How to increase hearing aid satisfaction

Contributed by , staff writer for Healthy Hearing | Friday, November 21st, 2014

You’ve had your hearing evaluated and worked with the hearing healthcare professional to choose the hearing aid that best fits your lifestyle. You’ve weathered the adjustment period with flying colors and are faithfully wearing your hearing aids. Your hearing has definitely improved – but is it possible you’re not using your hearing aids to their maximum potential?

Quite possibly – especially if you haven’t explored the additional benefits of using assistive listening devices.

Wireless hearing aids

Hearing aids have come a long way in the last 10 years. One of the most notable improvements was the development of wireless technology, which basically allows both hearing aids to “talk” to each other simply by adjusting the programming in one of the instruments.

Once that technology was invented, it was only a matter of time before hearing aids were able to interact with the other technology we use on a daily basis. Connectivity makes it easier for us to hear the television, talk on the telephone and enjoy a night at the movies.

television hearing loop
Pairing hearing aids with compatible assistive
listening devices, like hearing loops, will help
increase the wearer's experience.

Assistive listening devices

Assistive listening devices (ALD) transmit, amplify or process sound. Some systems are designed for public places, such as the church or classroom, while others are intended for personal settings and one-on-one conversations. Most ALDs will connect with hearing aids with telecoil capabilities. A telecoil is a small coil of wire inside your hearing aid that is designed to pick up a magnetic signal. Telecoils are available on most behind-the-ear (BTE) and inside-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids. If you are unsure whether or not your hearing aids have telecoils, ask your hearing healthcare professional.

Hearing Loops are one type of ALD. They use electromagnetic energy to transmit sound directly to your hearing aid and consist of four parts:

  • A sound source, such as public address system or television
  • An amplifier
  • A thin loop of wire installed around the room
  • A receiver – in this case, your hearing aids

Public venues utilizing hearing loop systems include museums, movie theaters, churches, classrooms and airports. Listening systems are required in these public places under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Because the sound is picked up directly by the receiver, it is typically clearer and background noise less noticeable. In a recent study, hearing aid users reported more satisfaction with their instruments when they were used in conjunction with a hearing loop. Participants said the hearing loop improved their ability to understand speech as well as the sound quality of their hearing device. 82 percent of survey respondents indicated they were “very likely” or “extremely likely” to seek out venues utilizing hearing loop systems.

Other types of ALDs commonly used in public places include infrared and FM systems. Instead of using electromagnetic energy, FM systems transmit sound through radio waves to your hearing aids. An infrared system uses invisible light beams to carry sound from the source to your hearing aids.

Personal amplifiers are another type of ALD. At home, the amplifier is placed near the television and connects to your hearing aids through a wire or wirelessly. Not only does this allow you to control your volume personally while others listen at a normal level, it also helps make the sound you’re hearing clearer by reducing background noise. ALDs are also available for the telephone. An Integrated Amplified Telephone has an amplifier and volume control built into the telephone. An add-on amplifier connects to existing, compatible telephones.

There’s an app for that

Even though hearing aids and cell phones are becoming more compatible thanks to FCC regulations, users must still switch between standard and hearing aid compatible (HAC) mode on their hearing aids whenever they want to place or answer a phone call. That may soon change, thanks to recent developments by Oticon and Apple.

Oticon, a leading manufacturer of hearing solutions, recently upgraded its Streamer Pro to connect to the iPhone using the Oticon ConnectLine app. The app gives users the ability to move seamlessly between FaceTime, music and phone calls with the touch of a finger. Apple recently filed for a patent on technology which would detect and integrate personal electronic devices with hearing aids, enabling cell phones to switch automatically between normal and HAC modes.

If you’re like most people, you waited an average of seven years from the time your hearing loss was diagnosed to the time you actually purchased your hearing aids. Now that you know how much better your hearing can be when you use your hearing instruments regularly, enhance your satisfaction and the quality of sound you’re hearing by using assistive listening devices whenever possible. Whether you plug in at home or at the movies, research indicates you’ll be glad you did.

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