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With hundreds of different private hearing aids out there, how do you know you're getting the best advice?
One of the biggest questions people have about private hearing aids is 'how do I know which one is best for me?'
There are hundreds of models to choose from by numerous brands and with the selection of features varying on different technology specifications, even the best audiology professionals can get confused sometimes.
The traditional approach involves the audiologist asking a variety of 'lifestyle' questions and forming an interpretation of that individual's life in terms of sound. There is a genuine skill to this, particularly in asking the right questions and delving further into the important areas to assist in choosing the right device. This has been the best method so far but it leaves a lot of room for error... until now.
Liverpool Hearing Centre is trialling a different approach. What is we could loan everyone a special pair of hearing aids that could perform at any level? What if there was a way to try anything from the lowest cost, most basic device to the latest, most expensive, multi-featured hearing aids in the world before paying a single penny? Well, at Liverpool Hearing Centre, that's exactly what we do!
We initially loan the hearing aids to our patients on a 4 week trial basis to go about their everyday lives. During this time the hearing aid measures every single environment encountered and records all the features that are used and the level they are used at. Arriving back at Liverpool Hearing Centre for a 2 week mid-trial appointment, that data can be analysed by the audiologist's software to suggest the exact hearing aids that would be suitable for that person and prevent the patient from over-spending on something that they may not need.
It may sound odd as a private independent retailer of hearing aids that we love our NHS. We love them so much that we have campaigned on their behalf via the British Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists to make sure that during these terrible times of government austerity that the audiology department hasn't had to cut its services by too much.
However, some hospitals have had no choice but to take measures to meet demands. These include cutting patient/ audiologist time or appointments completely, outsourcing to the private sector but paying peanuts, only fitting patients when their hearing is 'bad enough', only fitting one hearing aid where two are necessary and fitting cheaper hearing aids that are way behind modern technology. Let it be said though that there are some magnificent audiology departments, audiologists and hearing care assistants in hospitals and on the high street doing some sterling work.
Two of our audiologists have both worked in NHS audiology departments in the past and comment that there are good and bad departments, but the quality of the technology available to them on the private side is vastly superior. Here are just some of the differences:
There are at any one time around 700 different types of hearing aids made by a number of manufacturers around the world. It's a private audiologist's main job to help you select the right ones for you. The NHS may give you a small selection of possibly up to three models but you're more likely to get what you're given.
Once selected, it will now need customising and tailoring for your individual hearing which is personal to you as your fingerprint, and not everybody likes to hear things in the same way. The NHS generally allows you 45 minutes for a full hearing assessment and fitting of the hearing aid and the follow up appointment is often only a phone call these days. A good private hearing aid practice would probably spend about 90 minutes on the assessment alone, another 60 minutes on the fitting, and any number of 30-40 minute follow-up appointments to get the hearing aids precision tuned.
Not everybody wants to wear hearing aids behind their ears. These can be extremely difficult for older people to fit. Many people would like their hearing aids to be 'invisible'. In the ear hearing aids are generally not available on the NHS.