Buying Hearing Aids: Where Do I Start?

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Old man and his wife enjoying the outdoors

Sales gimmicks: Full page ads in the newspaper promoting the latest hearing aid from manufacturer X, “We are looking for 25 people to test a break-through in hearing aid technology,” mailboxes stuffed full of direct mail marketing try to get you to buy new hearing aids, internet ads for $1000 off a pair of digital hearing aids… I could go on and on. Even for the savvy consumer, it can be extremely difficult to wade through all of the sales gimmicks to arrive at the best options for buying hearing aids. So how do you know what the right hearing aids are for you or your loved one, and how can you be sure you are not making a costly mistake?

Purchasing hearing aids can be intimidating. Let’s cut the fluff. Here are the facts that will help you make the best decision. There are more than twenty hearing aid manufacturers in the United States. Almost all of them offer a number of different products. The product lines are usually scaled by technology. Most manufacturers have several levels of technology, usually described as entry-level, mid-level, and advanced or premium. The price of the hearing aids is primarily based on the technology. So, with 20 plus manufacturers and all of these different technologies, how can a consumer know which brand is best? Answer: there isn’t a best brand! If we compare similar technologies, there really aren’t dramatic differences from one manufacturer to another. In fact, many hearing aids marketed under one name, are made by another company and sold with a different name plate in other clinics. For example, Audibel hearing aids are made by Starkey, Miracle Ear hearing aids are made by Siemens, and Beltone hearing aids are made by GN Resound. There isn’t a “best brand.” Some companies do a better job with wireless technology, some make smaller in-the-canal models more accurately, some tend to have better customer service, but all-in-all there are not dramatic differences in technology from one brand to another.

More important than brand name is getting the right hearing aid for you. The “right” hearing aid is one that is easy to use, comfortable, and has appropriate technology for your lifestyle and listening environments. Here’s another important fact: Not everybody needs the highest technology. The most appropriate technology for a farmer, who lives a relatively quiet life, is probably not going to be the same as the best technology for an airline pilot. The decision of technology (and price) is definitely not a one-size-fits-all. In our practice, about 10% of our patients opt for the premium technology, while about 80% choose the mid-level.

Last fact: success with hearing aids depends highly on the expertise with which the hearing aids are fit. The best, most expensive hearing aids in the world, won’t do the job if they are not set and fine-tuned appropriately. At the same time, less expensive, less “high-tech” hearing aids will offer the patient a significant improvement if they are adjusted appropriately for the patient.

Hopefully this brief discussion of the facts of hearing aids helps give you a better understanding of the factors that contribute to success with amplification. The bottom line is: It’s not about the hearing aid, it’s not about buying the most expensive technology, it’s about getting the most appropriate devices for your hearing loss and your situation and the expertise to make them work well. If you have questions on this discussion, feel free to call our office at 615-758-7999 for more information.