If you want to get me a bit riled up, ask me to sell you an invisible hearing aid. You know the kind - the tiny hearing aid that is to be buried deep in your ear canal where only you will know it's there.
For the uninformed consumer, at first glance, these hearing aids may seem like a godsend - seemingly packed with all the technology of a larger, more noticeable hearing aid for the same price. All other things being equal, why wouldn't any wise consumer choose from these smaller hearing aid styles?
If you enter a typical hearing clinic and express any degree of self-consciousness about the visibility of your hearing aids, you may end up buying a pair of these tiny hearing aids. However, during the sale, your hearing professional may neglect to inform you of the many drawbacks of these less than ideal hearing aids.
We all know that any good hearing solution takes into account both your short-term and long-term needs and preferences, basing any judgements on objective evidence which should form the basis of professional opinion.
First, an effective hearing solution should include "directionality", which promotes front-facing sounds more than those coming from the side or behind. Directionality, whether first-order or adaptive, is the only aspect of a hearing aid that has been proven to significantly improve the ability to hear desired sounds in noisy settings.
Now, do you know what the number one complaint is of those wearing hearing aids (once they overcome any comfort issues)? You guessed it - speech in noise! This is why you buy hearing aids - because you can't hear people speaking to you in a noisy environment.
Guess what? Your tiny, invisible hearing aids have no noticeable directional capabilities. While it is true that, with these small hearing aids, your pinna (the outer ear) will provide minimal directionality, this effect is not significant enough to make any useful difference in noise. Recent technological advances such as "beamforming" and "one mic directionality" offer only minimal improvements. With hearing loss, you'll need as much useful difference as you can get.
"Tiny hearing aids will not help you in noisy settings"
Second, the most effective way of accommodating those with hearing loss in large venues is a system called an "induction loop". Many places of worship, theatres, community centres, etc. have them installed for the purpose of interfacing with your hearing aids, transmitting sounds directly to them. Guess what? Your tiny hearing aids are too tiny to include this technology. There is simply not enough room to install the tele-coil "spring" which receives these signals.
"Tiny hearing aids cannot make use of induction loop technology for larger venues"
Third, we all know that hearing aids run on batteries. Depending on how powerful your hearing aid must be, your battery life may be anywhere from a few days to over a week. Due to their size, your tiny hearing aids use a very small battery that lasts only a few days but costs the same price as larger batteries. This means you'll be spending more money and time changing your hearing aid batteries than with other hearing aids.
"Tiny hearing aids use more batteries"
Fourth, changing hearing aid batteries can be tricky, especially for those with vision or dexterity issues. Changing batteries in tiny hearing aids can be as challenging than threading a needle. A magnifying glass would help... if you had three hands.
"Tiny hearing aids are hard to physically manipulate"
Fifth, as previously mentioned, hearing aids should accommodate your future needs. The reality is your hearing will not improve over time and is likely to continue to deteriorate. Tiny hearing aids are not able to generate as much amplification as other hearing aids, so it is highly unlikely that they can accommodate your future hearing loss needs.
"Tiny hearing aids have less power potential"
Sixth, hearing aids that are fully inserted in the ear expose the technology to wax and debris to a greater extent than other styles. More diligence must be exercised when using tiny hearing aids to ensure they are thoroughly cleaned and serviced on a regular basis. These styles of hearing aids tend to fail far more frequently than some of their more reasonably-sized counterparts.
"Tiny hearing aids require more maintenance"
If, by this point, you're not completely convinced that tiny hearing aids are truly terrible, I've got one more important point to make: Self-consciousness related to hearing loss is a major obstacle to effective hearing solutions.
When your first priority is to hide your hearing loss, you will not take charge of your hearing environments, help your friends and family know what they need to do to make your life easier, or use accessories, such as streamers and remote microphones, effectively.
Studies show that those with hearing loss who explore various communication strategies, (over and above the purchase of hearing aids), achieve better results and are more satisfied with their outcomes.
"Those who pursue tiny hearing aids may need to adapt their attitude toward hearing loss in order to be successful with any hearing aids"
Thankfully, younger folks with hearing loss are more accustomed to "wearable" technology. Those who worry that hearing aids make them "look old" need to realize that the inability to participate in conversations is what really gives away your age.
I look forward to a day when the vast majority of those with hearing loss will disregard vanity considerations and enjoy more effective hearing solutions and much higher rates of satisfaction.
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