How can hearing aids help you?
Hearing aids help you hear better by taking in sound through a microphone, then boosting and modifying it before sending it to your ear canal.
The audiologist who tests your hearing will discuss whether hearing aids would help.
There are lots of different kinds, so they’ll also be able to recommend the type that would be best for you.
What to expect from a hearing aid
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Whether you go through the NHS or a private dispenser, all new hearing aids are digital – although some people do still use analogue hearing aids. It takes time to get used to new hearing aids, and you will probably need to have your hearing professional fine-tune them once you’ve got used to wearing them.
Most digital hearing aids can be programmed to have different settings for different environments, like in a group, a one-to-one conversation, in a quiet room or a busy shopping centre. They might also have a ‘T’ (telecoil) setting or programme for using with a hearing loop. Your audiologist should explain how it all works when they fit the aids.
TIP: All NHS and some privately supplied hearing aids are fitted with a telecoil. When you get hearing aids fitted, make sure your audiologist programmes them so that the ‘T’ setting is activated. This will mean you can use them with hearing loops in public places and phones that have an inductive coupler. If your hearing aids don’t have a ‘T’ setting, ask about the best setting to use when you’re on the phone.
Types of hearing aid
There are lots of different types of hearing aid. The right kind for you will partly depend on what kind of hearing loss you have, but there are other things to think about, too. For example, some people like to let others know about their hearing loss – or make a fashion statement – with a clearly visible aid. Others prefer a more discreet aid that few will notice.
- A behind the ear (BTE) aid has two parts: the main part goes behind your ear. This is connected by a tube or microtube to an ear mould, tip or cone that sits inside your ear.
- A receiver in the canal (RIC) aid is like a BTE aid but smaller. An almost invisible wire connects the microphone to the other part, which goes inside your ear canal.
- An in the ear (ITE) aid sits completely inside your ear.
- A completely in the canal (CIC) hearing aid goes deep inside your ear canal, making it invisible. This is the most discreet kind of hearing aid.
Read more on the different styles of hearing aids.
Watch out for automatic volume control
Some hearing aids have a volume control. Others automatically adjust their volume depending on how noisy your surroundings are. This could be a drawback when you’re on the phone, because the aid might try to make the phone’s sound quieter. If you get this problem, let your audiologist know and they should be able fix things by adjusting the settings. You could also try using the phone in hands-free mode.
Choosing the right hearing aids
There are so many different hearing aids around, that you should be able to find something to suit you. Different types of aid suit different types of hearing loss and there are a lot of things to think about, so building a good relationship with your audiologist is important. They’ll be able to recommend hearing aids that suit your level of hearing.
Not all providers can offer you every type of hearing aid. If you get hearing aids from the NHS, you’ll usually (but not always) be offered behind the ear aids. They’ll be loaned to you for free, but will still be the property of the NHS. If you see a private audiologist, you might be able to choose from a bigger range – including smaller in-the-ear models.
Some providers may have arrangements with particular brands, but it’s unusual for a private audiologist to sell only one company’s hearing aids. Most think it’s important to offer products from several companies, so they have a wide choice to make recommendations from.
Adjusting to new hearing aids
It can take up to three months to get used to new hearing aids. What you experience will depend on your hearing loss and how much you wear your hearing aids. Your brain will begin to register sounds that it has not heard well for some time. So you might feel tired by listening or overwhelmed by new noises. But as you carry on using your new hearing aids, your brain learns to recognise the new sounds and they become more acceptable. It’s important to keep going.
You should talk about what to expect with your audiologist. They’ll be able give you advice on the best technique for getting used to your hearing aids.
How much do hearing aids cost?
The NHS can provide hearing aids at no charge on a long-term loan. And all the extra support (appointments, tests, and consultations) is also free. You can usually get replacement batteries free of charge from your audiology clinic. You might be charged for lost or damaged hearing aids.
The cost of hearing aids and professional services from a private audiologist can vary a lot, depending on the technology, fitting style, accessories and your individual needs. It could be anywhere from £300 to £3,000. Your audiologist will give you a breakdown of the cost. Most professional services and aftercare are included in the cost of hearing aids from private audiologists.
Make sure you compare like with like
It’s important to make sure that any price comparisons between different dispensers are like for like. Some professionals include a wider range of services than others and it’s particularly important to know what services you’ll have access to after your hearing aid has been fitted.
Can I order hearing aids online?
It’s possible to get hearing aids by ordering them online or through the post. These are usually basic amplifiers that come in standard settings. They won’t be tailored to your individual hearing loss. It’s usually better to have a face-to-face consultation where you can discuss your particular needs and be properly diagnosed.
Should I insure my hearing aids?
Make sure that your hearing aid is covered for loss when you’re away from home. Most dispensers can arrange insurance cover for you – but you might be able to include your hearing aids in an existing policy – such as one covering your household contents. The best advice is to discuss insurance cover with your registered hearing aid audiologist and/or your home insurer. Some companies offer stand-alone insurance specifically for hearing aids. Search online or contact the Hearing Link helpdesk to find out more. Hearing aids prescribed on the NHS can sometimes be insured – check with your audiologist or local clinic staff.