Buying hearing aids guide

or: How to buy a hearing aid

First indications of hearing loss

For some time now, you don’t hear well as you used to. Do you ask people “come again” or “sorry” more often? Does it happen that in a family gathering you don’t always follow the conversations? Do you guess many words using context and common sense? TV host doesn’t speak clear enough lately?  Here are a few guidelines for buying a hearing aid.

You can read more on hearing loss process here...

You decide of buying a hearing aid

You probably found out it is fairly confusing. Lot’s of options, lots of opinions, lots of ads. You want it to do the job, but not to be too big. You heard an advice from a friend, but you are not sure it will fit your case... Where to start?

Note: Fitting a hearing aid is NOT like fitting glasses. Seemingly, one of our senses is damaged so we check how bad is it hurt and fit a device that fixes it. I wish it was that simple. Fitting a hearing aid is longer and more complex than getting the right glasses.

Coordination of expectation from a hearing aid

I want to keep it real. Hearing aids do not bring the hearing to its total proper condition. However - not hearing well means losing communication with the rest of the world and with the close surrounding. Hearing aids will enable you to communicate with the surroundings the way you used to. We are all here to communicate with one another, right?

Another thing to bear in mind: A good fitting of your hearing aid can get you back the lost communication abilities, but it takes some effort. It’s not like writing a PhD, but it is more than getting a bottle of milk. It will require some effort and patience.

Read some more on coordinating expectations here.


Anyhow, here is the whole process of buying hearing aids, the way I recommend...

  1. Go see an ENT doctor
  2. Perform Hearing test
  3. Choose a Hearing aid clinic
  4. Meet the expert (Audiologist or hearing aids specialist)
  5. Discussing the different options
  6. First days - what to expect
  7. Next steps



1) Go see an ENT doctor

First you should see a doctor specializing in ENT medicine to examine the ear. Sometimes it is just earwax or some other trivial problem. He might point out structural issues that you are not aware of. It can influence the choice of the appropriate hearing rehabilitation accessory for you.

The doctor will ask you some questions about your hearing loss such as: when do you think it started? What situations you are having trouble with? Do you feel dizzy sometimes? Is there a family history of hearing loss? (most of us got some hearing loss, as we get older. The meaning here is if in your family it happens earlier than usual). The purpose of these questions is to characterize your hearing loss. The doctor might send you to some additional tests to fulfill the medical picture. One of them will be hearing test...

2) Perform Hearing test

hearing test Hearing test

Hearing test is the next step. Where to do it? Tricky question. Why? Because hearing aids cost a lot of money, so you want the one doing the test to be free from extraneous considerations. What I mean, is that if you can, have the test on one place, and get the hearing aid from another place. If you can, the best place to have the test is a non-profit medical institute.

I must emphasize that I don’t mean to discredit anyone on the hearing rehabilitation community. Most are great professionals who will give you the best treatment. But hey, I’m from your side, so I have to point it out...

The technician/audiologist should explain the test results briefly. If you do have some hearing loss, it’s time for the next step...

3) Choose a Hearing aid clinic

At this point, you need to address a place that can fit you the proper hearing aids. If you got some recommendations, use them. Not for a specific device, but for the place and the service it provides. The place should be professional, tolerant, available and have great repair and support service. Try to find out how many meetings you get and how long are they.

It’s really important to get the right person to buy from. The technician (or whoever fits your hearing aid) needs to be professional and patient. Be sure to get a hearing aids’ expert who will escort you before, during, and after you purchase. The after is really important. He has to be there for you if you will need help, and you will need help... It can be adjustments, guidance in operating, fixing if needed and so on.

Tip:  Most serious places offer a free trial period for the hearing aid you just bought. There are cases though, where the hearing aid or the earmold is tailored made for you. In these cases, you might be asked to pay some down payment, even if you are not satisfied. Make sure you understand what is the amount.


4) Meet the expert (Audiologist or hearing aids specialist)

To begin with, audiologist will try and find out on what points you have problems. What are your day to day needs (communication wise). Do you use the phone a lot? Meeting customers? Do you give lectures? Etc. It makes a difference on what hearing aid type will work best for you. He should also ask for your general medical status, how well you see and how is your fine motor skills. This is important, so he can fit you a device that you can operate easily.

The audiologist will go over your hearing test results. He should explain to you your hearing loss characteristics and the different options for hearing rehabilitation. It’s a good time to point out economic limitations...  Hearing aids develop so fast, a medium class device of today was the high-end two years ago. Meaning, even if you can’t afford the most advantage hearing aid, you can get a great solution. BTW, on many cases, there is no real need to get the top-notch hearing aid.

A great professional is more important than the best device. He can fit the mid-range device perfectly to suit your needs. It’s a better option than a so-so audiologist that will sell you the most complicated hearing aid but won’t fit it right.

I really recommend that you will coordinate the expectation with the audiologist. It should be mutual. Try to get a realistic target of how well you will hear.
 - “I expect to hear the whispers in the next room” - Not realistic
 - “I expect to hear and understand a conversation on normal voice” - bingo


5) Discussing the different options

At this point, the audiologist will present few options. Make sure you understand the different considerations like size, price, technology, advantage and disadvantages of all the options.

Note: There are numerous models and brands. Most are really great and will do the job. Read here some insights about why hearing aids' market can be very confusing and why there is no reason to worry about it...

You can decide on the spot and move on, or you can take your time to sleep it over.
Anyhow, the next step can be one of two:
Take an impression if you need to take one for the earmold or for the whole device (ITC or CIC). The earmold/device should be ready within a couple of weeks.

OR

If the chosen hearing aids don’t require an ear impression, you can get the hearing aid on the very same day!

In any case, before you go home with the new wonder, you have to get some explanation on how to operate it. How to turn it on and off, How to change the batteries and some basic maintenance tips.


6) First days - what to expect

I strongly recommend you should take it slowly at first, don’t wear the hearing aid for more than a few hours a day in the first few days. Don’t overload yourself. There are many sounds that you haven't heard for a while, and you actually forgot they exist. You have to get to know them and get used to them.

hearing aid configuration Hearing Aid connected
to a computer for cunfiguration

Noises like a refrigerator, a whistle, boiling pot can really bother you at first. Have a small log to follow noises that are too loud for you or bothers you. On the next meeting with the audiologist, he can fix it on the spot (He hooks the hearing aid to a computer and changes the relevant configurations).

If you feel some discomfort, don’t hesitate, schedule a meeting to fix it. They can trim the hearing aid a bit (or the earmold) or to try another size of a universal ear tip. Don’t wear the hearing aid if it bothers you, it will soon give you a headache and will probably make you nervous sooner or later.

7) Next steps

When you go back to the clinic, tell the audiologist how it goes. Tell him what bothers you, and if you got functions you have trouble with. Don't hesitate to get assistance and more guidance if you need it!

If you are totally disappointed from the hearing aid, it’s a good time to consider an additional device, most clinics should allow it, one way or another.
On most of the hearing aids, the audiologist can get some sort of data logging. It enables him to know some additional parameters, and it helps him re-adjust if needed. Don’t worry...It doesn’t record what you hear...

It is very common to have few more meetings until you are totally satisfied with the way you hear. You should also feel comfortable with the operation of the hearing aid. My advise - this is not the time for saving. Even if the extra meeting demand some extra payment, do it. The hearing aid is an expensive device and you really should get the most out of it. No reason it shouldn’t be optimized to your specific needs.

Some of the audiologists can perform a test called ‘Real Ear Measurement’. It verifies that the hearing aid behaves the way it should behave once it is in your ear. It compares the way the manufacturer says it should behave with the way it actually functions in your own ear. Usually they do it by hooking to the device with some software from their computer.

In addition, a decent hearing rehabilitation process should include some sort of query or some other measuring scale to see the progress. It should cover your feelings and hearing without the device, during the adjustment, and after you used it for some time. It is essential to really evaluate how things improved for you.

Even after you feel perfectly well with the hearing aid, I strongly recommend to visit the audiologist from time to time (say, every six months). Just to see that the device functions as it should.
 
 

Last bit of advice

If I could offer you only one piece of advice, patient would be it. Don’t rash, buying hearing aid is not similar to any other product you buy.

Good Luck!



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