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Understanding Hearing Aid Technology: What Do You Need?

older people having a good time talking
Author: Puget Sound Hearing
Reviewer: Soriya Estes, AuD
– 5 minute read

When it comes to hearing aids, there are many styles on the market, all with different levels of technology. We’ve talked before about how choosing the right hearing aid for you is about balancing your communication needs and what you want the hearing aid to do with how you want the hearing aid to look. In this article, we’re going to look at the different technology levels of hearing aids and how they can fit different communication needs.

How Complex is the Listening Environment?

Part of understanding your communication needs is also looking at how complex the environments are where you use your hearing aids. Complex environments can fall into two categories:

• One environment with lots of different listening situations. A wedding is a good example. At a wedding, you might experience one-on-one conversations, hear a toast from across the room, have conversations around your table while others talk at tables near you, and dance to the loud music of a band or DJ. The listening needs are high because the rate of complexity fluctuates regularly.

• A day with multiple complex environments. Day-to-day life is a good example. You might have coffee or breakfast with loved ones in the morning, go to an office where you have meetings and phone calls, and after work attend a sporting event or dinner function. Throughout the day, your listening needs are high because the environments change drastically from one to another.

Better Technology Handles Complex Environments Better

Better technology helps a hearing aid work well in more complex environments. If you are someone who mostly stays home and you don’t often find yourself in complex environments, your top priority might be hearing one-on-one conversations around you. You might not need a hearing aid that has the latest technology and lots of features. But if you travel, go to meetings, or spend time outdoors, you might really appreciate advanced features that create a natural listening experience and automatically transition between different environments. 

More advanced hearing instruments work harder, using features such as multi-directional microphones.

More advanced hearing instruments work harder, using features such as multi-directional microphones, wind screen, speech recognition, and streaming capabilities to your phone or television. As a user, this means you will have to do less, and you won’t feel exhausted and frustrated after struggling to hear. These advanced hearing aids can help alleviate the stress, strain, and difficulties you currently experience with your hearing loss. 

Different Technology Levels

Hearing aids range from Tier 1 (least advanced) to Tier 4 (most advanced).

Tier 1 Hearing Aids:

• Offer improvement over untreated hearing loss

• Help with understanding in less complex environments (more complex environments remain a challenge)

• Amplify and filter sound where help is needed

• May require more manual adjustment in many listening environments compared to devices in Tiers 2, 3, and 4

Think of Tier 1 hearing aids like WALKING to get to a destination. It offers the slowest response time and requires the most energy of the 4 levels of travel. It is the most cost efficient and will still get you to your destination.

Tier 2 Hearing Aids:

• Allow you to hear better in many environments with little effort, however, more complex environments with conflicting sound sources may require more effort

• Decrease your frustration throughout the day by requiring less effort from you to hear/understand your surroundings     

Think of Tier 2 hearing aids like RIDING A BIKE to get to a destination. It takes a lot of energy but is easier than walking. In terms of price, it’s more cost efficient than driving or flying.

Tier 3 Hearing Aids:

• Make sounds clearer in many different circumstances

• Help you understand with little effort in most environments. You will have to extend some energy to hear/understand in more complex environments

• Give you a strong increase in energy throughout the day since the hearing instrument is doing a large part of the work for you

Think of Tier 3 hearing aids like DRIVING to a destination. It takes some effort on your part as the driver, but it’s still a relatively fast and efficient way to travel. It’s not as fast (or expensive) as flying, but it’s faster than riding a bike or walking. 

Tier 4 Hearing Aids:

• Deliver sounds seamlessly, creating a highly natural and comfortable listening environment

• Allow you to focus on other things rather than struggling to hear 

• Offer you the biggest increase in energy throughout the day, since the hearing instrument is doing the work for you

Think of Tier 4 hearing aids like FLYING to a destination. While it’s the most expensive way to get there, it’s fast, easy, and allows you time to relax.

Don’t Worry – We’re Here to Help

This can all be a lot to understand, and hearing aid technology is constantly changing and improving. Ideally, you would choose your technology level with the help of an experienced hearing aid professional who can explain all the options and understands your needs and your lifestyle. If you have questions or would like more information, please don’t hesitate to call us or make an appointment. We’re happy to guide you through the process and help you find the right device for your needs.

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