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The process of purchasing hearing aids used to be a lot easier. There were only a small number of styles to select from and they all fundamentally worked the same way, which was to say not very well.

It wasn’t until digital technology was integrated into the design that hearing aids became practical solutions for the restoration of hearing. And with digital technology, a number of features became readily available to accommodate a multitude of listening situations.

But that’s the tradeoff—easy choices that led to inadequate results are now difficult choices with several options.

But difficult does not mean impossible, and the time invested is well worth the gains in hearing you can obtain. It’s also why it’s vital to work with an experienced hearing specialist that can guide you through all of the relevant factors to consider.

Here are six things to look for when purchasing hearing aids, together with the questions to ask your hearing professional.

1. Programmability

Hearing amplification products are not all created equal. In fact, the difference between the cheapest personal sound amplifier and the highest end digital hearing aid is the difference between a Ford Pinto and a Porsche.

Although you may not need the highest end hearing aid model available, the principal difference you should be concerned about between a personal amplifier and a hearing aid is programmability.

Hearing aids must be programmed to amplify sounds based on your particular hearing loss. Otherwise, all sound is amplified equally and that’s not going to help you hear speech any better than before.

Ask your hearing professional about programming functionality, including pre-programed settings you can use in a variety of scenarios, like at a restaurant versus at home.

2. Hearing aid style

Hearing aids come in many sizes and styles, ranging from behind-the-ear to entirely in the ear canal.

You’ll need to balance cost, performance, ease-of-use, and aesthetics when making your choice on hearing aid styles. You’ll also want to work together with a hearing specialist on this one, as several factors should be taken into consideration, including the severity of your hearing loss.

3. Directional microphones

People buy hearing aids for various reasons and to hear a mixture of sounds, but the leading reason is to hear and understand speech.

If that’s true for you, you’ll want to inquire about directional microphones in any hearing aid you’re considering.

Hearing aids with directionality contain two or more microphones placed at a specific distance from each other within the hearing aid. The variation in arrival time of sound to each microphone then determines how the hearing aid responds to the sound.

This helps the hearing aid to target the specific sound origin in front of you, which if it’s a person, will be the sounds of speech.

4. Background noise minimization

Background noise and feedback inhibition are built into the majority of digital hearing aid models, but you’ll want to verify this with any model you’re considering.

Hearing aids contain a microprocessor that can distinguish between high-frequency sounds (like speech) and low-frequency sounds (like background noise). The microprocessor can then intensify speech while curbing everything else.

5. Telecoils

A telecoil is a small copper coil integrated into the hearing aid. While that doesn’t sound all that remarkable, what it can achieve definitely is.

Telecoils make it possible for you to speak on the phone without feedback and hook up to hearing loop systems. For instance, if a hearing loop system is installed in a church or cinema, sound will be transmitted directly to your hearing aid for maximum clarity.

Hearing loops can also be set up in home theater systems for the equivalent effect. Ask your hearing professional for more details.

6. Wireless connection

Did you just buy a brand new iPhone or smartphone?

If so, you may want to consider purchasing compatible hearing aids that link up wirelessly to these products. That way, you can stream cell phone calls and music directly to your hearing aids for optimum sound quality.

Your smartphone can even become your hearing aid remote control, whereby you can subtly adjust the volume and settings.

There’s a lot to take into account when selecting a hearing aid, which is why it’s vital to work with a reputable and knowledgeable hearing care expert.

Are you ready to discover your optimal hearing aid?