If you find yourself asking people to repeat themselves a lot or routinely pushing your volume over 60% just to hear it, you may be wondering if your hearing is as good as it used to be. Hearing commonly deteriorates as people get older and have been exposed to loud sounds over the course of their lifetime. While modern medicine can't yet reverse hearing loss, with the use of a hearing aid, you can continue to listen to the detailed sounds.
What are Hearing Aids?
Hearing aids are a small medical device that helps individuals with hearing loss. There are hearing aid styles that go in the inner ear canal (ITC/CIC), fit in the outer ear (ITE) or rest behind the outside of the ear (BTE), and they primarily consist of a small microphone, an amplifier, a small speaker, and a battery.
What are the best hearing aids?
When choosing between hearing aid technologies, the first step should always be to consult with your ear, nose and throat (ENT) and audiology doctor. They will be able to measure what type of hearing loss you have, whether you have moderate hearing loss or severe hearing loss, and advise whether you need a speaker/receiver-in-canal for better hearing.
Who needs hearing aids?
Hearing aids are predominantly for use by people with profound hearing loss and should not be used by people with moderate or minorly deteriorated hearing because they are the equivalent of putting a powerful speaker directly into your ear. Consult with a hearing care professional to determine what hearing device is safe for your level of hearing loss.
Buy hearing aids at Sam's Club
Once you know what your audiologist recommends, check Sam's Club for members-only prices for new hearing aids including CIC, ITC, ITE, BTE and mini-BTE styles.
What Different Types of Hearing Aids Are There?
We've briefly mentioned each main type of hearing aid, but let's take an extra second to discuss them.
In-ear hearing aids
In-the-ear hearing aids are less visible than behind the ear hearing aids. However many models come in a fully manufactured shape so they are not available for a custom earmold receiver. These hearing aids come in three main styles:
Completely-in-the-Canal (CIC) means the entire microphone, amplifier, speaker and battery are in a device that sits hidden in your ear canal. In the canal hearing aids are the least visible type of hearing aid, but the small size means it only has a general microphone instead of a directional microphone. Also, some may have issues with discomfort and earwax; Sam's Club carries no-wax options like the GHI Simply Slim.
In-the-Canal (ITC) devices usually have the microphone, amplifier and battery portion of the electronic device resting accessible in the bowl of the outer ear, with a small protrusion extending the speaker/receiver snuggly into the ear canal.
In-the-Ear (ITE) devices have all of the microphone, amplifier, receiver and battery in a unit that does not extend down and into the ear canal. With nothing in the canal, your ear feels less pressurized. The larger design also allows for better directional microphones and telecoils which can detect a secondary speaker near the ear, such as cell phones.
Behind the ear hearing aids
Behind the ear hearing aids (BTE) are the most common design for hearing aid wearers. Their larger designs can include better directional microphones, a wider range of sound amplification and longer-life batteries, all sitting in a device that slings over the back of the ear. With these, you still get an option about where the speaker/receiver goes by choosing between a traditional RITA BTE or a Mini-BTE with RITE or RIC:
Receiver-in-the-Aid (RITA) means the speaker is in the device behind the ear, and the sound waves run down a small tube into an earmold custom shaped for the wearer.
Receiver-in-the-Ear (RITE) means the speaker is in the bowl of the ear, connected by a wire to the amplifier in the behind-the-ear unit.
Receiver-in-the-Canal (RIC) this is roughly the same as a RITE, except the speaker is directly the ear canal. The more concealed-size often comes with a sacrifice in sound quality.
Analog vs. Digital
While most analog hearing aids consist of just a speaker, amplifier and receiver, newer digital hearing aids include small computers. Some of these devices have preset modes for different environments, can eliminate background noise, connect to smartphones, and offer Bluetooth phone calls and volume control.
What Sizes of Hearing Aids Can I Choose?
Completely-in-the-canal devices can be smaller than a dime, while BTE models are larger but offer greater features and battery life. Before focusing on size, see if your local Sam's Club has a hearing healthcare center where you can get tested for the hearing aid you need. Once you agree on what is the right hearing aid for you, get measured and fitted. Ask if a custom earmold can be tailored for maximum comfort.
What to Consider when Buying Hearing Aids
Hearing test to validate you need hearing aids
While many hearing aids are available over the counter, the National Institute of Health doesn't want people just buying them without getting tested. Someone with only minor or moderate hearing conditions could further damage their hearing with a hearing aid, and should seek lesser options like personal amplification devices. Get tested by an audiologist.
Because all hearing aids are doing similar tasks, generally speaking, the smaller the hearing aid - the smaller the battery, which means the shorter the battery life. A small, concealed CIC battery might need to be changed out every three days. While a larger BTE hearing aid might last two to three weeks. Whatever you choose, make sure to stock up on hearing aid batteries at Sam's Club or SamsClub.com
What types of fit are comfortable for you?
Will you prefer the device pressed snug in your ear? Or resting on the bowl? Or draped over the back of your ear? Each fit provides its own comforts and discomforts, and the best way to determine your preference is to feel them out.
Health insurance coverage
Once you've spoken to an audiologist covered by your insurance, ask what devices would be covered as well.
When considering price, factor in your insurance coverage, who you're buying from, and how many batteries you're going to go through - along with whether you can buy those batteries in bulk.
What Brands of Hearing Aids Does Sam's Club Sell?
Sam's Club offers members-only prices on hearing aids from GHI and Liberty and bulk packs of hearing aid batteries from Duracell.
FAQ - Hearing Aids
Does health insurance cover hearing aids?
Not all American states require health insurance to cover hearing aids, so check your plan.
Does Medicare cover hearing aids?
Most of Medicare does not cover hearing issues or devices, but Medicare part B does cover hearing exams for recent injuries or conditions.
Does Medicaid cover hearing aids?
This too depends on what state you are living in. Check with your state's Medicaid details.
How much do hearing aids cost?
With Sam's Club members-only prices, you can get a hearing aid starting around $350.
How do hearing aids work?
Hearing aids use a microphone to capture sound, an amplifier to raise its volume, and a receiver to put the amplified sound waves into your ear.
How long do hearing aid batteries last?
They can last between 3 days and 3 weeks, depending on the size and device using them.