by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A man asked:
Could you provide sources or websites that rate hearing aids? I’m getting conflicting input from audiologists, ads, and hearing impaired folks. Where can I find an impartial source that rates hearing aids that address my profound needs?
I’m not aware of any source that actually rates hearing aids—giving their pros and cons including their reliability, how well their t-coils and other features work under real-world conditions, etc. such as you would find in Consumer Reports articles. It’s a great idea, but nobody is doing it.
There are a few sites that make lists of some hearing aids and may list some of their main features, but these lists do not contain any indication of how well these features work, or whether they are basically a bunch of hype. There are a couple of sites that from their names, sound as if they do exactly this, but when you go to them, they don’t. It’s just a “come on” to get you to their site.
The best (and most complete) lists I have found are on the Hearing Review website. They list a number of selected features for each hearing aid so you can compare their features, etc. The listings also include a colored picture of each hearing aid listed.
Every month or two, for the past several months they have listed another class of hearing aids. So far they have only listed behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids. They have broken them down into three classes—Conventional BTE aids, Thin/Slim Tube BTE aids and Receiver-in-the-Ear BTE aids.
These reports are well worth perusing if you are in the market for new aids. You’ll have a good understanding of what is out there and their relative features. Note: not all makes/models of hearing aids are included, but it gives you a good start.
Here are the details to each report.
Hearing Review. March/April, 2009. ITEs [Inside the Ear] Hearing Aids. 12 pages. http://www.hearingreview.com/issues/pdf/ITEMatrix.pdf
Hearing Review. February, 2009. Power BTE Aids. 10 pages. http://www.hearingreview.com/issues/pdf/BTEPowerMatrix.pdf
Hearing Review. January, 2009. Conventional BTE Aids. 21 pages. http://www.hearingreview.com/issues/pdf/CBTESurvey09.pdf
Hearing Review. November/December, 2008. Thin/Slim-tube BTE Aids. 11 pages. http://www.hearingreview.com/issues/pdf/TechGuideMatrix.pdf
Hearing Review. October, 2008. Receiver in the Canal (RIC) BTE Aids. 11 pages. http://www.hearingreview.com/issues/pdf/2008_tech_guide.pdf
Now comes the question, “Which is the best hearing aid for me?” The best hearing aid for you depends on many factors. Some of them are subjective, so only you can make the decision, while others are objective, and your audiologist can choose those for you. For example, your audiologist can tell you which aids have enough power for your hearing loss, but only you can determine if the sound produced by these aids seems “good” to you. Furthermore, only you know which features are important to you.
Once you’ve narrowed your choices down to a short list of hearing aids that have the features you want, and the power and type that your audiologist knows you need, how do you make your final choice?
The surprising answer is that when it comes right down to it, your satisfaction with any of these hearing aids will depend, not so much on a specific hearing aid, or its features, but on the skill of the person programming it to your specific needs.
Therefore, ultimately you want to purchase a hearing aid that your audiologist has had lots of experience successfully programming, and knows how to program it for your specific hearing needs. That was the conclusion of Dr. Mark Ross, a man I highly respect because of his common-sense understanding of hearing loss, both as a highly-regarded professional in the field, and also as a hard of hearing person. (Mark has had a hearing loss for as long as I’ve been alive—which means we’ve both lived with our hearing losses for 60+ years now.)
He recently wrote an article called “Revisiting the Perennial Question: What is the “Best” Hearing Aid” in the January/February 2009 issue of Hearing Loss magazine. It is well worth the read.