• The age of your current hearing aid. Most hearing aids last about five years. Beyond that time the original manufacturer may no longer provide a warranty or repair service for the hearing aid. While the hearing aid can be sent for an all-make repair, it is usually at an increased cost and a reduced warranty. It may be best to invest money towards a new hearing aid rather than a repair.
• Your hearing loss. A change in hearing can often go unnoticed. While the hearing aids may continue to operate, they may not be tuned to your current amount of hearing loss. If the hearing aids are not set properly, they may act more like ear plugs than aids. It may be possible to adjust your current hearing aid for additional hearing loss. However, if there is a great change in hearing, a more powerful hearing aid may be needed.
• Your listening environments. Many people think they need a basic hearing aid. In reality these people may be in multiple listening environments that a basic hearing aid cannot handle. A hearing aid with more noise reduction features or automatic features may help in understanding and ease of use in multiple listening situations.
• Your hearing needs. People new to hearing loss may not understand the ramifications of different styles of hearing aids. They may want the least visible or least expensive hearing aids available. This may be a good introduction to hearing aids. However, when they are ready for the next set of hearing aids, they may be ready for a different style or more advanced features.
Remember that hearing aids are an investment in a better quality of life. If you consider the cost of hearing aids averaged every day over a five year period, they cost less than a cup of coffee. Consider your true listening needs and what options will help you hear to the best of your abilities. This will help you get the most benefit and most satisfaction from hearing aids.
Danielle Combs is a clinical audiologist who staffs The Hearing Center at Holston Valley Medical Center. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org