Understanding hearing aid technology levels. That's our topic today on Ask The Hearing Doctors. Hi, I'm Jim Cuddy, and this is Ask The Hearing Doctors. And I'm joined today by Dr. Ana Anzola and Dr. Wendy Thorne, doctors of audiology with Hearing Doctors. The Washington DC area's highest rated audiology practice with over 1,500 five-star reviews. Ana, Wendy it's always great to see you both. Okay. So we're going to understand, or you're going to help us understand hearing aid technology levels. When it comes to styles: over-the-ear, in-the-ear, in-the-canal, are, the technology levels available with any style or does style and technology level, do they matter to one another?
Sure. So we have, uh, nine different models or styles. Um, they range from the very, very small all the way to the over-the-ear or even the behind-the-ear. So, um, about four of them are custom. So they're fitted inside the ear and the other ones kind of hang over the ear. Um, very, um, small they don't have to be big and bulky as they used to be. And then from there, um, depending on the type and degree of loss that the patient may have, then we tend to then narrow that down to how much can we package into that little device? You know, do we want it to be rechargeable? Do we need batteries? Um, how much power do we need? What type of features are important? And then that's when technology comes about and the features, uh, depending
What do you need to know first from a patient to determine technology level and style and the different things that they're going to need for the optimum, uh, ability to, to hear better?
I think we tend to choose the style first, um, so that we know exactly what sort of features that are going to be available within that style. Um, you know, as Dr. Anzola was saying, some styles are going to be eliminated pretty quickly. Um, we also look at not just, you know, the patients, you know, hearing loss, but also their physical ability. So, you know, their ability to put in a teeny tiny one, um, if that's difficult for them, we don't want them to struggle with something like that. So we tend to focus more on the style first. And then we talk about the technology level, which is like the whole meat of the hearing aid. Yeah. You know, what are their needs, what's important to them? Um, what do you want this, uh, hearing device to help you with, in what situation? So this is more about you. Um, the dexterity, as we talked about, what's important to them. Um, are they going to be able to be independent on their own, or depending on somebody to do this for them, the anatomy, the physical anatomy, do you have an ear and the size of your ear cavity? Um, so it just goes beyond the audiological profile.
I would imagine then an individual's own lifestyle. In other words, younger person has hearing issues, but they work full time. They're, they're active in other ways. Uh, versus somebody who is retired, they don't go out as much because they don't choose to, you know. They just, they like being at home and reading a book and that kind of thing. So all of this plays in.
Sure, exactly. Yeah. This is where we really start to take in the whole patient as a person. Um, you know, the hearing loss kind of, at least when we're talking about the hearing aids, kind of takes a little bit of a backseat because now it's going to be about what can you handle physically? What can you handle acoustically? And what do you need for it to work in your daily life? Yeah. It's their own communication assessment needs that we take a note of and try to match them up. Um, I think what we find often when people have, or patients have worn hearing aids in the past, and they have been unsuccessful is because the technology in their lifestyle don't have a good match. So in order for it to be a great fit, not just the physical fit, but a great fit as an, as a hearing device, as a hearing help, um, it needs to match the technology, their lifestyle, of course, their budget.
That would also come into play and I'm glad you brought that up. Because obviously if, if I need, let's say I'm extremely active. I have hearing loss, I'm extremely active. I do all sorts of things. I have a high pressure job, whatever it is, I need it all. Right. But can I afford it? Sure. But then there's that question of, well, do you want to hear better or not? Exactly, I guess, then these are the types of questions you have to ask people. Right.
Yeah. And, and, I'm sorry, but, so, so when we're talking about technology, um, kind of like a car, a car is going to take you from point A to point B. It has four tires and it's going to do it. But it's just, again, it's just investigating what it is that's important to you as, as, as far as, how much do you want to hear? Do you need to hear? Retired or not everybody is, um, very busy with, you know, busy lifestyles and needs. But it's just selecting the best model, the best technology. And, and what's important is not to overdo it. It's just to do it right. Don't, underdo it, don't overdo it, but just do it right.
I liked the car analogy because that really does help me understand. I'm driving the little tiny, uh, sports car or whatever it is to get, or do I want the big SUV model? That's going to take me up and down any hill that I face and that kind of thing. So what sort of questions are you asking people?
Yeah, so that's where we really start to dive into lifestyle. So a lot of times I ask patients, you know, give me a brief glimpse of what you do on a typical day or typical week. Um, and that's when patients start saying, well, every Tuesday I go to coffee with my friends and then Thursdays, I play card games and then always, you know, weekends parties and you know, restaurants. And that's when I can start to kind of eliminate different technology levels. You know, a very basic model is not gonna work well for that person who's in very different environments.
I would imagine, especially in louder environments, you're going to need more of some of the things we've talked about on previous episodes.
Yeah. So we have, um, channels and bands and noise reduction and different features, and it really always boils down to the algorithms. Each manufacturer is going to do it in a different way, but again, it's all about handling, um, the speech in the presence of background noise. And by how much reduction are there is the hearing aid going to handle reducing the background noise so that we have more of the enhancement of that, um, speech, uh, so that they can better hear and understand.
Can you give us an idea of some of the different features of some of these different levels that, that, that somebody might expect? In other words, somebody that has a very quiet lifestyle versus somebody who has a very active lifestyle, what are some of the different features that each of these people would, would have?
Yeah, so there's, as far as technology levels, there's about five, you know, so they can go from something very, very basic all the way up to top of the line premium technology levels. Um, so the very low, basic technology levels, those are great for someone who's not in very noisy places. They primarily just need conversation, one-on-one and TV environments. Um, as you move up, that's where kind of, one of the biggest things that you see is background noise reduction starts to increase. So it's, uh, able to work in more complicated environments. Higher ones are better working in like really reverberant places like large churches. Um, those are very complicated environments to acoustically, correct with the hearing aids. Yeah. High-level noise in restaurants, uh, people that work and like hairdressers, they're always in noise. And so you, you're not just looking at, you know, what's complicated for you, but what do you do for a living? That's another type of conversation that we take on. Um, and we learn more about what your particular needs may be. And then what particular, um, level of technology, is much more appropriate.
So this really underscores something we've talked about in the past, and that is going to a big box store. You know, you're trying to save a few bucks and I'm going to go to a big box store and just buy myself some hearing aids. But we're not taking into consideration your own personal lifestyle, what you do on a daily basis to really get the optimum product that you need. This is why people need to go see an audiologist.
Yeah, absolutely. So we have rooms that have, you know, their sound simulation. Um, we interact with the patients. If you're a musician, we ask you to bring in your instrument. If you're a physician, if you are a nurse, um, so we really try to target what it is that they're needing and how the instrument is going to ultimately help them in their, in their, um, social life, in their professional life. So there's a lot more to the story than just, you know, a style, a technology, and it's not one size fits all.
Well, and also something like tele-health, you know, that's something you're not going to get at a big box store.
No. And again, we're seeing that more and more every day, almost every day, we're getting phone calls to, to participate in a tele-health, um, whether it's a consultation or an adjustment.
Yeah. The convenience of it, besides the fact that you're talking to an audiologist, who's going to say, well, wait a minute, we need to make an adjustment here, there, or whatever. This has been a wonderful lesson on technology levels of hearing aids. Something else I didn't know anything about and now I do. Thank you both for your time. Thank you so much. If you're in the Washington metropolitan area, and you'd like to schedule an appointment with Hearing Doctors, click the link in the description or visit HearingDoctors.com.