The year 2020 has brought on a wave of changes, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. And while the pandemic remains, everyone must learn to live with it. This requires wearing masks in public, washing your hands more often, practicing social distance, and much more.
As this pandemic looks as though it will stick around for quite a while, society must adapt, even in regards to new methods of receiving healthcare services. Thus, if you’re interested in buying hearing aids, the process will likely be different than it was previously.
Depending on where you live, you may not be able to go into an audiologist’s office or test multiple hearing aids. This time is unprecedented, so learning how to buy hearing aids will be key for the hearing health of many.
How to Get Hearing Aids
Getting hearing aids is relatively simple now that they can be sold over-the-counter without a prescription. That means you can buy whatever hearing aids you want, without the guidance of a hearing professional. This can be beneficial as it may save you time and money if you know what you want.
However, if you don’t know much about hearing aids, the process may be more difficult. If you want to know how to shop for hearing aids effectively—not picking a random pair of hearing aids—follow these guidelines.
Check Your Insurance Coverage
The first thing you should do is check what your insurance covers. Often, insurance will not cover the full cost of hearing aids. That is not to say that all insurance plans do not cover hearing aids, though. Insurance does cover visits to an audiologist a lot of times. What’s more, some states, federal workers, veterans, and other groups will be covered for hearing aids.
Consult a Hearing Healthcare Specialist
Before purchasing a pair of hearing aids, it’s highly recommended to visit a hearing healthcare specialist. Without knowing the type of hearing loss condition you have, it’s tough to find the right pair of hearing aids. Searching for hearing aids for severe hearing loss versus low to moderate hearing aids may be a much different process—one which a specialist can prove extremely helpful with.
As going to any public location during COVID-19 has changed, going to an audiologist will also have changed. You’ll have to schedule an appointment far in advance, as the office will likely be limiting the number of patients seen.
Furthermore, you may even have a phone or video consultation first to determine the best course of action. Once you’ve had an appointment with a specialist, you’ll know more about your condition, find what kind of hearing aids you need, and even have recommendations about different providers and brands.
Speak to Hearing Aid Providers
If you’ve concluded that the best way to buy hearing aids is to go directly through a provider, you should speak to multiple of them. Various brands and providers offer different styles, features, price ranges, and more. Many of the hearing aid providers will require you to get a fitting, which is where the changes may come.
During COVID-19, it may be more difficult to get a hearing aid fitting than before. You may need to schedule an appointment well in advance, follow more stringent protocols about visiting the office, and more. Luckily, the individual doing the fitting will likely be well educated in COVID-19 matters, they will provide you with guidelines to follow.
If you have found a provider and pair of hearing aids that seem right for you, make sure you have a detailed contract for the purchase. As you can’t be positive that a pair of hearing aids work well until you test them, you want a guarantee of return. What’s more, you’ll want a warranty on your hearing aids in case anything happens to them.
Search for Hearing Healthcare Organizations
If you’re wondering, where can I get hearing aids besides a provider, try searching for nonprofit groups that can help. Many organizations will take in used hearing aids, recycle them, and help distribute them to those who are in need but cannot afford a new, expensive pair of hearing aids.
Again, the process of obtaining hearing aids from such a group will have likely changed. However, as you do your search to find a local, or national organization, they will assist you along the way.
What to Look for In Hearing Aids
To pick out the right pair of hearing aids for your condition and use, you have to know what to look for. Just like computers, cell phones, and other pieces of technology can have the same functions, they have different features and styles, and the same is true of hearing aids. Not all hearing aids are made equal or for everyone. Thus, you have to find the hearing aids that seem to have been made especially for you.
Type of Hearing Aid
As there are many types of hearing aids, we’ll look at the four most common types found today.
1. Behind-the-Ear (BTE)
The most traditional type of hearing aid, behind-the-ear aids, look just how they sound. These hearing aids use an electronic component encapsulated in a plastic case that sits behind the wearer’s ear. Stemming from this plastic piece is a tube that wraps around one’s ear and feeds into an earpiece that sits inside the ear canal.
These hearing aids are typically cheaper, have many customizable features, and are easy to use. Since they are larger, they can offer more power, larger batteries, and features such as a telecoil.
2. Completely-in-the-Canal (CIC)
Otherwise known as invisible hearing aids, these fit directly inside one’s ear canal. They are essentially invisible as the receiver is completely inside the ear with only a small cord or wire that sticks out to allow the aid to be removed. CIC hearing aids are popular due to the discretion they offer users. However, they may be limited in terms of features like telecoils, long battery life, directional microphone, and more.
3. In-the-Canal (ITC)
ITC aids are an intermediary between BTE and CIC aids. They fit inside the ear, but they are not invisible. As these are small, but not as small as CIC aids, they offer discretion while still having enough space for directional microphones and other features. However, the size may prove difficult to handle for some individuals, and they still cannot incorporate a large battery.
4. In-the-Ear (ITE)
Similar to in-the-canal aids, ITE hearing aids sit inside one’s ear and use only one piece. These hearing aids are larger than ITC aids, but they are still small enough to offer some discretion. As they do have a bit larger size, they are easy to handle, incorporate useful features, and can offer more power than the smaller sized aids.
Features of Hearing Aids
When you’re searching through the various hearing aids, you should know what you want in your aid. For example, do you prefer a hearing aid that offers complete discretion, or would you like a hearing aid that is powerful and has a long battery life? The following are key features to look out for.
1. Directional Microphones
Many hearing aids come with directional microphones which can significantly improve the listening experience. These microphones allow you to hear a sound in front of you better than one behind you or off to the side. Although many modern aids come with this feature, smaller hearing aids may not be able to incorporate them.
Telecoils can be extremely useful features that only some hearing aids offer. A telecoil works to pick up a magnetic signal that delivers sounds from your environment. For example, in an auditorium, train stations, and similar places, telecoils can be used to broadcast announcements. The telecoil technology makes it significantly easier to hear these announcements.
3. Noise Reduction
Traditionally, hearing aids would simply amplify all the sounds they picked up. Thanks to advanced technology, many hearing aids now use digital processing chips that amplify some sounds while reducing others. This technology can minimize various background sounds which make it easier to hear the sounds you truly want to hear.
4. Battery Life and Style
Depending on your hearing aid, you may have a battery life of a few days up to two weeks. Larger hearing aids can incorporate larger, more powerful batteries which would last longer than smaller hearing aids.
Furthermore, hearing aids can now be rechargeable. This is a benefit to those who prefer to plug in their hearing aids each night, rather than pay for new batteries every couple of weeks.
5. Smartphone Connection
Many hearing aid providers now offer smartphone apps that allow users to control settings via their phones. For example, a smartphone app may allow you to control volume settings, environmental settings, and more.
COVID-19 may have changed the process of buying hearing aids. You may have to schedule video calls, get aids shipped to you, or other. However, the process of picking out your hearing aids has stayed the same. You must consider the style, features, price, and more, as each person may prefer something different.