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Hearing Aids

Loss of hearing can be one of the most bewitching problems making simple things like conversations and watching TV frustrating if not impossible. But a hearing aid can bring instant, non-surgical relief and, because the latest hearing aids are small enough to fit almost invisibly in the ear canal, can be used with little or no social stigma.

All hearing aids are essentially battery powered microphones that amplify sound through a tiny speaker, but there are lots of models to choose from. As you compare manufacturers and models, here are some guidelines:

  • Style - In addition to the models that fit outside and behind the ear, there are models that fit inside the ear and yet smaller ones that fit further inside the ear canal. Generally, the less loss you have, the smaller the unit to return you to normal hearing. In cases of severe loss, the amplifying unit may be more the size of a pack of cigarettes and hang from a belt or ride in a pocket.
  • Technology - Much like miniature home stereos, hearing aids use several different technologies to amplify sound.
    • Analog units are the simplest and generally have only a volume control. Some analog units are digitally programmable and can have a selection of programs that amplify sound differently in different parts of the audible spectrum in addition to controlling the over all volume. This feature may be important if your hearing loss is not uniform because it allows you to adjust your hearing aids to challenging environments like conversations in a noisy restaurant.
    • Digital hearing aids use electronics more akin to computers to control when and what frequencies of sound to amplify. They are by far the most versatile and easiest to tune to your hearing either by your audiologist or yourself during the day. Directional microphones and selective noise reduction or filtering technologies can also help you hear the things you want to hear even among the clutter of background noises.
  • Batteries - Because of the small size of hearing aids, batteries aren't very large and don't last very long. Look for units that take batteries with the highest capacity. And because you will be replacing batteries frequently, it would be wise to check their cost, too.
  • Remote control - Especially with the digital models, it is helpful to have a control to change the way your hearing aid works as conditions in your listening environment change. Most controls are about the size of a thick credit card or a pocket calculator though they come in many shapes (including wrist watches and key fobs) and can be conveniently carried with you everywhere.
  • Low battery indicator and locator - Rather than having to guess that your

    hearing is tailing off because the battery is running low, many hearing aids emit a low tone to signal low battery power. If you lose track of a hearing aid, which is easy because of their small size, the tone can help you find it.

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