Choosing Hearing Aids

Yes, I’m that old. This introduction will eventually lead into a series of reviews. For now, I’ll establish some criteria and definitions.

This blog will not become a hearing aid blog. Everyone thinking about buying these devices should spend some quality time at Soundly. There is a vast repository of information ranging from general considerations to evaluations of specific products.

Here’s the key to trying hearing aids: Federal law specifies that you must be allowed to return them on or before 45 days after you buy them. And you must get all your money back. Jabra stood out on this count: they offer a 100 day return window.

My value-added is personalization. I’ll be describing my journey through this jungle. The first step is establishing criteria.

Evaluation Criteria

So what did I look for?

  1. Bluetooth. Needs to connect to my iPhone.
  2. MiFi. Specialized connection protocol for Apple mobile devices.
  3. A decent iPhone app that lets me control at least a few aspects of the hearing aids’ performance.
  4. Reasonable sound. I mainly need to hear voices and other sounds. Music? Not so much. Background noise filter, sound focus, various scenarios all a plus.
  5. Easy to use, including putting on, getting earbuds in correctly, rechargeable battery (in a case like Airpods use), and lightweight.
  6. Appearance. Not visible to people during casual conversation. Preview: the only type that rules out is behind the ear.
  7. Price. Like any economist, this is always a consideration.

One consideration I could safely ignore is glasses. If you wear them, the two hearing aid types that sit behind your ears may be difficult to wear with glasses. Fortunately, I had cataract surgery over the summer. My vision is now 20/20 in both eyes (although I do use reading glasses).

There are other options available. The one I considered and ultimately rejected is a telecoil. Here’s how Soundly.com describes this:

Go to public venues that use telecoil or use a landline phone? A telecoil is helpful for those who like to take in theater and live shows, attend a church with a looped system, or talk on a landline phone. 

These days, I only use my landline phone for incoming calls. And those are mostly junk.

There are six basic hearing aid types:

  1. Behind the ear (BTE)
  2. Receiver-in-the-canal (RIC)
  3. In the ear (ITE)
  4. In the canal (ITC)
  5. Completely in the canal (CIC), and
  6. Invisible in the canal (IIC).

(RIC are sometimes called mini-behind the ear (MBTE).) If this seems confusing, this page at Soundly.com has photos, use cases, and a load of detail. Here are photos showing each of the six types (courtesy of Soundly.com).

BTE Choosing hearing aids

Behind the ear (BTE)

RIC Choosing hearing aids

Receiver in the canal (RIC)

ITE Choosing hearing aids

In the ear (ITE)

ITC Choosing hearing aids

In the canal (ITC)

CIC Choosing hearing aids

Completely in the canal (CIC)

IIC Choosing hearing aids

Invisible in the canal (IIC)

Photos copyright Soundly.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted here with permission of the copyright owner.

Soundly.com reviews many, many more devices than I have the time, energy, or interest in pursuing. I have to add that they rate the Jabra Enhance Pro 300 as the best overall value (as of March 4, 2024).

Preview of the next article: after testing three devices, I chose the Jabra Enhance 200. I’m pretty happy with that choice, especially their customer service (not even on my list of priorities).

Jabra Enhance 200Choosing hearing aids

Jabra Enhance 200. That’s a dime above the devices for size comparison.

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About Tony Lima

Retired after teaching economics at California State Univ., East Bay (Hayward, CA). Ph.D., economics, Stanford. Also taught MBA finance at the California University of Management and Technology. Occasionally take on a consulting project if it's interesting. Other interests include wine and technology.