Hearing Aid Technology Levels — an Explanation

Hearing aids come in various styles, each of which are appropriate for different types and severities of hearing loss. Style selection is generally driven by a combination of the patient’s priorities and the device’s ability to appropriately aid the hearing loss. In addition to selecting a device style, you and your provider must also select the technology level of the device. 

Regardless of the style of the device, each hearing aid has a technology level associated with the processing chip inside the device itself. Each manufacturer has different tiers of technology. Depending on the manufacturer, there are generally between three and five technology tiers. Each drop down in technology level removes certain features and customizations from your hearing healthcare provider when programming the device. It can also take away some of the automatic functioning of the device while you are wearing the hearing aid. In general, a higher technology level results in more features, customizations, and automatic adaptations of the device. Dropping down in technology level does not guarantee a decrease in performance, but it does create the potential of leaving some benefit on the table. 

With all that said, how do you choose a technology level that is right for you? Your hearing healthcare provider should obtain information about many different listening situations in your daily life to determine where and when you encounter the most difficulty. There should be a discussion about your lifestyle to ensure the style and technology level of the device will be able to accommodate your needs. For someone who is active, working, or is frequently in group situations, they may need the automatic adaptations available in top tier technology. For someone who tends to stay home, has very few daily interactions, or is rarely in background noise, they may obtain enough benefit from a lower technology tier. Your expectations for the device should align with the technology level of the device. Though your hearing healthcare provider should do everything in their power to optimize the devices to best meet your needs, they are bound to the limitations of the technology level. 

Because life can change rapidly, your lifestyle today may not be the same next month or next year. This can lead to a mismatch between the expectations of the device and the   real-world performance of the device. For this reason, it is recommended to all patients that you proceed with the highest level of technology you can reasonably afford. If you cannot afford it, that should be the only reason to drop in technology level. It is your hearing healthcare provider’s job to optimize the devices to perform as well as they can within the limitations of the devices. Most audiologists would agree that while we may prefer to work with devices that have every feature and customization available, it is our mission to optimize the performance of whatever tool you choose to best meet your needs. 

Remember, it doesn’t matter if you have the newest, most expensive hearing aids in the world. If they are not programmed correctly and verified to meet the needs of your particular hearing loss, they will not work well. In order for hearing treatment to be the most effective, you must seek out a hearing care professional who diligently follows best practices. If you are unsure what constitutes audiological best practices, be sure to watch this video from Dr. Cliff Olson. Then you can download the Best Practices Checklist, which you can bring to your next hearing care appointment. You can also visit HearingUp.com to find a Best Practices Provider near you by utilizing the Find a Provider tool. 

Our Hearing Aid Buyer's Guide

This information and more is included in Dr. Cliff's Guide to Buying Hearing Aids. This free resource includes information on different features, styles and the latest models.

Dr. Cliff's Pros and Cons for



Kelsey Beck
Audiology Resident

Kelsey Beck is an audiology resident at Applied Hearing Solutions in Phoenix, Arizona. She is completing her final year of her Doctor of Audiology program at Arizona State University. Kelsey is dedicated to providing high-quality education and best practice care to her patients and community. In her spare time, Kelsey is also an avid musical theatre and San Francisco Giants fan.

Audiology Resident

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