Sound Advice

How to Select the Best Hearing Instrument

Because today’s media is saturated with advertisements and gimmicks for hearing devices, Dr. Lew is frequently questioned, “How does a person choose the right hearing aid?” To that answer, she poses four top questions one should ask before purchasing hearing aids.

1) Are purchasing hearing aids from a big box store the same as being fit in a private audiologist office?
Great question, the answer is “No” they are not alike. When you purchase a brand of hearing aid from a big box store, you are a customer in a retail model, like buying a TV and you can return the item if dissatisfied. You are not scheduled for follow-up visits because the hearing aid consummates the end of sale. However, your hearing results will probably be less optimal. A doctor of audiology who is trained to provide a therapeutic medical model will monitor and validate your success through several scheduled visits in the first few months of receiving your new hearing instruments. As a patient, your renewed sense of hearing is both physical and emotional experiences which takes time to adjust.

2) Are there scheduled follow-up appointments to ensure the quality of my hearing aid? 
A reputable audiologist should offer a minimum of three visits within two months without additional fees. Hearing restoration takes time for the brain to process new incoming sounds. The human auditory system cannot adjust to new sounds in one visit. Your hearing abilities will naturally improve within a few months, accompanied by proper adjustments to the hearing instruments and counseling concerning the hearing impairment.

3) How does the audiologist ensure a successful fitting with hearing aids?
The gold standard to successful hearing amplification is to measure it. You should complete a rating or performance scale concerning the benefit derived from your hearing aids. A Real Ear Analysis (REA) should be conducted while wearing your hearing instrument to ensure the proper prescription of amplification. A test for speech understanding in noise should be offered. The most common complaint of hearing decline is the inability to understand conversations in noisy environments. The hearing instrument should help rather than hinder. Routine appointments throughout the life of the hearing instruments should be scheduled to ensure optimal function and sound quality.

4) Are there differences in hearing aid brands and models?
Yes, there are significant differences in brand and model of hearing aids. Be informed on those differences with hearing aid technologies as this influences the cost. Being able to try different hearing aids as demos outside the clinic is ideal. Your professional should be able to explain why different models are priced differently. The type of activities in your life, the individual preferences in sound quality and the style of instrument will vary with each individual. In short, if you are unhappy with your hearing instruments, your investment is poor regardless of the price you paid.

These four criteria are so important to the success of hearing aid fittings. - Dr. Lew