About 3 years ago my grandfather was fit with his first set of hearing aids, a set of custom ITE hearing aids from Beltone. His success with the hearing aids has been mediocre at best, he is constantly taking them out of his ears for one reason or another. He feels the hearing aids are programmed appropriately and often states they are too quiet. My grandfather’s story is not uncommon, but I feel had he been provided more information he may have gone a different path. Here is everything I wish my grandfather had known before buying hearing aids:
1. See an audiologist. Many people looking to purchase hearing aids stumble upon a hearing instrument specialist (HIS) at some point, though many people do not realize there is a difference between an audiologist and a HIS. While there is nothing wrong with purchasing your hearing aids from a HIS, they have not had the same rigorous schooling as a Doctor of Audiologist. See an audiologist first for thorough testing, they are doctors- not salespeople, and they can guide you to the best hearing aid for you.
2. There are many different styles of hearing aids, and not all are created equally. Different styles of hearing aids may not work with all types of hearing loss. Those who have more severe hearing loss require a more powerful hearing aid, this means those tiny ones you see on tv might not be a realistic option based on your needs. Also ask about the pros and cons of each style, custom hearing aids like the ones my grandfather purchased can be easier to insert for some individuals and may be more discrete than some behind-the-ear (BTE) styles, however they can also be more prone to repair issues in the long run. It is important to find a hearing aid that works best for you, your provider should help steer you in the best direction.
3. Pay attention to the brand of hearing aid you purchase. There are 6 major manufacturers of hearing aids, each offering a wide array of styles. If you purchase a privately labeled hearing aid, or an uncommon brand, you may be locked into one provider. Stores such as Cosco, Audibell and Beltone lock their hearing aids, so you are only able to go to back their stores for future adjustments. This means that if you are travelling and your hearing aid breaks you may be out of luck! Ask your provider if they lock their hearing aids before purchasing, and be sure you are purchasing a reputable brand.
4. Do your research. Many people have no idea what it costs to purchase hearing aids, and without doing your research you are liable to pay more than those who have “comparison shopped”. Look online and determine the average range for hearing aids. If budget is a concern, let your provider know! Hearing aids come in a range of technology levels and you may have insurance benefits that you were unaware of. Remember your provider is there to help you, so if you feel pressured or uneasy in any way don’t be afraid to go somewhere else.
5. You are responsible for your success! Hearing aids require you to put work in. You need to be committed to wearing the hearing aids and putting in the effort the comes with “re-training” your brain on how to hear. Hearing aids are not an instant fix, but your provider should offer you all the support you need during this transition period. Pay attention to your warranty and trial dates, if something doesn’t seem right speak up. Your hearing aids should offer a comfortable fit and should not be too loud that it overwhelms you. If something seems off, speak with your provider right away so they can make changes