To me the answer seems obvious: the one you’ll wear because it’s comfortable and it sounds good. But over and over I hear people say, “My friend wears this hearing aid. I want it.” Really? Don’t you wonder why there are six class A hearing technology manufacturers and more than twenty-six class B manufacturers…there must be a reason. And if there is a reason, how can you be sure your friend’s hearing device is the best one for you?
Sounds are characterized by pitch, loudness, and sound quality. Pitch is the psychological perception of sound. Loudness is our perception to the intensity of a sound. The ratio between the softest sound we can detect and the loudest sound we hear is 1,000,000,000,000:1. That is a considerable range. It is one reason why so much research goes into producing a new hearing aid.
Everyone’s brain responds to sound differently. Do you remember the sound of a fingernail scratching a chalkboard? To one person this sound sends shivers along the skin and to another person this sound does not affect them. For me, I don’t mind the fingernail sound; but, if someone whistles a tune or a tone, I’m immediately furious. Why doesn’t everyone dislike whistling? The answer is called psychoacoustics which is an individual’s emotional response to sound.
The study of psychoacoustics is important to the research and development of new hearing technology. Psychoacoustics is the reason each hearing aid manufacturer has a philosophy on how to shape and amplify sound. Each manufacturer is correct with their philosophy, but only if their sound is matched with your brain’s preference for sound. Each manufacturer has developed a proprietary signal processing scheme based on psychoacoustic ideas and models. There is no bad manufacturer of hearing aids. You either like or dislike your hearing aids and the reason is often related to psychoacoustics. If you do not like yours, it is likely due to a mismatch between your brain and the shape of the aid’s sound from that manufacturer. This is also why your friend may love his/hers, but when you tried the same one, you did not like it.
If you have questions about psychoacoustics or are concerned about the match between your brain’s sound preference and your hearing aids, the first step is to arrange an evaluation. Your audiologist and you will discuss your experiences with your hearing aids. If you have never worn hearing aids, then demos of different hearing aids can be provided to determine which sound best matches your brain’s hearing preference.