Most Important Hearing Aid Features
Choosing hearing aids today can be a pretty daunting task for the layman. Not only are there literally dozens of different styles of hearing aids to choose from, from just as many manufacturers, but the features the hearing aids have also vary a great deal, as well as the nomenclature for those features. For example, the same feature can be called 6 completely different names by 6 different manufacturers- but all those features will effectively do the same thing (with varying levels of efficacy).
So how can you, as a consumer, sort of “cut through the noise” and find out which features you really need and which ones you can live without? Well, the truth is, you can pour through all the spec sheets you want on each manufacturer’s website, but the best recommendation will come from a hearing provider, and for a number of reasons. First, some features are only helpful for certain types of losses, for example “frequency shifting” or frequency lowering technologies will not benefit you if you don’t have a high frequency loss, and a hearing aid with “binaural synchronization” will not help you if you have a only a single-sided loss. Beyond that, no one will know better than a hearing provider which features are all that they are cracked up to be, which features are essentially an “overkill”, and which features you absolutely need in order to do well with hearing aids.
So with that disclaimer out of the way, below is what I would consider 5 essential features for every hearing aid:
This is the feature that will help reduce that annoying whistle sound that some hearing aids make, and it’s very important. Believe it or not, some economy-level hearing aids today do not have this feature. Without this feature chances are you will never get enough gain or volume out of your hearing aids without them concurrently whistling. If you are looking at a hearing aid without this feature, it is completely worth it to pay a few hundred dollars extra to buy an aid that has it.
Background noise reduction
This feature does what is says- it turns down the sound of background noises and helps preserve the clarity of speech in a noisy environment. Many hearing aid manufacturers have different names for this feature, but the description will always be the same- it turns down annoying background sounds! Without this feature hearing in background noise will be markedly harder for you. It’s also important to note that this feature is not a cure-all for hearing in noisy situations- you may still struggle to hear in background noise with even the best hearing aids out there, but this feature does make a difference.
Your hearing aids should come equipped with some way to make hearing on the phone easier. This could be with a telecoil, or with a specific program in your hearing aid that your provider sets up, or perhaps even through Bluetooth streaming. Hearing aids and telephones do not always work together perfectly, so it’s important that if you have a hard time hearing on the phone, your hearing provider goes over the various phone/hearing aid setups that are out there, and that you test them to make sure they work.
Minimum of 6 channels
A lot of times, channels are what separates a great hearing aid from a sub-par hearing aid. In general, the more channels your hearing aid has, the better. Having multiple channels or “frequency bands”, allows your hearing provider to fine-tune your hearing aids more precisely. It is pretty widely agreed that a hearing aid should have at least 6 channels. You can read more about channels here.
Minimum of 3 programs
Programs or “memories” allow hearing aids to change the way they amplify sound depending on the environment they are in. So you might have an outdoor setting, or a driving setting, or a classroom setting. Multiple programs are very helpful, since they adjust the frequency response of the aid in a way that caters to the particular environment you are in. At the end of the day, that means a more customized hearing solution for you, and a better quality of sound in a wider array of environments. Changing the program or memory can be done with the simple click of a button on the hearing aid itself.
There are literally dozens of other features which may be beneficial to you, but the above list is a great place to start when considering which hearing aid and features may be right for you. In addition, if you have any questions about these features, please feel free to give us a call at the number at the top of this page.
If you’d like a free phone consultation with a licensed hearing provider, please feel free to call us at 800-731-6794.