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10 Key Questions When Shopping for Hearing Aids

 

When we start to shop for hearing aids, it can be overwhelming! There are so many brands, types, options and retailers – both online and traditional storefronts.  Every retailer and manufacturer does their best to make their hearing aids sound as attractive as possible.  But how can you really tell?

These 10 questions will help you highlight the differences in the options you are considering and determine the real value of each option.  To make your life easier, you click here to download a handy chart that you can fill out when doing your research.  We have even added three of our most popular models to help you out.

Remember, not everyone needs the highest level of hearing technology.  At the lower end, hearing aid models can offer very good performance in quieter settings and watching TV. The higher end levels perform better in more challenging environments like noisy restaurants, group settings and large open spaces. To get the best value, ask yourself where your greatest hearing challenges are and what is most appropriate for your lifestyle and budget.

To determine how different models compare, ask for this information:

  1. Is the hearing aid custom programmed to my hearing test? You will get the best sound clarity and performance from hearing aids that are custom programmed to your hearing test by a licensed Audiologist. Some companies sell non-programmed devices as FDA Class 1 hearing aids. Don’t be fooled!  If they do not require your hearing test, they are not custom programming your hearing aids.

  2. How long is the warranty? Does it cover rechargeable battery replacement? What about loss or damage? This is an important question to ask in order to understand how long your retailer will stand behind its products. The longest available will be 3 years.  The warranty should include any manufacturer defect that causes the hearing aid to stop working, the rechargeable batteries and the receivers (the wires that connect the in-ear speaker to the processor above the ear in the popular Behind-the-Ear models). 

    While hearing aids are rarely lost or badly damaged, it can happen. Retailers should offer “loss and damage” replacement assistance. If you lose or badly damage your hearing aids during the warranty, better retailers offer to replace them once at a reduced price.

  3. How many programmable channels or bands does the hearing aid have? Hearing aids can have anywhere from 4 to 20+ channels.  This is the number of sound frequency bands used to custom program your hearing aids to the results of your hearing test. Up to a point (20 seems to be the most you can benefit from), the greater the number of bands, the better and more natural the sound quality delivered to you. Generally, models with more programmable channels will also have more sophisticated software to more effectively process voices in noisy environments.

  4. How many sound environments does the hearing automatically adjust to? In the past, when you went into a noisy restaurant, you could select a ‘restaurant program’ on your hearing aids to help with background noise. Today’s latest hearing aid technology includes software that automatically identifies and adjusts to changes in your sound environment so you never need to make any manual adjustments. So if you go from a quiet car into a noisy restaurant, the hearing aids know this and adjust automatically. Higher performance levels recognize and adjust to a greater number of environments for seamless sound clarity all day long.

  5. How well does it work in crowded and noisy situations?The best models will offer specialized technology that actively amplifies the sounds you want to hear, while minimizing background noise. Embrace Hearing’s LiveSpeachFocus technology optimizes speech understanding in noisy or group situations by dynamically scanning the listening environment to focus on the active speaker in your immediate vicinity.

  6. How do you control volume on the aids? If your hearing aids have been custom programmed to your hearing needs, the volume level should reflect the right level of amplification for your hearing needs.  However, circumstances can arise where it will be desirable to adjust amplification levels. True premium hearing aids can be adjusted with a smartphone app, a small remote, and/or a button on the hearing aids depending on the model.  Some rely on a clapping motion to the side of your head which many users find awkward.

  7. What is the power source? Hearing aids are either powered by disposable batteries or rechargeable batteries. If you have a reliable evening routine, the convenience and environmental benefits of rechargeable hearing aids are clear. But be sure that your warranty covers the batteries as replacements can be costly and, in some models, the batteries cannot be replaced. Disposable batteries should last 3-7 days, depending on the model and level of streaming use. These batteries are inexpensive and are readily available locally and around the world. With normal use, it will cost about $25 -$50 per year to operate a pair of our hearing aids with disposable batteries.

  8. Does the model offer completely hands-free phone calls and Bluetooth streaming? Imagine completely hands-free phone calls or the sound of your TV Streamed directly into your hearing aids. Models like Embrace Hearing’s X Series offer direct 2-way Bluetooth streaming which will send your phone’s sound directly to your aids – and your aids will act as a microphone – allowing completely handsfree phone calls. Your phone can be in your pocket or up to 30 feet away! 

    Note: Not all hearing aid brands will connect to both Apple or Android smartphones, so be sure to check this before buying.

  9. Will I have direct contact by phone/email with the Audiologist? Your hearing aids should be programmed by a licensed Audiologist. Will you be able to follow up with them with any issues and adjustments? Make sure that the audiologist will work with you as long as you own the aids. Check to see what the business hours and work days are, when you will be able to have your phone call answered, and how long it will take to schedule an appointment.

  10. Will there be a restocking fee if I decide to return the aids? By law, every hearing aid retailer must offer at least a 30-day trial period on all hearing aids.  However, many frustrated consumers discover that undisclosed costs may have been “bundled” into the price they paid for the hearing aids.  On returning the aids, restocking fees or other charges of up to $300 are deducted from their refund.  Check the reviews of the retailer you are dealing with and ask for confirmation of exactly what the return policy and charges will be.  Within the trial period, the best retailers will refund 100% of the purchase price on receipt of the returned hearing aids.

Click here to download our chart for comparing hearing aids.

 

 

 

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