Before purchasing hearing aids you need to understand how to choose the one that suits your hearing requirement. Let us understand how these things work:
A Hearing aid has to perform 3 major functions:
First, it has to provide necessary frequency specific amplification. There are basically 2 types of hearing aids devices, analog and digital; analog device basically a loudspeaker which basis its output capacity provides amplifications irrespective of requirement. A digital hearing device has an option where it can be tuned to provide amplification as per hearing loss at different frequencies. In other words we can set the digital device as per the pure tone graph we obtain.
Frequency specific amplification is necessary since over amplification or under amplification can do more damage than good to the user. For easier understanding, let us take an example of spectacles. For a correct vision, we wear spectacles that are corresponding to the power of our eyes. Using any glass and manually adjusting it for some vision may do more damage and may not be comfortable either. Similar is the case with hearing aids.
Secondly, Hearing aid should have a noise management function in it. Most digital devices follow a SNR or signal to noise ratio wherein speech signal is given more importance and noise is given least. This helps in providing a clearer speech sound to the user. For instance, if a user is in a one to one conversation and in the same room there is a fan noise; the hearing aid would differentiate between both sound signals and using SNR ratio minimize the interference of the fan noise vis-à-vis the speech sound. See image below:
Lastly, in a more challenging situation, where there are several speech and noise sound sources, like for e.g. in a group conversation, or in a restaurant or party etc; the hearing aid must also have a “Directionality” effect. Using SNR, we can limit the noise signals, however we are still helpless in case the speech signal comes from multiple directions. Here the directional feature of the hearing aid adapts to the speech source which the user is facing and keeps the rest of the speech signals on a low priority. This provides optimum clarity to the user in conversation even in this sort of challenge. See image below:
To Summarize, a hearing aid must perform amplification, noise management and directionality determination to provide optimum clarity. If these features are there, then the sounds from the hearing aids shall be clear and comfortable to the user. Hearing aid is a device which digitally reproduces sounds in a high definition and presents to the user; the more efficient it is, the better it is able to meet the requirements in a challenging environment.
What are channel and bands and how they determine clarity?
Often your hearing professional will use this terms channels & bands and will advise you to go for maximum channels. Technically channels and bands are used to manage compression and amplification in a hearing aid. These however are tough terms to understand for a common user so to simplify; channels and bands basically split the sound in different frequencies. This is very important as when the sound is bifurcated efficiently, it can be processed efficiently. More number of channels and bands allows your hearing professional to adjust your hearing instrument more precisely to your comfort.
Channels and bands in a hearing aid are important factor for clarity however these are not the only factor. If the hearing machine does not have a good noise management system or efficient directionality determinant, then channels and bands won’t work much for the clarity. It is always beneficial to go for more channels and bands however you must ascertain whether other features are present in the hearing aid or not.
Practically, as a user, you will never make use of channels & bands in a hearing aid. These are for your hearing professional to use; however, these may be attractive selling tools for the professional. Now a days, lots of companies have brought out products with more number of channels in hearing aids for a lessor price. Don’t be fooled by this, ask your audiologist whether important sound processing feature are there in your hearing aid or not.
How we choose a suitable hearing aid?
There are 4 factors basis which you can choose a suitable hearing aid for your requirement.
1. Hearing loss (its severity)
3. Cosmetic appeal
While the first 2 factors are for your audiologist to decide, the last 2 can be decided by you.
Hearing Loss and its severity is an important factor as the hearing aid should be able to provide you with the necessary amplification. There are different types of hearing aids like CIC or completely in canal, RIC or receiver in canal, BTE or behind the ear etc. Each hearing aid comes with a different power i.e. the receiver size i.e. the amplification it can generate, feedback canceller i.e. its ability to reduce the squealing sounds from the microphone and provide a stable gain, minimize occlusion or resound etc. The hearing professional can guide you with the right choice of hearing aid pertaining to your audiogram.
Lifestyle is another important factor; this tells us how much the hearing aid needs to work for the user. Let us say for example today a large part of our population is acquainted with computers. Computers have a processor and processors are applied for different purposes. Individuals using computers for basic work require a lessor processor whereas individuals who are programmers or into scientific research wherein hundreds of processes are carried out at the same time, require a much faster processor to work. Similarly, in case of hearing aids, individuals who are young and dynamic require a faster and better hearing aid as their hearing environments change very fast as compared to retired individuals who primarily sit at home. Hearing aid must adapt and process important speech in all situations such as one to one conversation, group conversation, in a party, in a theatre, in a restaurant, park or public place, while on phone, at home while watching TV etc. These active lifestyles require better hearing support.
Cosmetic Hearing aids such as IICs, CIC and even RICs have made a much needed entry to meet the requirements of hearing impaired. IIC hearing aid is a 100% invisible hearing aid whereas a CIC or RIC hearing aids are about 90% invisible. You can always ask your hearing professional to give you a suitable cosmetic option without compromising on the quality of sound.
Budget is the most important aspect of the selection process and without this we are really nowhere in meeting our requirements. Budget is something which should be openly discussed with the audiologist as one must know where the hearing requirements are being met and where one has to compromise. Hearing aid prices vary across different companies and your hearing clinic will be able to help you with the required information.
We at “India Speech and Hearing Centre” provide hearing aids in India at all major cities like Pune, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Delhi NCR etc. In case you seek to buy hearing aid in any of these cities, you can call us at our numbers or write to us by filling the form below.