As an audiologist, a question that I often get is “what’s the best hearing aid?”
I think if I were in the market for a hearing solution, I would ask the same question.
The world of hearing aids is fragmented and confusing. The marketing can be hokey and is often intentionally misleading.
With large price tags and questionable outcomes for many people, it makes sense that you as a consumer would want to find the best product on the market.
There is an answer, but it may not be the one you expect.
There are a few different factors in hearing aid success.
In addition to years of education and clinical training, I’ve taken a special personal interest in studying two fields that factor into the process of treating hearing loss:
Neuroscience and Human Behavior
What I have found is that the current “Gold Standard” approach to treating hearing loss is ineffective for many people.
Even worse, I have learned that many hearing providers don’t even follow “Gold Standard” practices, instead operating as churn and burn salespeople, leading to even lower patient success rates.
Through spending nearly a decade testing and treating thousands of patients hearing, I’ve identified the three most critical elements of success in a hearing treatment program:
- Technology that works with the brain, and that is designed for your lifestyle
Many patients who are researching hearing aids have a difficult time identifying what they truly need, so they opt to shop based on lowest price, or are lured in by “too good to be true” advertising.
In turn, many people end up purchasing very basic hearing amplifiers that are inappropriate for hearing in the noisy environments they need help in most.
A reputable hearing care provider will guide you to a hearing aid solution that is most appropriate for your unique listening situation.
But good hearing aids are just the foundation of a good treatment program. Without the following, they’re worthless.
2. Devices that are prescribed and fit correctly
In many states in the USA, including Texas, scientific verification of fitting isn’t a legal requirement for hearing aid fitting.
Many hearing providers simply use what is known as “Manufacturer First Fit”, which is an estimated prescription based on an average ear canal size and shape. Then they ask for your feedback on the sound quality to make manual adjustments.
The reality is that this fitting method is no better than going to the eye doctor, and the optometrist laying out a pile of glasses on the table with varying prescriptions, and telling you to try them on and tell him which you like the best.
Hearing devices should be programmed using “in situ” or Real Ear testing. These tests measure the output of the devices in the ear canal. Without this testing, you will be wearing devices that are just a rough approximation of what you should be hearing, at best.
If you invested $4-$8k, wouldn’t you want your prescription to be better than a guess?
3. A Brain Re-Training Process
If you go to most any reputable audiologist, there’s a good chance you’ll receive at least a technology recommendation that’s appropriate. If you’re lucky, you’ll also find a provider that also uses in-ear verification to ensure that you’re fit to the proper prescription.
However, this critical third step is generally missing from most treatment programs.
Here is the typical experience at most audiology clinics that follow established best practices:
- Your hearing is tested
- Hearing aids are recommended
- You are seen for a fitting, where real ear testing is performed
- You are fit at your full prescription
- You feel like you’re hearing too much, but the audiologist assures you that you’ll adapt to it over time
- You are told to reach out if you have any problems with the devices
We have found that this is when most hearing aid failures happen.
You get home, and everything is too loud. The toilet flushing, the A/C unit, the ice maker.
This is overwhelming.
If you’re like many people, maybe you make it a day or two wearing them consistently. Then you decide you don’t need to wear them in the morning, because you’re just at home with your spouse.
Over time a daily habit is never established. You’ll put them on when you “need them”.
Here’s the Problem - Consistency is Key
If you’re like most people, you’ve probably had hearing loss for a number of years to some degree before seeking hearing treatment.
Your brain has gotten used to not hearing what you should be.
If you start wearing hearing aids and all of a sudden hear everything, it’s overwhelming.
When done properly, hearing loss treatment should be more like physical therapy for your ears than getting a pair of glasses.
Your brain needs to gradually re-learn how to hear.
So instead of setting you to your full prescription right away, we start you off at a comfortable sound level (normally around 70% of your full prescription).
Over the course of the first 6-10 weeks, we will use special programming options inside of your devices so that they will automatically and very gradually build to your full prescription.
This is done at a slow enough pace that your brain adapts to the increased hearing ability without you ever noticing.
By doing this, we find that our patients wear their devices, on average, around 12 hours a day.
You build the habit of wearing them daily. This is the true differentiator between success and failure with hearing aids.
So, the answer to the question “which hearing aid is best” is actually a bit more complex.
The best hearing aid is one that is made for your lifestyle and designed to cooperate with your brain for better hearing. It is also the device that has been scientifically verified as an accurate fitting. Finally, a successful hearing treatment program typically involves a brain retraining process so that your brain can relearn how to understand the sounds that you’ve been missing.
If you would like to experience better hearing, give us a call today at 844-440-4327 (HEAR) for a free consultation today!