If you’ve experienced hearing loss all your life, you intuitively know what is the best hearing device for you. I’ve lived with profound hearing loss since a child. Often you will hear that everybody’s experiences with their hearing devices are unique. However, I’m afraid I have to disagree after surrounding myself with many people with hearing loss. A few things are common to our experiences with hearing aids.
Going to the stores or talking to an audiologist may be a daunting experience for a first-timer or someone returning for a new pair after so many years. In fact, without any background or understanding of your choices, it’s hard to articulate all you need upfront. Furthermore, your trial period may not give you enough time to test the device. Since hearing devices usually last around for 3-5 years with daily usage, you need the time to decide. Should you be shopping for a hearing device, there are a few things and exercises that will help you make the best decision.
1. Know the purpose of your hearing device
Hearing device manufacturers are looking for ways to provide more options for wearers. That means that sometimes not all hearing devices operate for the same purpose. For example, some devices are best used casually in places with noisy backgrounds. Others have fall-detection features for emergency support and waterproof features for swimming. Lean into the device that fits your lifestyle. Not all features are necessary.
2. How much sweat or moisture can it handle?
This leads me to another point. Not all hearing devices are comfortable with the same level of moisture. Test your hearing device by going to the gym or doing something to work out a sweat. Or maybe you live in a humid environment and spend a day outside. Watch for how your microphone functions. If you start to hear static noise or that sound like you’re in an empty room, water has entered near or in your device.
On this occasion, if you find moisture and can go through the whole day without issues, invest in a dry-aid kit. However, return them if you can’t go without spending two or three hours with this issue. These devices are not the best for you.
3. Hearing clearly in loud or crowded spaces
Hearing devices should help you hear in loud spaces to some degree. In fact, noise cancellation and speech recognition features allow the microphone to listen and look for human voices. For some people, you will hear effortlessly in noisy environments. For others, you may make a few words but enough to comprehend the conversation.
At the minimum, you should be able to hear during a one-on-one conversation in a noisy background while sitting close by. If you cannot hear, try adjusting your volume or if you have an app, other sound adjustment features.
4. Cover your ears to check for feedback noise
There are a few instances where your hearing device is making distracting sounds. Being outdoors during a windy day and the wind hitting your hearing aids can be an annoying experience. But another annoying experience is your hearing aid’s whistling noise or feedback.
Whistling noise can increase with volume, and you shouldn’t have to choose between having the right volume and a hearing device that gives feedback noise on anything near it. Test your device by wearing a hat over your ears or covering your hands over your ears for a long period of time.
5. There needs to be a perfect fit in the ear
Wearing an earmold or an earbud shouldn’t leave you with blisters or bleeding ears. I used to believe that sometimes my ears needed to get comfortable with the new material touching my skin. But the throbbing pain that appears when you remove your device is like ripping off a bandage on a sore. Besides, no one should have to live with that pain until the mold shrinks a bit and adjust to the ear.
A perfect fit means you have no feedback and whistling noise, no sore ears from wearing the devices all day, and no skin irritation.
6. Watch for your speech volume
I’m amazed that people with much milder hearing loss than me still develop the speaking habits of one with a deaf accent. There isn’t anything wrong with having a deaf accent. However, if you start to change your speech, your device may not be set properly. If people tell me that I am yelling more, it usually means that my volume is too low. Or if I am talking too quietly, my volume is too high. Yet, my hearing family is not a test if my device is a good fit. They’re just happy anytime I can hear them.
When speaking, the noise from our mouths is the closest to our ears. We want to be able to hear comfortably. Sometimes you may not like how you sound, but after listening to yourself constantly, eventually, you get used to it. Most of us who have had a lifetime of hearing loss do not know how we sound, so it’s not an issue, but clarity in and around us is more important.
7. Practice saying your vowels and consonant
I like to test my hearing device by pronouncing consonants I have trouble hearing. These are the -s, -th, -sh -c. I like to hear them as I speak, at the very least. Now expecting to hear others may not be possible with my hearing loss. It’s a quick exercise that you can do to test that you’re benefiting from the speech clarity that your device promises to do.
8. Learn about all the pairing device options
A common feature of hearing aids is Bluetooth feature. This feature allows you to connect to any other device like your laptop, computer, smartphone or even your TV. Therefore, you may want to choose a direct connection without any other device in between transmitting the sound from the device to your hearing aids or earbuds.
Sometimes having a Bluetooth feature may also mean investing in a new set of devices to meet your preference. However, most of us want to keep and use our devices, and compatibility is something to consider.
8. Attending to your battery
Since the Bluetooth feature is a great way to block background noises and have speaker sounds directly to your devices, it comes at a cost. That could be the length of time you can use your devices on a given day or the number of batteries you need to replace.
Replacing your batteries can often be costly, and not all rechargeable batteries are suitable. In the case where you have a rechargeable battery, you may not have a spare hearing device lying around while your earbuds or hearing aids are charging. For those who are out of home and working long hours, you may not want to deal with low battery constantly. So , finding a device you can use for a long time without intervention is ideal.
9. Filters and other accessories should be accessible
While your hearing aids may not often need to be replaced, some accessories often do. In my case, wind filters often need to be replaced. Ear wax and dirt can affect the microphone, and the speakers and wind filters help protect the microphones. Yet, some devices may have filters that regularly need to be changed. Sometimes the accessories experience wear and tear that requires replacements.
You want to be sure that these filters and other hearing accessories are easy to find and buy to replace. Often brands do not carry the same product line for long, or a local business wouldn’t sell them if you moved to another place. You may need to find somewhere online for these replacement parts to continue to use them. Avoid hard-to-reach and hard-to-repair accessories or hearing devices, especially after passing the trial period, and your device starts to break down.
10. Sound is different outside of the audiologist’s office
Remember that testing your device at a store or in a quiet audiologist’s office is not the same as in the real world. Their environment has been designed to be acoustically pleasing. You live in many different situations and environments. So while you feel that you are hearing great, the real test is when you do your day-to-day living.
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