Advances in hearing aid design and technology mean more and better choices for consumers, says the October issue of Mayo Clinic Women’s HealthSource, which covers the pros and cons of various styles—from those that are barely noticeable to others that resemble the latest phones and come in stylish colors.

Most of today’s hearing aids work by providing more amplification for soft sounds and less amplification for loud sounds, making soft and average conversational speech loud enough to hear, according to a statement from the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Digital technology allows for smaller hearing aids that can be programmed and adjusted to better match an individual’s unique hearing loss, usually with better sound quality, less feedback (squealing) and better noise reduction, it says.

In general, the smaller the hearing aid, the less powerful and flexible it is and the shorter its battery life, says the statement. For hearing aids that tuck completely in the ear canal, the battery life is 3 to 5 days, and for styles that are larger, batteries last up to 2 weeks, it says, noting that because each situation is unique, an individual may not be a candidate for all styles and types of hearing aids.

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Mayo Clinic Women’s HealthSource offers these tips for buying a hearing aid:

Start with an audiologist: This hearing specialist will conduct a thorough evaluation for various tones and words and suggest the most appropriate type of hearing aid.

Understand the adjustment period: Most states require a 30- to 45-day adjustment period to allow time for rechecks with an audiologist and any needed reprogramming in the hearing aid. During this time, hearing aids can be returned. When hearing aids are returned, patients are typically still charged a fee for fitting.

Check the warranty: It should cover parts, maintenance, and repairs for a specified time.

Beware of misleading claims: Hearing aids can’t restore perfect hearing or eliminate all background noises. Free consultations may not be the source of unbiased advice, especially when the provider is selling only one brand of hearing aid.

Plan for the expense: Medicare doesn’t pay for hearing aids. Some insurers pay for part or all of the cost. Costs can vary considerably, up to several thousand dollars.

Allow adjustment time: It takes time, patience and practice to get used to wearing a hearing aid.

[Source: Mayo Clinic Women’s HealthSource]