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Buying your first hearing aid

buying a hearingaidIf you are not hearing as much as you would like and you think you may benefit from a hearing aid you should seek professional advice. An audiologist will be able to test your hearing, assess the damage and recommend hearing aids that are right for you.

This is a guide to getting getting the most from your first visit to an audiologist.

What to expect

The audiologist will probably ask you some background info. When did you start to notice your were not hearing as much as you used to? What sounds do you struggle to hear? And so on.
You’ll be given a hearing test and then shown a range of hearing aids that would be suitable for you.
If you decide on a particular aid, you normally have to put down a deposit and pay the outstanding balance once the aid arrives back from the manufacturer.

The hearing test

Do not try and cheat in the hearing test! I know I did this a few times when I first started going to the NHS for hearing checkups – I didn’t want to acknowledge my hearing loss and I wanted others to think my hearing was as good as possible. I bet some other people will do this to. The Audiologist will know what you are up to, they are there to help you not to judge you.
For the actual test, you sit in a small sound-proof room and listen to a series of sounds in each ear. No surprises there.
I’ve always found hearing tests to be quite difficult. When I go into the room and get ready to listen I find myself really trying hard to hear and I can never decide if I’m imagining the noise or really hearing it.
An audiogram will be produced from the test results – this is a graph displaying your hearing range.

Taking impressions of your ears

The Audiologist may need to send moulds of your ears to the manufacturer along with your audiogram. The moulds are taken by using a syringe to fill your ear with putty – it’s left in there for five minutes or so until it hardens and is then pulled out. Impressions will not be needed if you are buying Open Fit aids as they do not fill your ear canal fully and are not required to be shaped for each wearer.
I’ve been told that there is a new laser technique for taking impressions. The laser is pointed into the ear, it bounces around inside the ear canal and builds up a 3D picture from that. I’ve never actually seen this technique but I imagine it would produce far more accurate results than putty does.

What are you prepared to wear?

Unless your hearing loss is small enough that you can use a Completely In The Canal (CIC) hearing aid, it is likely that your new aid will be visible to other people. How comfortable are you going to be with this? For most people, the need to hear is the most important aspect, and rightly so, but the look of the aid is worth considering at this point. You don’t want to spend a considerable amount of money on the aid and then not wear it.
The hearing aid vendor may have some empty aid shells that you can put in your ear to see how they look. Ask.

What to ask

Ask the audiologist about your hearing loss. How bad is it? How much difference can you expect the aid to make? Why is a particular aid being recommended? What is good about it? How much range is there in the aid for increasing volume should your hearing get worse?

Before you part with your money

You should always have the option to return your new hearing aid within a set period of time and get a full refund. This is important. Find out how long you have to make up your mind whether you like the aid once you have received it. If there is no trial period offered, go somewhere else. You will need at least four weeks to try out the new aids, you will need to see how they work in different situations – you will almost certainly need to return the the audiologist to get the settings changed, return appointments may take time to organise.

Parting with your money

If you decide to purchase an aid you will most likely have to pay a deposit – probably something like 10% of the full price. The outstanding balance will be paid when your new aid has been built and delivered back to the audiologist from the manufacturer. It normally takes 2 or 3 weeks for the aid to be built.

Read the second part of this guide: Testing your new hearing aid.

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7 comments
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  1. […] I’ve previously written about buying your first hearing aid. […]

  2. Thank you for your brilliant guide how to analyse if I need hearing aids. One of my family members got these problems too and now with my new knowledge I can help him to find the right solution. Thank you very much and don’t stop with things like that!!!

  3. allow me, I host a blog, a few of your quotes will take?.

  4. Hi Steve,

    Very good article. I would add another short section titled ‘just before you start using the aid’. In this section I would add couple of suggestions for the newbie hearing aid wearer.

    1. If your hearing aid comes with low battery notifications, be sure to ask your audiologist as to these notifications, so you are able to replace the battery on time. There might be several different notifications indicating how imminent the battery depletion is.

    2. Ask your audiologist how to clean the hearing aid and while inspecting it, what to look for. With the right care and regular maintenance the device can last for many years.

    3. Always keep the device in a safe place when it is not in use, together with keeping it well away from moisture, water, condensation and curious pets.

    Thanks again.

    James
    Hearing Direct

  5. Great information…purchasing hearing aids can be a daunting task. I would just add to take the time to research the type of device that fits your lifestyle. This can be accomplished by visiting a reputable hearing services company that will work to fit your lifestyle needs, not promote a specific product or price. Darryl J. Will, Audiologist, Riverside Hearing Services

  6. Steve,

    Great article, especially the part about “before you part with your money.” However, I think it might be due for an update. As you probably know, with the popularity of open-fit and RIC technology, many times there is no longer a need to take an impression.

    Likewise, hearing aids have become much smaller and more aesthetically pleasing over the last 4-years, making the “what are you prepared to wear” question less important.

    Lastly, I would like to direct your readers to http://www.HearingRevolution.com when shopping for hearing aids. Hearing Revolution meets all the criteria you have outlined when buying your first (or second, or third, etc.) hearing aid, and does so at very affordable prices.

  7. Hi Steve,

    Great article. I would agree with Darryl above, that users should take the time to research their options, but not only at the hearing provider’s office. There are so many tools coming online, for instance, we built a “hearing aid finder” which allows people to answer some questions about their lifestyle, budget, aesthetic preferences, and so forth, and then our tool makes intelligent recommendations of hearing aids that might work well for them. Although a hearing provider is ultimately the best source of information, our tool will give folks a great starting point for their research, check it out! http://www.ziphearing.com/hearing-aid-finder

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