“I don’t NEED a Cadillac….I just want to HEAR!”by Dr. R. Patrick Francis
Board Certified Audiologist
Over the years, I have heard this countless times and I’m sure I will soon hear it again. I make purchases in the same way. When I shop for any item, I look for quality, durability and reliability in those features that are important to me. It is important however, to know when you become “penny wise and pound foolish.” In order to select those options important to you, you must determine your hearing needs and listening situations before you purchase hearing aids. Below are some hearing aid options that you may want to consider.
T-Coil: This coil is valuable for most people wearing hearing aids because it allows the hearing aid to capture “sound” through magnetic fluctuations. When electricity passes through anything, it generates a magnetic field. When sound is superimposed on the electricity, like a telephone, the hearing aid can pick it up. This ability opens the doors to many hearing aid options. It can be applied to TV, stereo, PA systems and anything else that transmits a signal.
Directional Capability: This feature addresses the most common of all hearing aid complaints, background noise. When activated, the hearing aid restricts the area in which sound is picked up. For example, when in a noisy restaurant, you want to hear the person or people at your table and not the buzz of the entire dining room. Directional microphones allow the hearing aid to pick up sounds in one direction thus reducing the din of the entire room. This feature is extremely valuable to most hearing aid users.
Automatic Phone Program: When a separate phone program is necessary, this feature is a real convenience. I recommend this feature for people who are on and off the phone all day. This eliminates the need for constantly pushing the program button all day long. The automatic phone program is helpful for people who have limited dexterity or other problems making program changes difficult.
Volume Control: With today’s technology, volume controls are needed less and less however they are still appropriate with certain medical conditions. For example, Meniere’s disease can cause your hearing to change from day to day, and in some cases, hour to hour. People with rapidly fluctuating hearing loss can benefit from a volume control.
FM and Bluetooth Capabilities: The FM and Bluetooth features are becoming more popular. FM has been used for many years in schools and other public places. Some hearing aids are being produced with this capability integrated into the instrument. It’s not uncommon to see people walking around the store seemingly speaking to no one. Then you realize that they have an ear piece and they are actually on the phone using Bluetooth. Now we can eliminate the phone ear piece and deliver the conversation directly through the hearing aids! This is a great feature for people on the go.
Remote Control: Given to the right person, remote controls can add flexibility and convenience to the user. Some remotes even allow the user to do rudimentary programming! A sophisticated user can “lock-in” certain parameters when they find that “perfect setting” in a particular listening situation.
In many cases, these options are standard inclusions. Some options may incur an additional cost. The biggest thing to remember is, these options are not fluff and increase the flexibility and usefulness of your hearing aids. Not all options are listed in this article. Rely on your audiologist to help you determine what options are most appropriate, and enjoy the world of sound around you.