So you finally went to the hearing care professional and discovered what you’d expected all along. The family’s been telling you for months – YOU NEED HEARING AIDS.
The decision to purchase hearing aids is not one to take lightly. These are sophisticated digital instruments and the process should be treated no different than if you were buying a new HDTV.
When purchasing a new HDTV there are many factors to consider: size, location, glare, quality and most importantly cost.
For hearing aids, it is a similar scenario – many factors to consider before choosing the model that will fit your needs, lifestyle and pocket book.
Bringing back the sounds of life directly improves quality of life (studies have demonstrated this), so you want to ensure you are purchasing the features you need. Just like any electronic product, the more you spend the more you get and that is something to remember.
Beginning the hearing journey can often be overwhelming and consumers are often unsure where to begin in the process. Simply put, the process begins with you. The following are areas to consider before you make the big decision of purchasing hearing aids.
Your Hearing Loss
This is absolutely where you need to start. A hearing test will first determine if you are a hearing aid candidate and will give you an idea on how much power you are going to require. Power requirements will influence what style of hearing aid you are able to choose (as will be discussed).
Understanding your hearing loss will also allow you to understand your needs. Ensure you leave your hearing care professional’s office understanding the degree and severity of your hearing loss. Discuss with them how the configuration of your hearing loss affects your ability to hear speech and other sounds in your environment.
Hearing Aid Style
Hearing aids come in a variety of styles from completely-in-the-canal (CIC) devices to BTE (behind-the-ear) devices. There are pros and cons to each style – pros and cons to consider long before you write the check.
Size does matter when it comes to hearing loss and the typical rule of thumb is the larger the hearing loss, the larger the hearing aid. However with advancements in digital hearing aid technology, even the most powerful hearing aids on the market are discreet and compact. No longer are they the big clunky beige devices, but instead sleek, styled and very posh!
The most popular hearing aids on the market currently are open-fit BTEs or Receiver-in-the-canal devices. Both of these products allow the ear canal to remain open – meaning the hearing aid is not plugging up the ear canal. The result is a more natural feel while still receiving the amplification you need via a small thin plastic tube.
Healthy Hearing’s Quick Guide to hearing aids will walk you through the different styles of hearing aids. Discuss all of these with your hearing care professional when choosing the style that is best not only for you but your hearing loss.
You can go totally discreet with a hearing aid that’s invisible – a CIC unit – or you can go flashy with brightly colored cases designed to make a statement and show a little attitude.
|Oticon's Delta "In-Bloom"|
There are units that match your outfit for the evening, hearing aids that show you still got a little pizzazz. How about a zebra-skin BTE or perhaps something in midnight magenta? Have the love for golf or gardening? There are even hearing aids designed just for you!
Many of today’s hearing aid wearers are “coming out of the closet” with their hearing loss and proudly proclaiming their value and worth, simply by making a fashion statement with a hearing aid. Hearing aids should be no different than eye glasses – wear them to match your style and flare.
Discuss design and style with your hearing care professional. Ask about different colors, shapes and design. For example, if you have arthritis perhaps one hearing aid design may be easier to handle than another.
Your Hearing Needs
Keep an ongoing list of situations and environments you find yourself having difficulty. The number of environmental factors affecting your listening abilities helps your hearing care professional determine how sophisticated of hearing aid you need.
For example, if you are only having issues at business meetings and hearing the TV, they may recommend less sophisticated technology because these are both quiet controlled environments. However, if you are having issues in all social situations, work, concerts and so on – you will want to consider top of the line hearing aids to provide you the level of technology needed to improve hearing in all of these situations.
Hey, good news. We’re living longer. And that means we’re doing stuff longer into what were once ironically called the Golden Years. Long-timers lead active on-the-go lifestyles – everything from a morning round at the club to RV-ing their way through the countryside.
|Tough hearing aids: bring on the dirt|
If you’re wearing a hearing aid and hiking 10 miles on weekends, you want a hearing aid that’s industrial-strength – a hearing aid that’s impervious to sweat, moisture (it rains), dust, debris and even ear wax. You want something reliable, even under stressed activity. No problem. There are many lock-tight devices that’ll have you enjoying nature’s sound bites as you kayak the whitewater. Go for it.
On the other hand, if the most strenuous thing you do all day is walk the dog, you don’t need the heavy-duty model. Just don’t walk the dog in the rain. You can save quite a bit by eliminating features that you won’t use. For example, will you be:
- Talking on a cell phone
- Using a headset at work or at home
- Listening to your MP3 player loaded with good tunes
- Moving through lots of listening environments throughout the day
- Using a hearing aid in the workplace
- Able to remove the device to make manual adjustments
All of these should be discussed with your hearing care professional. There are high-quality hearing aids that include basic, automated convenience and hearing aids that do everything but remind you of your next hearing care professional appointment. Oh wait, there is a unit that does that. Really.
Nuts-and-bolts time. Hearing aids are expensive – that is if you are purchasing legit ones.
And whatever the cost of the unit, multiply it by 2 because typically two hearing aids are recommended for optimal hearing (our brains prefer listening with two instead of one).
Consumers typically report sticker shock when they are told how much hearing aids cost; however once you sit back and think about the benefits they present – you begin to realize the cost is well worth it.
When looking at the varying levels of cost keep in mind the brand, level of technology, number of features, style and where you live all affect the price. For the highest-end hearing aids, you can expect to pay between $3000-4000 per ear. Even entry-level hearing aids – just the basics – they cost roughly $1,000 per ear. For mid-level devices the cost can range anywhere in-between.
Averaged over the lifetime of the instruments (3 – 5 years or more), the cost per day of a pair of highly featured, advanced instruments is about $3 – less than a large latte at your favorite java joint. And hearing aids are proven to not only help you hear better, but to actually improve your and your family’s quality of life. Something you just can’t put a price on.
So bottom line on hearing aid cost? Quality costs money. You can skimp on other things but not on something that’ll have such a significant impact on your quality of life. Discuss with your hearing care professional exactly what you should or shouldn’t skimp on; they will help you select the right product in your price range.
Consider the Whole You
Before you buy any hearing aid, consider the impact this new addition will have on quality of life – your quality of life. Some consumers “just want somethin’ so I can hear the TV” while others want and expect more.
Consider the whole picture. What’s important to you? Determine your needs, your wants and your wishes. Look at your budget to determine the most you can invest in your hearing. Then sit down with your hearing care professional to begin your journey to better hearing.
The technology is there. The style is there. The choices are there. There is the right device to suit the whole you – from pocketbook to sky jumping lessons.