Buying a hearing aid can be an overwhelming process — but knowing the ins and outs of these devices can help you find the hearing aid that’s right for you.
In need of a hearing aid, but you don’t know where to start? You are not alone.
Hearing loss affects more than 15 percent of adults in the United States, many of whom could greatly benefit from the use of an assisted hearing device.
Hearing aids are among the most popular type of hearing solution. They are small electronic devices worn in or behind the ear to make sounds louder. Today, most hearing aids are practical — and often discreet — in everyday use.
“Hearing aids have many features that can help a person hear better and engage with the world around them,” said Jenna Terpening, Au.D., CCC-A, an audiologist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear. “They do more than just help someone hear. They are customizable, can connect with smart devices and some even have their own apps. For those who are candidates for hearing aids, they can really make a difference.”
With so many options, it can be hard to know where to begin in selecting a hearing aid. We sat down with Dr. Terpening, who sees patients with hearing loss at Mass. Eye and Ear’s main campus and Concord locations, for her tips on how to choose the right one.
1) Get your hearing tested regularly.
Not all forms of hearing loss will benefit from the use of hearing aids, so it is important to have your hearing tested by a professional who can make the right recommendations for you.
And, even if you are not currently experiencing hearing loss, Dr. Terpening says you should still consider having your hearing checked. “It doesn’t hurt to get a baseline hearing test,” said Dr. Terpening. “That way, if you ever notice difficulty later on, there will be something to compare it to.”
2) Understand that hearing aids aren’t one size fits all.
Hearing aids come in many styles. What will work best for you depends on a unique combination of considerations — such as your level of hearing loss, dexterity, cosmetic preferences and overall comfort.
The three main styles of hearing aids include behind-the-ear (BTE), receiver-in-the-ear (RITE), and in-the-ear (ITE). With each style, you have size and color options to choose from. They will also be fitted specifically for your ears.
- BTE hearing aids typically work well for patients with moderate to profound hearing loss. With this style, patients are often fitted with a custom earpiece, which sits in the ear and attaches to a hearing aid that sits behind the ear. This style is often quite durable.
- RITE hearing aids are similar to BTE, but they’re a little smaller and the receiver (speaker) sits in the ear canal. They are generally fit for mild to severe hearing losses. Many consider RITE to be more discreet than other types. However, if you have significant earwax problems or a history with ear infections, this style may not be for you.
- ITE are custom made to your ear. They are one unit that sits in the ear canal and bowl of the ear. This style can be fit for patients with mild to severe hearing losses who have limited dexterity.
3) Take your lifestyle into consideration.
“Thinking about how active you are and what types of situations you notice hearing difficulties in will help you determine the technology level that’s best for you,” said Dr. Terpening.
For people with less active lifestyles, a basic technology level may be appropriate. For people who are more active, often attending meetings or social gatherings, a higher level of technology is recommended. The higher the technology level, the better the hearing aid will perform in noisy environments.
4) Have realistic expectations.
At this time, there is no cure for hearing loss, meaning no options will give you back 100 percent of your hearing. However, hearing aids can help you regain much of what you’ve lost. Understanding this will help you adjust to using hearing aids faster and will make you more satisfied with your decision.
In addition, the use of accessories in conjunction with hearing aids can usually help in more difficult listening situations.
For new users, there is also typically a short transition period. Most people need a month or two to fully adjust to using hearing aids – so just give it time to do its job.
5) Don’t let the idea of hearing aids overwhelm you.
We know that this can be a stressful decision, so Dr. Terpening recommends working with an audiologist. Doing so will make the process of choosing a device easier and less taxing. An audiologist will not only make informed recommendations based on your lifestyle and level of hearing loss — they will also walk you through each step of the way.
“Getting a hearing aid doesn’t have to be scary, your audiologist can guide you through the process to make your transition easier,” said Dr. Terpening. “If you can let go of the negative stigmas about hearing aids, you can allow yourself to improve your quality of life.”
About Our Expert
Jenna Terpening, Au.D., CCC-A, is an audiologist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear. She sees patients with hearing loss at Mass. Eye and Ear’s main campus (243 Charles Street in Boston) and Concord locations.