid retailer is reputable and has credible customer/patient reviews. Also, check whether their products offer realistic pricing for the features offered. Is the company claiming that their hearing aid will allow you to detect sounds from the neighboring state? If it sounds like a scam, it probably is a scam; you don’t need a hearing aid to pick that up.
If you’re new to hearing aids, your best bet is to seek the guidance of your hearing aid specialist (HIS) or audiologist. They will be able to fit you properly with a hearing aid, tell you how to get the most out of it, and help you troubleshoot any issues.