Which Hearing Aid Will Be Right for You? 2019-02-25
Although it might seem that a little amplification is all that is needed to assist someone who is hard of hearing, this is a common misconception. While early attempts to help the deaf did indeed focus on devices like ear trumpets and speaking tubes to boost sounds, these were no more effective than shouting directly into the user’s ear. Even by the late 19th century, when these simple acoustic devices were replaced with the first electric hearing aids that relied on early telephone technology, their benefit remained limited. Clearly, the technology needed refining, but this only became possible with the data gained following the birth of a new science known as audiology, towards the end of World War II.
Audiologist soon learnt that hearing loss did not affect all audible frequencies uniformly, so to amplify all indiscriminately just increased volume, rather than clarity. As a result, modern hearing aids now employ multiple channels. By tuning each channel independently, these devices can be personalised to match the hearing profile of the individual wearer. As a consequence, knowing which might be best for you should always begin with a complete audiological examination, as the first step must be to ensure it will be sufficiently powerful.
Understandably, many patients would prefer a model that can be worn discretely and some are tiny enough to be worn in the ear or even deep within the ear canal, where it will essentially be invisible. In practice, however, these models are not suitable for everyone. Their compact size means that they provide less amplification and are, therefore, best suited to patients with mild to moderate auditory impairment. For those with a severe to profound impairment, it is likely that models worn behind the ear will be the more effective choice of hearing aids.
Apart from aesthetics and efficiency, lifestyle factors may also have an influence on your choice. While the more basic models should serve to meet conversational needs in the home, you may have additional requirements, such as the ability to connect to an induction loop in public spaces or to clearly identify speakers in a crowded or noisy environment, such as when dining out. Modern assisted hearing technology now offers a working solution for each of these situations and more.
Last, but certainly not least, given the current economic climate, you will need to consider the cost. Generally, the more technology they incorporate, the more costly hearing aids will tend to be. Most of the major South African medical aid funds will cover the cost of the hearing test and the bulk of the purchase price, so be sure to buy the best you can afford.