Buying your first hearing aid

If 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.