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Buying Hearing Aids

What Exactly Do You Need To Know?

So What Do You Need To Know When Buying Hearing Devices?

Buying hearing aids is a big decision, it is also an intimidating prospect for someone new to the process. There is a lot of information available but often it is technobabble or difficult to understand for the uninitiated. So we decided to try and help out with a clear explanation of what the process is and what you need to know to make you a better hearing aid buyer. 

What You Need To Know & The Questions You Should Ask

So, you are sitting there thinking about buying private hearing aids, but you are unsure about the process or what really matters to you?  Buying hearing aids is quite a big decision and there is a lot of unknowns, but there are a few things you should know to make it easier. First of all, unlike other purchases, buying hearing devices is a process. During that process, you will inevitably face information that is technical in nature and for the un-initiated almost seems like it is gibberish. Not just that, as this is your first time to enter into this type of process, you have no terms of reference, nothing to measure it against and no deep knowledge of what should be done. We want to change that, so let's talk about the process. 

When Do You Need Hearing Aids?

There is a hierarchy of signs that you need hearing aids, I have based them on the impact of hearing problems in your life. If you have reached number one, you are truly a stubborn person and you need to have a chat with yourself. 

  1. You Have Isolated Yourself Because Of Your Hearing
  2. You Have Withdrawn From Social Activities
  3. You Don't Enjoy Your Social Activities Anymore Because Conversation is Too Difficult
  4. You Have Real Problems Understanding Speech in Noise
  5. You Have Problems Following A Conversation When Two or More People Are Talking
  6. Your Family (or Neighbours) Complain The TV is Too Loud
  7. You Say "What" or "Repeat That" a lot
  8. You Think People Are Mumbling (they aren't)
  9. You Find Speech In-Distinct

If you even get to number 6 on the above list, you need to go and see a professional. Hearing loss can be a bit difficult for the person who suffers with it to recognise. Our cultural understanding of hearing loss is formed by what we see on TV. Most people think hearing loss is about volume, speak up speak up! It normally isn't. In most cases, hearing loss is about the clarity of speech.

You hear them speaking but what they say isn't clear. Your perception is that they are mumbling or they have bad diction. Sorry about that, but they probably aren't, and they probably don't. You are just not hearing the high-frequency sounds in speech that deliver sharpness. If your inability to make out speech clearly is getting to the stage that it is having an impact on the enjoyment of your life, it is time to get hearing aids.

Should You Get Hearing Aids

If you are having problems hearing that stem from hearing loss, hell yes! Don't waste time, time and social contact are precious, too precious to waste. 

Life is for damn living, don't rob yourself of happiness and the human touch because you have some out dated ideas about hearing aids. 

Do You Need A Prescription For Hearing Aids

There are two separate answers to this question, the answers are different because of the different contexts of prescribed. So answer one: Yes, for a hearing aid to work well for you it needs to be prescribed. The term prescription, when used for hearing aids is really more about customisation of any hearing aid for you, your hearing loss and your lifestyle. When I speak about prescription in this context, really what I am speaking about is, in fact the instructions for customisation of sound. It is this customisation that allows a hearing aid to deliver exactly what you need to hear better. 

Answer two: In the normal context of prescribed, where only a doctor can prescribe medicine. Only a hearing care specialist can prescribe hearing aids in most countries. In order to provide hearing aids, they need to be qualified to do so. 

Where To Buy Hearing Aids

So, we get asked this question a lot, where should I purchase hearing aids and what is the best place to get hearing aids. The answer to that depends, where are you, what do you want and are you willing to go private? In the UK, Ireland and other places across the world hearing aids are made available via some sort of public health scheme. The choice can be limited and the service may not be great, but if you have no budget, it is the best option. 

Private Hearing Aids

If you are happy to buy hearing aids, start researching private hearing aid sellers in your area. While online searches are a good place to start, make sure you pay attention to online reviews of Practices. Get a good idea about how well they do their jobs. The secret to success with hearing aids is strong aftercare. Make sure that any place you are thinking of buying hearing aids from has a reputation for that. You can take a look at the Hearing Aid Know Network of trustworthy hearing aid centres here. We stand by them as good places to buy hearing aids. 

How Much Should Hearing Aids Cost?

There is no real rule of thumb on this, different hearing aid outlets charge different prices for the same hearing aids quite often. The price charged normally depends on the level of service provided. In hearing aids, the cheapest option may not be the best option. Having said that, neither might be the most expensive option. Do your research, look at the price spread and research the reputation of the Practice. I am certainly not the cheapest provider of hearing aids in Ireland. Nor am I the most expensive. However, I set my hearing aid prices on what I deliver and you can expect that to be delivered. You should expect the same from whomever you buy. 

The Hearing Test

We have an in-depth run-down on the hearing test and it's components here. It is worthwhile to give it a quick run through of buying hearing aids in mind. The test that is offered to you is important, firstly, it shows how competent the provider is and how interested they are in actually helping you with your problems. The hearing test is the foundation of everything else so it needs to be done correctly and thoroughly. 

Why is a good hearing test important?

 In order to make really good decisions about what is right for you, any professional needs all of the information. A comprehensive hearing test is the basis of any recommendation they will make. A comprehensive hearing test is an in-depth examination of the complete function of your hearing. During the consultation, it is also important that the professional gets a clear understanding of your lifestyle and the impact that your hearing loss is having. I can't emphasise this enough, if I don't understand your lifestyle needs, how am I to recommend a hearing aid to suit them? With this information they can make good recommendations for you, your hearing loss and your lifestyle needs. They can also explain clearly why one technology level of hearing aids is more suited for you than another. If they don't, ask them, they will have no issues explaining it. 

What Should Happen At A Hearing Test?  

The hearing test involves several different parts that allow a full understanding of your ability to hear and how it is affecting you in your daily life. Those parts should be, otoscopy, case history. lifestyle needs, audiometry, speech in noise testing, possible middle ear analysis. Each of these tests is explained fully on our hearing test page. During the testing procedure, the professional will give you a full explanation of all of the tests undertaken and why they are performing them. During the consultation, they should ask you about the effect of hearing loss on every aspect of your life. This is an important part of the assessment because it allows them to make better recommendations. If they do not have a good understanding of your needs, they cannot recommend what is best for you. 

Remember, the test is to find the very softest sound you can hear, so no matter how soft it is, even if you only think you hear it, respond. Don't worry too much, an experienced professional will work it all out.

audiogramWhat is The Audiogram?

The audiogram is a simple graph where test results will be recorded, this document details your hearing test results by frequency. It is a record of the quietest possible sounds that you can hear across the different frequencies that are important for speech. It  allows you and the professional to understand what type of hearing loss you have. It is also the basis of the prescription that is programmed into any hearing aids you may purchase. The professional will normally explain:

  • What your audiogram means
  • What type of hearing loss you have
  • Why some sounds are audible but not understandable
  • What a hearing aid can do for you and most importantly what it can’t do for you 

If they don't explain it, you should ask them, it will give you a better understanding of your hearing loss and why you are having the problems you are. 

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Why a Particular Type of Hearing Aid?

When a professional recommends a hearing aid you may wonder why, they should make it very clear to you why they have recommended a particular hearing aid brand and type. There is a huge choice of hearing aid types and manufacturers for Independent hearing professionals to choose from. In fact, they pride themselves in being able to provide any hearing aid that is available on the market. There are specific reasons why they would recommend one type, technology level and brand of hearing aid.

Those reasons would usually include your hearing loss, your dexterity, your lifestyle needs and indeed most importantly, your budget. You should discuss all of these things openly with the professional, they want to make the best recommendation for you. If they don't tell you, ask, not knowing why a particular hearing aid is recommended may leave you with questions and uncertainties that may well bloom into problems that actually aren't there. 

Don't be afraid to discuss your budget, the professional wants to recommend the best hearing aid for you, after your hearing results and lifestyle needs are completed, your budget is the last piece of the jigsaw they need.

What Do You Need To Ask About The Hearing Aids?

Not all hearing aids are the same and that is a simple truth. When you are offered hearing aids you need to ask questions, questions that will allow you a better understanding of what exactly you are being offered. For instance, if you were offered a set of top of the range hearing aids by someone for £4,000. Then someone else offered you a set of top of the range hearing aids for £3,000, that would sound like a really good deal right?

But what if the £3,000 pair were a set of top of the range hearing aids from the last generation of hearing aids? So they were introduced a few years ago, that doesn't necessarily sound like a good deal does it and it is definitely not a like for like comparison? You as a buyer need to understand this, so the questions you need to ask are:

  • What is the brand of hearing aids?
  • What is the name of the hearing aids?
  • What chipset is the hearing aids?
  • When were the hearing aids first introduced? 

In order for you to make good decisions on a like for like comparison basis, you need all of the facts. Listen, buying a set of top of the range hearing aids from the last generation at a good price is not necessarily a bad idea. They were top of the range hearing aids, but they are not the latest technology available. The key is being able to make an informed decision about hearing aids, so ask your questions, get answers and make an informed decision.

Why is Independent Advice Important?

Some hearing aid audiologists and their companies are tied to particular hearing aid manufacturers through contract or ownership. This really should be made clear to you, because this may directly affect the brand of hearing aid that is recommended to you. Independent hearing healthcare professionals normally are neither tied to or owned by any hearing aid manufacturer, that means that they have complete freedom to recommend the hearing aid that is best for you within all of the brands available. If you aren't visiting an Independent professional it is important to ask why the particular brand is being recommended. Again, even if a particular manufacturer owns the business, it doesn't mean the recommendations are bad, but it is just information you should have to make an informed decision.  

Explaining Hearing Aid Features

The professional should explain hearing aid features to you in a clear manner, however, there is a lot of technobabble involved. For you, a rudimentary understanding of hearing aid technology is important during your decision-making process. The professional should explain the features and what they deliver to you. There are many hearing aid features that make a real difference to how well you will hear. Features such as directional microphones, noise reduction, automatic adjustment and many more can make a real difference. You don't need an in-depth knowledge of these features, but a clear explanation of the benefits they deliver is important. If there is something you don't understand, ask, the professional should have no issue with explaining it. You can read about hearing aid features on our hearing aid technology page. 

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What are the Financial Details You Need To Know?

Hearing aids are expensive items, more than that they are devices that should make a real difference to your life. So this is an important long term purchase, it is important that all of the financial details are very clear. A professional should provide you with a written contract agreement. The contract agreement should cover the cost of the hearing aids, the length of the trial period if any, the money back guarantee, the included warranty and any long term service and back-up you are entitled to. As a friend of ours is fond of saying, if it isn't written down, it never happened. 

What are Hearing Aid Trial Periods?

Trial periods are different to Money Back Periods, trial periods are exactly that, the professional will make an agreement with you to trial hearing aids. During the trial you will be expected to use them to get a clear understanding of what they can deliver for you. You will also be expected to record your perceptions in order that the professional can make any changes that are needed. A trial period gives you the opportunity to decide if a hearing aid is for you. 

What are Money Back Guarantees?

Most privately purchased hearing devices are supplied under a money back period or guarantee. This allows you to make a decision about the aids during a set period when they can be returned and your money refunded. The length of period and the amount of money that is returned varies from company to company and country to country. The professional should give you written information about the following:

  • Money Back Guarantee and refund policy
  • Money Back period, return time limits
  • Fees charged if the hearing aid or aids are returned within the period
  • Whether the period is suspended if the aid breaks down during the trial period and needs to be returned for repairs

What exactly should be on your contract?

Your contract with the professional is an important document, you need to make sure you receive a copy of that contract and keep it safely. The document should cover all of the terms and conditions and the ongoing services to be provided to you. it should cover:

  • The cost of the hearing aid
  • What services and number of follow-up visits are included in the cost
  • Date and place of sale
  • Trial period if any, Money Back Guarantee period and refund policy
  • Money Back period, return time limits
  • Fees charged (if any) if the hearing aid or aids are returned within the period
  • Whether the period is suspended if the aid malfunctions and needs to be returned for repairs
  • Information on any warrantees provided by the hearing device manufacturer

Ask Us Anything

If there are any questions that you have that we haven't answered or if there is further guidance you think we should offer, get in touch with us. 

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