You’ve been struggling to hear, took a hearing test and what you suspected was confirmed: It’s time to get hearing aids. Your hearing healthcare professional will help you find the model most suited to your needs, but it is also helpful to have an idea what questions to ask when making this purchase.

Don’t be afraid to write a list of features you want from ideal hearing devices. This helps, not hinders, the search for the right device and goes a long way to ensure it meets your needs.

A good starting point is to think about the situations in which you struggle to hear, such as where there is a lot of background noise, and ask about devices best suited to help.

Consider these questions when purchasing hearing aids:

  • Is an open ear fitting suitable for me? An open ear fitting has a fine tube that transfers the amplified sound into your ear, without blocking the canal completely. For first time users, this gives a more naturalistic listening experience and is easier to get used to.
  • How does the device adapt to different sound settings? You listen differently in a quiet room to one person, than in a noisy place during a group conversation. Ask the hearing care provider how the device adapts to these different situations: does it change settings automatically or do you need to manually adjust them?
  • Is there feedback control? In some circumstances electrical feedback can cause a hearing aid to whistle. Ask if there is a feedback cancellation system built into the device. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, ask if there is provision to protect the microphone from wind noise.
  • Can you reduce background noise? The idea of a hearing device is to amplify sound to hear it more clearly. However, not all sounds are welcome; indeed background noise can be extremely intrusive and stop you from clearly hearing a speaker close to you.

Some hearing devices have the ability to detect ‘random’ noises and fade those down, while allowing speech to sound clearly over the top. This is known as background noise reduction and it’s good to check if the device has this capability.

  • Is it compatible with phones? Some models of hearing aids merely amplify a telephone call; however, others are more sophisticated. Ask if the hearing aid is Bluetooth enabled, which allows the phone signal to be wirelessly redirected into the hearing device. It makes for much clearer listening and a reduced risk of feedback.
  • Is the hearing device easy to use? Last, but not least, be sure to handle the hearing aid and find out how easy it is to locate the switches and use them, in addition to changing the battery. Don’t forget to experiment with wearing the device, to test how accessible the switches are in real life use.