Which are the best hearing aids?

People often ask me, “Which are the best hearing aids for my hearing loss?” 

This is the wrong question to ask, in my opinion.

Let me explain why, and then I’ll suggest a better question.

There are websites that compare the major brands of hearing aids. Hearing Mojo has an excellent brand comparison chart. The average person, though, does not know what the features are (channel, band, sound processing platform) or about the relative importance of each feature. 

Another approach is to ask others:  “What kind of hearing aids do you have?  Are you happy with them?”  Get a specific brand name, and then go to a hearing care professional and say,” I want this one”.

This is not a good way to shop for hearing aids.

Most hearing care professionals dispense hearing aids from a relatively small number of hearing aid manufacturers. One reason for this is because the hearing care industry is competitive, and the major companies are constantly launching new models, features, and software platforms. It can be difficult to keep up with all the changes if you deal with many different companies.

If you say to a hearing care professional, “My hearing aids are too loud!” there are a gazillion ways to adjust this through the programming software. This is where the art of hearing aid dispensing comes in—the professional asks you questions such as, “Which sounds are too loud?  In what listening situations?”

If you say to a hearing care professional, “I want brand XXX,” and he or she is not familiar with the brand, or worse yet, does not like doing business with this particular company, you might not get optimal results. Let’s say the professional doesn’t or can’t dissuade you from brand XXX. So an order is placed for hearing aids for you anyway, to keep your business. 

This happened to me once, back in the days when I worked as a dispensing audiologist.  I felt backed into a corner, but was willing to try my best. I did not like the company—and because I did not believe in their products, I did not have the same level of confidence in the outcome. The software was difficult to work with—partly because I did not use it regularly. So when the client was dissatisfied, it just confirmed my doubts about the company. Maybe if I had adjusted the software differently the outcome would have been different. Maybe if I had more experience with the product, I would have known how to address the dissatisfaction.

So what is the solution?

Here’s what I think. The better question is, “Who is the best hearing care professional for my hearing loss?”  I’ve written a blog about the important questions to ask and things to consider when choosing a hearing care professional.

This is where you do the research. Ask others, and ask lots of questions. If you choose wisely, you will find someone you can trust. 

Then, leave the decisions up to the professional. Tell her about your communication difficulties and lifestyle, your expectations and concerns. Then sit back and let her make a recommendation. 

At this point, if you trust the person, and also trust your gut in making the right decision in choosing her to take care of you, then you can let go. Let her do her best for you.  You also have a part to play, of course.  But not in the selection of the specific brand or model, if you ask me.

Related Post:  Seven Questions to Ask When Shopping for a Hearing Care Professional

 

Photo credit:  © Barmina Iva 

Comments

an alternative

Great post Sandra,
There are people out there that can trust clinicians enough to allow them to take the decision but in the new Internet era we learn to research before we take purchase decisions, even for medical devices.

There is another resource available online at www.hearingpages.com (under Hearing Aids > Aid Finder) which allows for research based on benefit instead of technical features.

The final decision needs to be made with an audiologist because each hearing loss is different - it is an entire science behind it. The Aid Finder lets the user see at least what can be expected from a hearing aid, and even helps one choose which are the most important benefits (for himself) that a hearing aid needs to provide, which can be taken to an audiologist.

from RERC website

I was glad to see Dr. Mark Ross, a well known and respected audiologist, express some of the same thoughts that I have in an article: http://www.hearingresearch.org/ross/hearing_aids/revisiting_the_perennia...