You have just realized you have hearing loss. Or, you have recently gained the ability to do something about it. Now you have to sort through all the different styles, models, and manufacturers to find the right ones for you. You can no doubt get some help from your audiologist, but if you want to be an informed consumer, you will want to learn to compare hearing aids for yourself.
When you do compare hearing aids, the first question is whether you want to get analog or digital hearing aids. Analog are the least expensive by far. These hearing aids simply receive a signal from a microphone, amplify it, and send the louder sound on to the ear. It’s as simple as that.
There is a middle ground between analog and digital. These are sometimes called digital programmable, although they are not 100 percent digital, or they are called analog programmable. The idea here is that it is indeed an analog hearing aid. It just has the advantage of a certain amount of customization in programming through the use of computer software. This can give you a variety of settings you can manually switch to accommodate your listening preferences in different listening situations. The settings can be changed by reprogramming at any time. When you compare hearing aids,these are more expensive than the regular analog ones, but less so than fully digital ones.
Fully digital hearing aids are the most expensive, and when you compare hearing aids you will find many reasons why this is so. The difference in sound quality is like the difference you get when you go to digital music recordings from old fashioned record albums. This is done through DSP, or digital signal processing.
There are differences in the programming as well. One thing to notice when you compare hearing aids is how many channels or bands it has. This is important because if your hearing loss is not the same for all frequencies, you will want different frequencies adjusted differently. Some people may only need a couple of bands while others may need several.
It is also nice to know if a hearing aid has directional microphones. If it does, there are two microphones that emphasize sounds in front of you rather than behind you. Some models have a switch so that you can turn this feature on and off.
Another way to compare hearing aids is by taking into account how many preset programs there are to switch between. You might want different programs for different aspects of your life, like home and work environments, and the surroundings at your favorite free time activities.
Compare hearing aids by noting which ones are “smart” hearing aids. These have the capability to learn your preferences by the way you use them when you get them. These are easy to operate because, after awhile, the hearing aid automatically sets itself the way you usually set it yourself. Other features are reduced feedback and wind noise, and the ability to use the device with phones or even mobile phones.
In the end, you will probably talk it over with your audiologist before you make your final decision. It’s nice to go in to that talk armed with some facts of your own. That is why it’s in your best interest to compare hearing aids yourself.