The following questions have been answered by members of the AMPLab.
What should I look for in an audiologist? If you decide to go to an audiologist for hearing care, you should find an audiologist that uses evidence-based practices. Evidence-based practices are effective assessment and treatment approaches that are supported by research. In audiology, this could include testing speech understanding during a hearing evaluation and using a specialized computer to program hearing aids based on your specific ear canal shape and hearing loss. Evidence-based practices can also include questionnaires to help you and the audiologist recognize the benefits and limitations of different treatment options.
What styles of hearing aids are there? There are a few different styles of hearing aids. The first style is a behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid, where the body of the hearing aid sits behind the ear and is connected via a tube to an earmold that rests in the ear canal. The second style is very similar to a BTE, and is called a receiver-in-canal (RIC) hearing aid. This is a less conspicuous option that rests behind the ear, but uses a thin wire to connect the body of the hearing aid to the earpiece inside the ear canal instead of a tube. The last type of hearing aid is an in-the-ear (ITE) style. This style lies completely in the ear canal and is built around a mold of the ear that your audiologist will take.
What hearing aid would benefit me the most? The style of hearing aid that will provide the most benefit will vary from person to person. Your audiologist will consider your hearing loss, hearing health history, typical listening environments, rechargeability preferences, and smartphone connectivity options in order to make a personalized hearing aid recommendation for you. Keep in mind that your audiologist may make other recommendations if they deem you may not benefit from a traditional hearing aid. These recommendations may include seeking medical management, a cochlear implant, or a bone-anchored-hearing aid.
I've heard about over-the-counter hearing aids; would these be a good option for me? Over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids can be an alternative to traditional hearing aids. OTC devices can be purchased without seeing a healthcare professional, such as an audiologist. The FDA recently approved these devices. We expect that individuals with mild-to-moderate hearing loss will likely experience the most benefit. OTC hearing aids may not be appropriate for all hearing losses. If you are considering purchasing an OTC hearing aid, it would be beneficial to discuss this with your audiologist.
Will I benefit from a more expensive hearing aid? Maybe. More expensive hearing aids are typically associated with higher technology levels that may include processing features that a basic hearing aid may not have. These features aim to improve hearing in certain environments. However, several studies have found similar benefit across all technology levels.