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The process of buying hearing aids was in the past much easier. There were only a few styles to select from and they all fundamentally worked the same way, which was to say not very well.

It wasn’t until digital technology was integrated into the design that hearing aids became viable solutions for the restoration of hearing. And with digital technology, a number of features became available to regulate a multitude of listening situations.

But that’s the tradeoff—easy choices that brought about poor results are now difficult choices with a number of options.

But difficult does not mean impossible, and the time spent is well worth the improvement in hearing you can achieve. It’s also why it’s essential to partner with a reputable hearing specialist that can walk you through all of the relevant factors to consider.

Below are six things to look for when purchasing hearing aids, in conjunction with the questions to ask your hearing professional.

1. Programmability

Hearing amplification products are not all created equal. The truth is, the difference between the lowest end personal sound amplifier and the highest end digital hearing aid is the distinction between a Ford Pinto and a Porsche.

While you may not need the highest end hearing aid model available, the main difference you should be concerned about between a personal amplifier and a hearing aid is programmability.

Hearing aids should be programmed to enhance sounds according to your distinct hearing loss. Otherwise, all sound will be amplified evenly and that’s not going to make it easier to hear speech any better than before.

Ask your hearing expert about programming capability, including pre-programed settings you can use in a variety of circumstances, like at a restaurant versus at home.

2. Style

Hearing aids come in many sizes and styles, ranging from behind-the-ear to entirely in the ear canal.

You’ll want to balance cost, functionality, ease-of-use, and appearance when making your decision on hearing aid styles. You’ll also want to work with a hearing professional on this one, as many elements should be taken into consideration, including the severity of your hearing loss.

3. Directional microphones

People buy hearing aids for a variety of reasons and to hear an assortment of sounds, but the main reason is to hear and understand speech.

If that’s true for you, you’ll want to inquire about directional microphones in any hearing aid you’re looking at.

Hearing aids with directionality contain two or more microphones situated at a specified distance from each other within the hearing aid. The contrast in arrival time of sound to each microphone then determines how the hearing aid reacts to the sound.

This allows the hearing aid to focus on the specific sound origin in front of you, which if it’s a person, will be the sounds of speech.

4. Background noise minimization

Background noise and feedback inhibition are featured in most digital hearing aid models, but you’ll want to verify this with any device you’re considering.

Hearing aids contain a microprocessor that can distinguish between high-frequency sounds (like speech) and low-frequency sounds (like background noise). The microprocessor can then amplify speech while curbing everything else.

5. Telecoils

A telecoil is a small copper coil integrated into the hearing aid. While that doesn’t sound all that remarkable, what it can accomplish definitely is.

Telecoils allow you to speak on the phone without feedback and hook up to hearing loop systems. For example, if a hearing loop system is installed in a church or movie theater, sound will be transmitted directly to your hearing aid for optimum clarity.

Hearing loops can also be installed in home theater systems for the same effect. Ask your hearing professional for additional details.

6. Wireless connectivity

Did you just buy a new iPhone or smartphone?

If so, you may want to consider investing in compatible hearing aids that connect wirelessly to these devices. That way, you can stream cell phone calls and music directly to your hearing aids for optimum sound quality.

Your smartphone can even become your hearing aid remote control, where you can inconspicuously change the volume and settings.

There’s a lot to consider when selecting a hearing aid, which is why it’s vital to work with a trustworthy and experienced hearing care expert.

Are you ready to find your optimal hearing aid?