Many people think that by simply looking at a hearing test, one can easily determine which hearing aids are right for them. Unfortunately, the hearing test is just one consideration when determining the best hearing aids for a particular patient. I’ve developed this list of the 6 key factors you need to consider when deciding on a hearing aid.
This first consideration will be determined by the hearing test. It is imperative that you choose a hearing aid that is capable of delivering the frequencies that your hearing loss prescription requires. The configuration of your hearing loss will also dictate whether or not a custom ear mold is needed, and/or ear mold vent size.
A speech in noise score will determine how well you are able to hear and decipher speech in noise. One type assessment is the Quick SIN Test. Using the Quick SIN, we are able to determine how well you hear in noise and if your score is low, we need to look for hearing aids that have the technology and accessories you need to address this.
Even if you find the perfect hearing aid for you, it is important to consider how many hearing healthcare professionals are able to service or program that aid. What if the hearing healthcare professional you go to retires? Or the company you bought your aids from goes out of business? What if you move across the country? Choosing a hearing aid that is accessible to many hearing healthcare professionals is an important consideration. Also, please avoid locked hearing aids if possible. Hearing aids that have been locked are only able to be programmed or serviced by the company that locked them.
There is an extremely long list of questions you and your hearing healthcare professional should discuss before choosing hearing aids. You should be asked about any other issues you may have with vision, dexterity or accessibility. You should be asked about your lifestyle and the types of things you like to do. You should discuss your workplace and the job that you do, where you hang out and where you live. All of these questions will help you and your hearing healthcare provider determine which features are required for you to receive the maximum benefit.
Your lifestyle will help us to determine which technology level is best for you. Contrary to popular belief, the level of technology you require doesn’t have to do with the severity or configuration of your hearing loss. Higher levels of technology will always give you the greatest opportunity to hear your best; however, they are not the right choice for everyone. Some people cannot afford the highest level of technology and others do not often find themselves in the complex listening situations that require higher levels of technology. Lower levels of technology can deliver great benefit, they are just a little less effective in complicated listening situations. It is important to consider your lifestyle and not just decide that everyone needs the highest level of technology.
Even if you purchase the perfect hearing loss that matches all the other above considerations, you will not achieve the full benefit of the aids if your hearing provider does not follow best practices. The most important best practices are comprehensive auditory evaluation, a through needs assessment, diagnostic hearing aid checks to ensure proper functionality, real ear measures, and validation outcome measures to determine the real-life benefit of your aids. The provider you choose and he best practices he or she follows is as important as the devices themselves.
Deciding on which hearing aids to buy requires more than just looking at a hearing test. It requires a comprehensive hearing evaluation and careful consideration of your specific hearing needs. I constantly receive emails asking me to look at a hearing test and recommend the best hearing aids for that particular individual. The problem is, the hearing test only one small part of the equation. Even the best audiologists in the world aren’t able to adequately recommend the perfect hearing aid based on hearing test results alone.
#1. Hearing Loss Severity - The simple fact is that you need a hearing aid that is capable of providing enough Amplification. If you have a severe hearing loss, you need a device that can produce an adequate amount of sound.
#2. Speech in Noise Score - This is something that should be added on to every hearing evaluation. One common test is the Quick SIN (Speech-In-Noise) Test. This will indicate if hearing aids alone will help you understand speech in a noisy situation.
#3. Accessibility of a particular Brand - if you have difficulty getting in to see your hearing care professional, you may benefit from remotely programmed devices. You may not have accessibility to a particular brand in your area so this may restrict your options.
#4. Important Features - There is a long list of questions you should be asked when deciding which Hearing Aid Features would provide you with the most benefit. This can't be done by just looking at a hearing test. This can take time to make sure it is done well.
#5. Consideration of Lifestyle - Recommending a specific technology level depends on your lifestyle. This has nothing to do with the severity of your hearing loss. The more complex listening environments you find yourself in, the higher technology you will require.
#6. Does your Hearing Care Provider follow “Best Practices”? - Even the perfect hearing aid purchased from and fit by a provider who does not follow “best practices” will not provide you with the maximum benefit of that hearing aid.
What are “best practices”?
Basically they are the fundamentals that a hearing care professional should follow when recommending, fitting, and programming a set of hearing aids.
They include a long list of procedures which include:
1. Comprehensive Audiologic Evaluation
2. Thorough Needs Assessment
3. Hearing aid Diagnostic Checks to ensure hearing aids meet specific specifications
4. Real Ear Measurement to ensure hearing aids are matching the users hearing loss prescription
5. Validation outcome measures to assess your “real world” benefit
Hearing aids can dramatically improve your life, but only if you are selecting the right devices.
Unfortunately, this process is more complex than most people realize. It cannot be done by simply looking at a hearing test, but it can be done very well if you take all of these factors into consideration.