If you have owned a television or have been on the internet for the past 3-5 years, you have probably seen a lot of heavy marketing geared toward hearing aids or personal sound amplification products (PSAPs). Although this blog will not cover PSAPs, it will cover some basic information you should consider before deciding which kind of hearing aid is right for you. There are a few categories of consideration, including technology, appearance, pricing, and customer service.
There is a lot of ground to cover regarding hearing aid technology. The basics includesound processing, connectivity, and ease of use.
Sound processing: Hearing aids can reduce (not eliminate) the effects of background noise, filter signals through different channels based on the pitch of the sound, and focus the amplification in specific directions while trying to reduce the surrounding noise (directionality). The robustness of each feature is determined by its technology level, which corresponds to higher costs for hearing aids.
Connectivity refers to the hearing aid's capability to connect to other wireless sources, such as Bluetooth, smartphone apps, and hearing aid accessories. Depending on your level of tech-savviness, this may be an essential factor for you.
Ease-of-use refers to the daily care of your devices (e.g., are the hearing aids rechargeable, or do they need batteries every 5-10 days?)
The style and design of a hearing aid can be one of the most important factors when deciding which type of device to pursue. There are two main categories of hearing aids: in-the-ear (ITE) and behind-the-ear (BTE). ITE hearing aids can be less visible and more discrete while allowing the ear to take advantage of natural cues filtered by the outer ear, called the pinna. BTE hearing aids can be more visible to others and may require additional maintenance. Most hearing aid companies use the same type of computer chip in both their ITE and BTE styles.
Pricing is easily the most significant consideration for most people when deciding to move forward with purchasing hearing aids, and pricing for hearing aids can range widely depending on where the devices are purchased and the type of pricing model used. Pricing is dependent on several factors, including the technical sophistication, the kind of healthcare provider you'll work with, and the clinic pricing structure. Consumer Affairs notes that a single hearing aid can cost anywhere between $1000-$6000.
Pricing structures are typically broken down into two types: Bundled and unbundled. In a bundled structure, the cost of the hearing aids is generally wrapped into a flat fee that includes the devices themselves, the service (for a specified amount of time), and the warranty. In an unbundled structure, the cost of the hearing aids is easily discernable, but additional services, supplies, or repairs may be out-of-pocket costs.
From a customer service standpoint, it is important to know how any warranty associated with the hearing aid works and how you can access the services (e.g., do you need to make an appointment before the device can be repaired?). Hearing aids typically require some level of repair, so it is also essential to know how long it will take for your device(s) to be returned to you.
All of the factors listed above are important to think about before making a hearing aid purchase, and it is key that you consider your own listening goals before making a selection. For example, you might need a more powerful hearing aid for a more severe loss. For someone who only finds difficulty in small group settings, the Zepp Clarity One hearing aid system is ideal for someone craving a combination of improved listening, rechargeable battery capability, discretion, and remote operation through an easy-to-use smartphone app.