Some hearing aid optional features improve your ability to hear in specific situations:
- Directional microphones. These are aligned on the hearing aid to provide for improved pick up of sounds coming from in front of you with some reduction of sounds coming from behind or beside you. Some hearing aids are capable of focusing on one direction. Directional microphones can improve your ability to hear when you're in an environment with a lot of background noise.
- Telephone adapters (telecoils). These make it easier to hear when talking on a telecoil-compatible telephone. The telecoil eliminates the sounds from your environment and only picks up the sounds from the telephone. Some hearing aids switch automatically when the phone is held up to the hearing aid. And some aids send the phone signal to the other ear so that you can hear the phone in both ears when holding the phone over one hearing aid.
- Wireless connectivity. Increasingly, hearing aids can wirelessly interface with certain Bluetooth-compatible devices, such as cellphones, music players and televisions. You may need to use an intermediary device to pick up the phone or other signal and send it to the hearing aid.
- Remote controls. Some hearing aids come with a remote control, so you can adjust features without touching the hearing aid.
- Direct audio input. This feature allows you to plug in to audio from a television, a computer, a music device and so on.
- Variable programming. Some hearing aids can store several preprogrammed settings for various listening needs and environments.
- Synchronization. For an individual with two hearing aids, the aids can be programmed to function together so that adjustments made to a hearing aid on one ear (volume control or program changes) will also be made on the other aid, allowing for simpler control.
Before you buy
When looking for a hearing aid, explore your options to understand what type of hearing aid will work best for you. Also:
- Get a checkup. See your doctor to rule out correctable causes of hearing loss, such as earwax, an infection and a tumor. And have your hearing tested by a hearing specialist (audiologist).
- Seek a referral to a reputable audiologist. If you don't know a good audiologist, ask your doctor for a referral. An audiologist will assess your hearing and help you choose the most appropriate aid and adjust the device to meet your needs. You may get best results with two hearing aids.
- Ask about a trial period. You can usually get a hearing aid with a trial period. It may take you a while to get used to the device and decide if it's right for you. Have the seller put in writing the cost of a trial, whether this amount is credited toward the final cost of the hearing aid, and how much is refundable if you return the hearing aid during the trial period.
- Think about future needs. Ask whether the hearing aid you've chosen is capable of increased power so that it will still be useful if your hearing loss gets worse.
- Check for a warranty. Make sure the hearing aid includes a warranty that covers parts and labor for a specified period.
- Beware of misleading claims. Hearing aids can't restore normal hearing or eliminate all background noise. Beware of advertisements or salespeople who claim otherwise.
Plan for the expense. The cost of hearing aids varies widely — from about a thousand dollars to several thousand. Professional fees, remote controls and other hearing aid options may cost extra. Talk to your audiologist about your needs and expectations.
Some private insurance policies cover part or all of the cost of hearing aids — check your policy to be sure. Medicare doesn't cover the cost of hearing aids. In many states, medical assistance covers hearing aids, but sometimes for just one ear. If you're a veteran, you may be able to get your hearing aid at no cost.
Breaking in your hearing aid
Getting used to a hearing aid takes time. You'll likely notice your listening skills improve gradually as you become accustomed to amplification. Even your own voice sounds different when you wear a hearing aid.
When first using a hearing aid, keep these points in mind:
- Hearing aids won't return your hearing to normal. Hearing aids can't restore normal hearing. They can improve your hearing by amplifying soft sounds and reducing loud background noises.
- Allow time to get used to the hearing aid. It may take several weeks or months before you're used to the hearing aid. But the more you use it, the more quickly you'll adjust to amplified sounds.
- Practice using the hearing aid in different environments. Your amplified hearing will sound different in different places. First try using your hearing aid in quiet places.
- Seek support and try to stay positive. A willingness to practice and the support of family and friends help determine your success with your new hearing aid. You may also consider joining a support group for people new to hearing aids.
- Go back for a follow-up. Most providers include the cost of one follow-up visit in their fee. It's a good idea to take advantage of this for any adjustments and to ensure your new hearing aid is working for you as well as it can.
Your success with hearing aids will be helped by wearing them regularly and taking good care of them. In addition, an audiologist can tell you about new hearing aids and devices that become available and help you make changes to meet your needs. The goal is that, in time, you find a hearing aid you're comfortable with and that enhances your ability to hear and communicate.
Sept. 19, 2014
See more In-depth
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- Fact sheet: Buying a hearing aid. American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery. http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/buyingHearingAid.cfm. Accessed June 16, 2014.
- Hearing aids. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/pages/hearingaid.aspx. Accessed June 16, 2014.
- Hearing loss and older adults. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/pages/older.aspx. Accessed June 16, 2014.
- Hearing aids and cell phones. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/HomeHealthandConsumer/ConsumerProducts/HearingAids/ucm181478.htm. Accessed June 17, 2014.
- Types of hearing aids. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/HomeHealthandConsumer/ConsumerProducts/HearingAids/ucm181470.htm. Accessed June 16, 2014.
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- Ham RJ, et al. Ham's Primary Care Geriatrics. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2014. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed June 16, 2014.
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- Lalwani AK. Current Diagnosis & Treatment in Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery. 3rd ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=39. Accessed June 18, 2014.
- Hogan CA (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 25, 2014.