Consumer Reports Hearing Aid Buying Guide Detailed Review

Dr. Cliff Olson
December 14, 2018
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Consumer Reports Hearing Aid Buying Guide Detailed Review

Consumer Reports Hearing Aids Buying Guide Review. Dr. Cliff Olson, Audiologist and founder of Applied Hearing Solutions in Anthem Arizona, provides commentary on the Consumer Reports Hearing Aids Buying Guide.

Video Transcript

Consumer Reports Hearing Aids Buying Guide:

Consumer Reports is a non-profit organization that has been around since the 1930s.  Their reviews are based on conducting in-house testing and surveys.  The Buyers Guide discusses the prevalence of hearing loss with 48 million Americans experiencing some form of hearing loss. They also discuss the three types of hearing loss:  Sensorineural, Conductive, and Mixed Hearing Loss.Understanding hearing aids discusses digital hearing aid technology and Analog devices.  Despite Analog hearing aids being less complex than digital devices, digital devices are still easy to use.  There are different features in hearing aids such as Wind noise reduction, Background noise reduction, and Bluetooth.  The variations in devices can make identifying the best device very difficult.  The Guide does give some incorrect information on the different hearing aid styles and Cons of these styles.  They should state that in general, there are 2 different styles:  In-The-Ear (ITE) and Behind-The-Ear (BTE).  There are several substyles within these.  Discussing hearing aid features the report indicates that 33% of their survey respondents reported multiple hearing aid programs to be the most important feature.  

Other features included:

Telecoil - A feature that communicates with a hearing loop to pull information from a telephone or public facilities that have a loop.  This will give you better access to audio from these locations.

Directional Microphones: These help hearing aids perform better in background noise by allowing these microphones to communicate with  each other to determine which direction to pick up sound.  

Feedback Suppression: This helps prevent whistling of hearing aids, particularly with an open fit.  Digital Noise Reduction:  This allows hearing aids to remove noise from speech to improve speech understanding in background noise.

Other Features: Include Bluetooth connectivity and Remote Microphones with are extremely beneficial for use with the telephone and in background noise.

Selecting a Hearing Care Provider starts with a recommendation to see an Audiologist.  Audiologists can be found in private practice settings and Wholesale clubs like Costco Hearing Centers.  They do mention that you should ask if the hearing care provider is an Audiologist or Hearing Instrument Specialist.  Both can dispense, but there is a disparity in training between the two professionals.

Audiologists have to earn a doctorate degree in audiology and obtain over 1,000 clinical contact hours, and Hearing Instrument Specialist training varies widely and in some states requires no formal training.The guide does go over what you should expect from a hearing care provider.  This includes convenient hours with  repair services, a detailed consultation to determine your specific needs, and the necessity of seeing your hearing care professional regularly.

Overall, the quality of your hearing aid performance directly depends on how good your hearing care provider is.  

Some shopping tips from the guide include:

1. Checking your insurance coverage.

2. Getting a detailed contract that allows for hearing aid returns in the case that you don't receive benefit.3. Only buy what you need.  There is no need to overspend on features that are unnecessary for your lifestyle.4. Asking for a price break.  Be careful with this one as the clinics that haggle are often the ones that will reduce your quality of care.5. Look for bargains.  

Again, you usually get what you pay for.  Focus too much on a bargain and you could find yourself receiving little benefit with hearing aids.6. Getting social assistance.  There are programs like Starkey HearNow that will help you obtain hearing aids for free if you meet low income requirements.When getting new hearing aids, the most important thing is that you have Real Ear Measurement performed on them.  This is the only way to ensure your devices are programmed appropriately to your hearing loss prescription.

Learn more about REMs in this video: last thing they discuss is using a Personal Sound Amplification Product or PSAP if you aren't ready for hearing aids yet.  These are NOT hearing aids, but can provide a boost to your hearing.  Just be careful, the cheap ones can actually make you hear worse and can even damage your ears.  

Overall, the Consumer Electronics Hearing Aids Buying Guide, despite some inaccuracies, provides a good basic level understanding of hearing aids and treatment options.

Dr. Cliff Olson
Audiologist & YouTuber

Dr. Cliff is an unwavering supporter of Hearing Aid Best Practices and advocate for individuals with hearing loss, which inspired him to develop the Dr. Cliff Approved Provider Network.

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Dr. Cliff Olson

Audiologist & YouTuber