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Choosing the Right Hearing Aid

Researching hearing aids can be daunting. There is so much information to consider that a person can find it difficult to even know where to start. Here are a few things to think about when investigating hearing aids:

Hearing Aid Technology


  • Digital Technology - State-of-the-art digital technology provides the most flexibility and best sound clarity. Digital hearing aids can be connected to a computer and fine-tuned. An almost infinite number of adjustments can be made to provide the best fit for a particular hearing loss and personal listening preference.
  • Analog Technology - To compare the technologies think of digital as a CD or MP3 player, and analog as a record player. Analog technology offers very few adjustments that can be made to suit a person’s listening needs.
  • Digitally Programmable Analog - This is an attempt to combine the two technologies. The underlying signal processing is analog, but some basic tuning can be accomplished by connecting the aid to a computer. Thus providing a better fit than what is available with conventional analog circuits.

Hearing Aid Sizes & Styles


  • Behind the Ear (BTE) - The aids fit behind the ear and deliver sound via a tube to a custom made earpiece that sits inside a user’s ear. They are power ful enough to improve profound hearing losses, and also appropriate for a wide range of hearing losses. BTEs are versatile, durable, and of sufficient size to offer all options and features currently available to users.



  • Open-Fit Behind the Ear - These aids also fit behind the ear, but are generally much smaller and more comfortable than conventional BTE hearing aids. Amplification in select pitches/ frequencies is provided but without the sensation of being “plugged up.”



  • In the Ear (ITE, or Full Shell) - Filling the entire outer ear, these aids offer the most power and the longest battery life of all the in-the-ear styles. They are appropriate for a wide range of hearing losses and can accommodate almost all the features and options currently available.



  • In the Canal (ITC, or Half Shell) - These aids fill the bottom part of the outer ear. While cosmetically appealing they are less powerful and have a shorter battery life. Most features are available in this size aid.



  • Completely in the Canal (CIC) - The smallest aids and also cosmetically appealing, these aids are the most prone to being affected by ear waxrelated problems. They have the shortest battery life and are suitable for a more narrow range of hearing losses. There are fewer options available, and someone with dexterity problems may have difficulty manipulating these aids.

Hearing Aid “Feature Sets”
Hearing aids are not all created equal. Features or options available dictate the aid’s price. The more features included and the more advanced the options, the higher the price tag. Common features in digital hearing aids may include:



  • Multiple Channels can be compared to the sliders on a stereo equalizer, the number of channels/sliders determines how much the sound can be fine-tuned to suit a person.



  • Multiple Memories are the multiple settings for different environments. A hearing aid may have one setting for quiet environments, one for noisy and another for talking on the phone. Memories are selected with a push-button, or automatically accessed.



  • Directional Microphones are designed to reduce unwanted back ground noise from the back and side directions while allowing a listener to focus on a speaker in front of them.



  • Feedback Cancellation stops the annoying high-pitched whistling feedback sound.



  • Automatic Adaptivity allows hearing aids to adapt to different environments and provide the best settings for a listener as they move about. Changes are instantaneous and automatic.



  • Telephone settings are the options available to receive the best sound from the different types of phones to the hearing aid, including automatic switching to phone setting and Bluetooth compatibility for cellular phones.



  • Wind Noise Reduction reduces the unwanted sound of wind rushing past the microphones of a hearing aid.


  • Remote Controls are small hand-held devices that can adjust the volume or switch between memories/settings in the hearing aid.


  • Noise Reduction works in combination with directional microphones to reduce unwanted environmental sounds.  More advanced aids can track and reduce multiple noise sources coming from different directions.



  • Impulse Noise Reduction allows the hearing aid to “soften” sudden loud sounds.



  • Battery size can be important because it affects the size of a hearing aid and the larger the battery, the longer it lasts.

The Appropriate Aid
Aside from size, technology, and features, the “appropriateness” of a hearing aid is based on several other criteria:



  • Hearing Loss Type & Degree – A person with a severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss may not get enough amplification from a CIC hearing aid. Someone with conductive loss and ear drainage may not do well with ITEs.


  • Symmetry of Hearing Loss – Hearing loss is usually about the same in both ears and two hearing aids are normally recommended. There can be a variation in loss however, and a different hearing system (CROS, Bi-CROS) may be indicated.


  • Manual Dexterity, Visual Acuity – Like hearing aid batteries, smaller hearing aids can be more difficult to see and use.



  • Lifestyle – Someone with an active lifestyle or has a job requiring interaction with others may need more advanced features than a retired person who lives alone.



  • Personal Preference – Some people would like to put a hearing aid on in the morning and not think about it (automatic adaptivity), while others like manual control of their aids and don’t mind pushing a button to make changes.



  • Previous Experience – A person who has used a particular size, brand, or technology level of hearing aid in the past may have difficulty switching to a different configuration.

Inter Valley members receive a discount off of the retail price of hearing aids, a two year warranty, one year of free hearing aid batteries, no copay or office visit fee for a free hearing evaluation and unlimited service visits at no charge. You don’t need a doctor’s referral.

If you are interested in more information about hearing health services you may call the two hearing service companies we partner with: Newport Audiology at 800-675-5485 or EPIC 866-956-5400 or, you can call Inter Valley’s Member Services at 909-623- 6333, or visit our website under www.

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