High-tech hearing aid accessories and features: are they worth it?

Once a big piece of hardware, hearing aids today are tiny, high-tech computers that arguably enhance even the natural ear with new functions and connectivity. But not all of the features offered by hearing aid manufacturers will make your life better.

People thought hearing aids were big, bulky and unattractive and in the past there was some truth to this.

Now, however, these are neat little buttons that can slip into your ear and look about as stunning as mini-computers.

Your standard and modern hearing aid is equipped with at least three hearing programs, four channels, digital technology, and noise and feedback cancellation.

In some places, depending on local health insurance arrangements, you may need to pay for additional accessories that add convenience, comfort or aesthetics.

We’ve checked out several of these to find out what’s worth it and what you can do without, despite what the ads may promise.

They can adjust and change the programs and volume levels of your hearing aid. “This is useful if the affected person has, for example, limited fine motor skills due to gout or osteoarthritis,” explains Marianne Frickel, who chairs the German association of hearing care professionals.

ENT doctor Bernhard Junge-Huelsing says remote controls are a good investment for hearing aid users up to age 75, especially if they have to attend meetings or attend conferences.

The producers here have been very busy, with Junge-Huelsing comparing the evolution of hearing aids to the stages between the rotary phone and the iPhone 12.

A big part of this is the miniaturization: “Almost all models are discreet in terms of shape and are comfortable to wear. Some are even smaller than a 2-cent coin.

So is it worth getting a particularly discreet bespoke in-the-ear hearing system (ITE)? It’s up to you. Junge-Huelsing says that basically you get more technology for the same money with behind-the-ear systems (BTE) than with ITEs.

Some hearing systems can be connected and controlled via Bluetooth with the smartphone or the TV, making it even easier to understand information and words even if there is a lot of ambient noise, says Frickel.

Junge-Huelsing calls this a “useful addition” because it allows music, TVs or even conference audio to be delivered directly to the hearing aid.

Most hearing aids today are digital and transmit some sound in real time. “In order to be able to adapt to different hearing situations, each system has at least three programs,” explains Frickel. High-end devices also automatically recognize the sound situation. Junge-Huelsing says this feature is recommended for all hearing aids.

The sound of a hearing aid is adjusted to the subjective hearing sensation of the affected person, explains Frickel. So it’s not really an extra.

Basically, he recommends sticking to a particular brand, as corporate hearing aids differ in nuance of sound. “One sounds exaggerated like in the bathroom, the other like in the living room.”

That being said, using a hearing aid can improve the quality of your listening experiences very well, even if you don’t think you’ve lost so much of your hearing.

“Last year, at the age of 56, I noticed mild sensorineural hearing loss with 4% hearing loss on both sides,” says Junge-Huelsing.

“That’s when I borrowed my brother’s hearing aid. He has 35% hearing loss on both sides. I was able to enjoy a Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra concert even better this way.

You can purchase cleaning kits to take care of your hearing aid. Since the microphone inputs are only a few tenths of a millimeter in size, they can easily get clogged with dirt, says Frickel. You can also get drying boxes for storage after wearing.

Junge-Huelsing recommends both, calling them “must have tools”. However, you will need advice on how to use them by the hearing care professional.

These help hold your hearing aid in place with an extra clip behind your ear to make sure it doesn’t come off when you wear a mask, for example, or during sports. “They can actually be very useful,” says Junge-Huelsing.

Hearing aids with a T-coil can connect to an induction loop, say in a museum or church for example, to deliver acoustic signals without interference, regardless of the distance or the acoustics of the room. However, a T-coil needs space, so there are limits to reducing its size, Frickel says.

Junge-Huelsing Says Inductive Hearing Systems Could Be Helpful For Higher Level Hearing Impairments And Mild Peripheral Hearing Impairments That Occur In Combination With Auditory Processing Disorders Or Central Auditory Perception And Processing Disorder (AVWS) .

Some hearing aids can be used as a hands-free device while driving, and can also read instructions from your navigation system. “This greatly increases safety when driving,” explains Junge-Huelsing. – dpa

Dora W. Clawson