When you are looking to buy a hearing aid it is easy to feel swamped by the sheer amount of information. There are so many different types of hearing aid available, unless you know exactly what your needs are it can seem like an impossible task. Here is a guide to our top ten tips for buying a hearing aid.

1. Get a complete hearing test

Until you know the degree of your hearing loss and what is causing it, you won’t be able to do anything about it. Visit a qualified audiologist who will carry out a complete hearing test in a soundproof room. The consultant should then explain to you how severe your hearing loss is and what is causing it. They will also be able to tell you which kinds of hearing aids will work best. Your hearing aid can be programmed to work with your level of hearing loss, so it will pick up the frequencies that you are not hearing well and amplify them without increasing the volume of other sounds.

2. Take someone with you to your appointment

Having any kind of test is stressful, so it is always a good idea to take someone with you to an appointment. When you are worrying about the results it is easy to miss what your consultant is saying. This is even more likely when you may have a hearing loss. However, when you have a hearing loss it is tempting for others to speak for you. They are just trying to help you out in a difficult situation. Explain to your friend before the appointment exactly what you need from them and whether or not it is ok to answer questions on your behalf. Keep control of the conversation by asking questions. Ensure that the person you take with you knows the questions that you want answered and ask them to clarify everything. You could also ask them to take notes so that you are clear on what is going on.

3. Do your research

Once you know what is causing your hearing loss, look up the condition and do some research about it. Will it stay the same over time or is it progressive? Can anything else be done to improve your hearing? Find out about the different kinds of hearing aid available which are suitable for your type of hearing loss.

4. Make sure your provider is qualified

It is essential that your hearing aid provider and audiologist are fully qualified. Ask about their membership of professional regulatory organisations like the Irish Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists.

5. Know what you want from your hearing aid

There are many additional extras that you can buy for your hearing aid. These are all useful add-ons which can help someone with hearing loss to lead the life that they are used to. However you need to make sure that they fit in with your lifestyle. For example, directional microphones are an excellent feature for those who are frequently in noisy environments, such as at work or socialising with friends. Telecoils for using telephones and wireless technology for using mobile phones and listening to televisions can make you feel like you are getting your life back. However, these can really increase your costs so think carefully before buying. Don’t get something which you might not use very often or pay for something you don’t really need.

6. Shop around

It is a good idea to shop around when looking to buy a hearing aid so that you can compare prices and services. Most providers now have a website where you can look up their services or search for company reviews. Find a company that you feel comfortable with and ask them lots of questions about the hearing aids they offer and what they think would be best for you. Please note that some of the high street retailers are owned by manufacturers so you may find that you are not offered the whole range of hearing aids on offer. The main manufacturers are Phonak, Widex, Oticon, Starkey, Resound, Unitron, Siemens, Bernafon.

7. Get a demonstration

Many companies offer a free demonstration so that you can try the hearing aid out before you buy it. The aid can be programmed to your hearing loss and worn with a disposable mould or tip. It may feel strange at first and if you have had hearing loss for some time, the sound may take some getting used to. However it is essential not to feel rushed. You should also consider how easy the hearing aid is to use. If you have trouble with your hand dexterity, you may find the smaller hearing aids too difficult or fiddly to use. Remember that you are the customer, if you feel that you want to try something different or go away and think about it, then do so. Your hearing is too important to buy something on impulse and hearing aids can be quite costly dependent on what technology you require.

8. Find out what’s included

At your appointment you should be offered a choice hearing aid type as well as some different brands. Ask questions about the features included with each one as well as optional extras. Only buy what you need and make sure that any extras are worth the money.

9. Find out about aftercare and warranty servicing

Hearing aids are an expensive investment and you should always check exactly what is included in the warranty and aftercare service. If there is any feedback such as a whistling noise or crackling, or the sound just isn’t comfortable then go back for another appointment. Make sure that these follow up appointments are included in your aftercare package.

10. Trial period, money back offers

Many services offer a trial period usually around 60 days where you can take the hearing aid home and have the option to return it if you are not satisfied with it. Find out how long this trial period is and whether or not there is a cancellation fee. Get everything in writing before you hand over your money.

Bio: Paul Harrison has been involved in the hearing aid sector for over 15 years and in that time has worked at both manufacturer and retailer level. He now runs his own online hearing aid website www.yourhearing.co.uk that looks to offer hearing aids at less that the high street RRP within your local region.