What To Look For
Why should you see a physician for your hearing aid? The knowledge and expertise of a physician will assure that your problem is truly one that is hearing related and not of another origin or disease process. It is crucial to insure the health and welfare of all patients seeking proper diagnosis and treatment of their problem. Proper fitting is essential to the excellent treatment of the problem and can be aptly done so in a physician's office. Additionally, physicians are able to diagnose and treat all within one visit and under one roof making it a simple and convenient experience.
There are two major decisions in selecting the hearing aid that will best meet your communication needs: 1) the size of the hearing aids and 2) the special features in the hearing aids. Both of these will affect the cost and capabilities of the hearing aids.
Hearing Aid Style and Size:
Hearing aids come in five basic styles. The size and style of the hearing aid depends on factors such as degree of hearing loss and types of special features.
1) Behind-the-Ear (BTE): This hearing aid fits above your ear and has a custom-made ear piece (an “earmold”) that directs the amplified sound into your ear. This style of hearing aid is appropriate for any degree of hearing loss.
2) In-the-Ear (ITE): This is the most common sized hearing aid and fills up most of the external portion of your outer ear. This size of hearing aid is also appropriate for most hearing losses.
3) In-the-Canal (ITC): This size hearing aid is smaller than the ITE and extends slightly from your ear canal. This style is commonly used for milder degrees of hearing losses.
4) Completely-in-the-Canal (CIC): This is the smallest style of hearing aid and fits entirely in the ear canal. It is used for very mild hearing losses.
5) Open Ear or Receiver-in-the-Ear (RITE): This hearing aid is designed for people with fairly good hearing in the low- to mid-pitches who have a mild-to-severe hearing loss in the high pitches. The electronics of the hearing aid are worn behind the ear and sound is directed into the ear via a very thin tube or wire, allowing the ear canal to remain more open than a conventional ITE, ITC, or CIC hearing aid.
Your hearing test results (the “audiogram”) will largely determine the appropriate size and style. With greater degrees of hearing loss, smaller sized hearing aids usually do not provide the appropriate gain or benefit. Additionally, many special features are not available in the smaller sizes. Your audiologist will discuss in detail which size and style would be best for you based on your hearing test results and types of special features you may want.
Hearing Aid Circuitry:
Today’s digital hearing aids contain a small computer chip that analyzes, processes, and amplifies sounds. Because these aids can be computer programmed, digital hearing aids offer more options and special features than previous generations of hearing aids. Whereas older hearing aids amplified all sounds by the same amount regardless of a patient’s hearing loss, digital hearing aids analyze and amplify sounds based on each individual patient’s needs.
Special Features on Hearing Aids:
Hearing aids of any size and circuitry type may have a number of special features that are designed to improve hearing in specific situations. For example, some hearing aids are designed to control volume automatically rather than manually by the patient. Some hearing aids can be adjusted to have one setting for quiet situations, like watching television alone, and another setting for noisy situations, such as a noisy restaurant or cafeteria with friends. Some hearing aids will actually control this feature automatically by sensing the environment you are in. There are a variety of other features, such as a special telephone setting, circuitry that limits feedback (the loud squealing sound that can come from a hearing aid), and circuitry that attempts to reduce steady noise signals to make speech more audible.
Cost of Hearing Aids:
When you purchase hearing aids, not only are you purchasing a healthcare device, but also the professional services that assist you in the selection, fitting, and maintenance of the hearing aids. The cost of a hearing aid varies depending upon the style, size, circuitry, and features that will best fit your needs. Digital hearing aids range in price from $900-$3000 (roughly twice this amount for two). The range in prices reflects the different sizes and features that are available. Our hearing aids come with a three year repair warranty, a three year loss and damage warranty, and a three year professional service warranty. There is also a 30 day trial period on all hearing aids.
Hearing Aid Manufacturers:
There are over 80 companies that make hearing aids. Arizona Hearing and Balance Center has chosen to dispense hearing aids from several of the top-tier companies to provide our patients with the most options and to better meet individual needs. The companies that we use regularly are the following: Oticon, Phonak, Widex, Siemens, and Resound. As new products enter the market, we may add manufacturers if they offer unique and special services.