Questions about hearing and hearing aids are answered by lab audiologists and researchers.

Each hearing aid company offers a range of technology levels (and prices).  Typically the higher technology levels offer more listening programs, more precise and/or automatic adjustments, and more specialized features such as wireless connection to bluetooth devices or “ear to ear” wireless communication between hearing aids.  Recent studies have shown similar average benefits for different technology levels.  Will you hear better with a more expensive aid?  Perhaps, if the specific features available are advantageous in the situations in which you need to listen.  Don’t expect a direct relationship between price and benefit, though – paying twice as much doesn’t mean you will understand twice the amount of speech!

A hearing loop allows you to receive wireless signals from a microphone, such as a PA system in an auditorium.  To use the loop you need to have a telecoil in your hearing aid and be able to turn the telecoil on with a switch, remote control, or smartphone.  (If you’re not sure, ask your audiologist – many behind-the-ear hearing aids have telecoils).  The loop eliminates distance and room noise, sending the speaker’s voice direct to your hearing aid.  You’ll know there is a hearing loop available if you see a blue ear sign with a “T” (for telecoil).  Anything can be looped: the drive-through at McDonalds; a train ticket window; even your living-room TV.

Over the counter (OTC) hearing aids refer to hearing aids that can be purchased directly by the consumer.  The FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017 specified that OTC hearing aids would be available in person, by mail or online without the need for a prescription or clinician involvement.  The FDA still needs to establish a regulatory framework and standards for OTC aids before they can be marketed and sold.  Once OTC aids are available, expect more research comparing them to hearing aids selected and fit by an audiologist.

Maybe.  It depends on what is offered with each make/model. Higher-cost models are likely to offer more features. It’s likely that some OTCs will be adjustable using your computer or smartphone, while some may be “self-fitting.”  One study has suggested there will be better results if an audiologist adjusts the OTC hearing aid to match what the listener needs.

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