Purchasing a hearing aid can be a daunting task. When presented with several options it may be tempting just to go for the cheapest one. So, what is the difference between a budget hearing aid and a top-end hearing aid?
This is a question I get asked every day by my patients with a set budget- should I purchase two budget hearing aids or one expensive hearing aid? My answer is always the same: If you have a hearing loss in both ears you need two hearing aids. Getting one hearing aid is like buying glasses with a lens only on the one side- it just doesn't make sense!
Two hearing aids will firstly help you hear much better in noisy environments than one hearing aid will. The reason for this is that a lot of hearing aids has a feature in it where the hearing aids communicate with each other to determine where a noise source is coming from and apply noise reduction. By purchasing one top-end hearing aid you lose a lot of the features of the hearing aid.
Two hearing aids can help you to understand where a sound is coming from. This is important for general awareness of your surroundings, but also for safety reasons. If you are crossing the road and a car is approaching, it’s important to know from which side the car is coming from.
Lastly, only having a hearing aid in one ear means you only get the benefits of amplification for the brain on one side. The hearing and your ability to discriminate speech may still deteriorate on the other side. The moral of this story is to always purchase two of the best hearing aids you can afford!
Deciding on different technology levels of hearing aids depends a lot on the environments you are often in. The more challenging your listening situations are, the more features you need in a hearing aid.
I define a challenging listening situation as follows: Communicating in situations where a lot of background noise is present (such as a restaurant, club or shopping mall) Being in situations with poor acoustics (usually wide-open spaces that can cause an echo) Where more than one person is speaking at the same time. If you retired and living alone, you may think that a budget hearing aid will work well for you. However, you may be in challenging listening situations daily. This may be going to church (poor acoustics), visiting with grandkids (more than one speaker), or going out to restaurants. Remember that with a budget hearing aid you may still have difficulty communicating in these situations and a hearing aid with more features might suit your needs better.
Depending on your hearing loss, you may be a candidate for many different styles of hearing aids. Some hearing aids go behind your ear and some are invisible in the ear hearing aids. Your audiologist will best advise you on which style will work the best for your hearing loss.
Behind the ear (BTE): These hearing aids go behind your ear and can either be fitted with a thin tube and a dome or a mould made from your ear, depending on how severe your hearing loss is. These hearing aids are usually easy to clean and a bit bigger than some other styles.
Receiver in the canal hearing aids (RIC): These hearing aids are smaller than BTE hearing aids, and usually with less battery consumption. They also go behind the ear and has a wire (receiver) going towards the ear canal.
Completely in the Canal (CIC)/ Invisible in the Canal (IIC): These are the smallest hearing aids on the market and can provide the user with an invisible solution for their hearing loss. The cons of this type of hearing aid are usually no connectivity and high battery consumption.
In the Ear (ITE)/ In the Canal (ITC): These hearing aids are a bit bigger than CIC hearing aids and uses a bigger battery. They can have more connectivity options, depending on the brand of hearing aid.
Once you have decided on a style of hearing aid, you can decide on which features are important for you. Here is an overview of different features: