While hearing loss is common in Portland, there is a silver lining: about nine out of 10 people diagnosed with a hearing impairment can benefit from hearing aids. But when it comes to choosing a pair, many feel overwhelmed. With so many different styles, it’s hard to know where to begin!
Narrowing Down Your Hearing Aid Choices
Hearing loss is one of the most widespread physical health problems in Oregon. It ranks third, after arthritis and heart disease. An estimated 48 million Americans suffer from some degree of hearing impairment, and they aren’t all old—only about one-third of patients are over age 65. Hearing aids don’t only help the majority of people affected hear more effectively; they can also delay or prevent a range of physical, social and psychological health complications ranging from loneliness and depression to dementia and an increased likelihood of falls.
Picking out a hearing aid is a daunting prospect for many, however. You should always consult with a Portland audiologist before beginning the process; a professional hearing specialist will determine the type and severity of your impairment, important factors in selecting the right hearing aids for your particular needs.
There are other considerations when it comes to choosing hearing aids. These include:
Hearing aid style
With few exceptions, hearing aids of the past were large and bulky. Some people were reluctant to wear them for fear that hearing aids would make them appear old or frail. Digital technology took off in the early 2000s, ushering in a new generation of smaller, sleeker hearing aids. Some of today’s devices are so small they’ll fit entirely within your ear canal, making them virtually invisible to others. Some people aren’t comfortable wearing them so deeply in their ears, but there are plenty of other styles to choose from including half-shell, full-shell, behind-the-ear and open fit. Each has advantages and disadvantages; you’ll want to choose a pair that is well suited to your type and degree of hearing loss, is easy for you to control and that you find cosmetically appealing. Your Portland audiologist can help discuss the attributes of each style.
The design of your hearing aids directly impacts their cost and performance. Two devices might resemble one another closely, but they won’t necessarily work the same—it all depends on what is “under the hood,” so to speak. Most hearing aids today are digital, with internal circuitry designed to filter out background noise and eliminate many problems that affected older hearing aids, such as feedback and distortion. Again, you’ll want to choose hearing aids that are powerful enough to address your specific hearing needs.
As with any major purchase, you’ll be able to select from a variety of different options depending on your needs and desires. This will largely be dictated by your lifestyle; features that appeal to patients who have active social lives and enjoy nights out on the town probably won’t be as necessary for those who mostly spend quiet evenings at home. Some of the most popular options available today are:
Bluetooth® technology allows users to connect their hearing aids to a variety of electronic devices, such as smartphones, TVs and tablets. Audio is streamed directly to the hearing aids, providing convenience and ensuring other people won’t be disturbed.
Being able to manually adjust your microphones in order to more easily pick up sounds from multiple directions can be helpful in a variety of settings. If you’re catching a movie, concert or lecture, you can aim the microphone toward the stage, or switch to a more general setting if there are multiple people speaking or performing.
Hearing aids require a lot of power, so users cycle through batteries pretty quickly. Manufacturers have addressed this problem by developing rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for many of their models. An overnight charge should provide sufficient power for a full day; portable quick-chargers can give you a boost when you need “topping off.”
Last but certainly not least is price. Yes, hearing aids can be costly, and many insurance plans won’t reimburse you for hearing aid expenses. While cost is certainly going to be an important factor, it’s important to spend the money on hearing aids that are powerful enough for your specific hearing needs. Any money you save by purchasing cheap hearing aids won’t matter if they end up sitting unused in a dresser drawer.
Still unsure where to begin your search? Schedule an appointment with an audiologist in Portland—they are happy to help!