Profound hearing loss is a condition that sits between two worlds of experience. Officially classified above the 90 decibel range, people with profound hearing loss are frequently (and officially) considered to be deaf. That makes a good deal of sense, as people with a profound hearing loss are usually unable to hear all or most sounds.
That means in many cases, they are candidates not so much for hearing aids (at least, as those with more moderate hearing loss understand them), but for the likes of cochlear implants, which constitute a rather more hardcore procedure than a simple hearing test.
Many people with a profound hearing loss also identify as deaf, and do not use any artificial aid to boost their hearing, preferring to go with the options of sign, lip-reading and subtitles that form a large part of the communication platform deaf people use to interpret the world.
That said, there are hearing aids that may be able to help people with profound hearing loss to get a significantly better appreciation of the aural environment. They are just significantly different to the aids used by people with mild or even severe hearing loss - and they tend to be rather more specifically addressed to the individual needs of the user.
That gives us a rather unusual disclaimer to make at the start of this article. Your mileage on hearing aids for profound hearing loss will, beyond almost any shadow of doubt, vary.
What we’re aiming for here is to give you an overview of some of the latest aids available for people with profound hearing loss, to give you a kind of “state of the art” idea from which to base your own explorations into the aids that might be of most personal use to you.
So, what makes a good hearing aid for people with a profound hearing loss?
Gain, baby. It’s almost all about the gain.
Gain is a radical “turning up” or amplification of the available sound waves for the person with the profound hearing loss. The trouble with this is that usually, with increased gain comes increased distortion or feedback. In the event that the aid actually does the job, turning up the gain without minimizing the distortion or feedback is not so much a hearing aid as a cruel and unusual punishment. Everyone understands what feedback is – it’s, for example, the shrill whistle you get when a signal you’re aiming to hear is way off. Imagine that with the volume turned up and pumped into your head and the point becomes immediately clear.
The best aid for people with profound hearing loss will help the user, for instance, discriminate speech sounds – not only where they come from, but their ‘flavor’ – an “Ooh” from a “Stood” from a “wood,” etc, to help turn lip-reading into something that includes a person’s mental vocabulary and helps translate spoken sounds faster.
So, any aid that boosts the gain, minimizes the feedback, and helps deliver clarity of sound is likely to be among the best hearing aids for profound hearing loss.
OUR TOP PICK
The behind-the-ear (BTE) ENZO Q hearing aid from ReSound gets our vote as the best of the hearing aids available for people with profound hearing loss.
Using both a multi mic and a micro mic it helps boost the gain on both general noise and specific speech sounds, without letting feedback become a problem. That means it can deliver clear sound that’s comfortable to receive and helpful in interpreting the sound signals into intelligible speech.
The combination rounds out the potentially unpleasant or disorienting elements that come with a boosted high-gain sound signal, so the aid is never working against its wearer, but always aiming to give them sounds that can be useful.
Added to that, it’s pretty switched on in terms of its technology. It has both connection and direct streaming options to a range of other devices, from smartphones (Android and Apple), to TVs, and even to any cochlear implants the user might have.
An easy control app for phones makes controlling the settings of the aid simplicity itself. With a telecoil fitted as standard and options for users with tinnitus, it’s an all-rounder hearing aid for profound deafness that offers a lot for its price.
If there’s a downside to the ENZO Q, it’s that it hasn’t kept up with the latest in battery technology, because it uses old-style, less green, disposable batteries rather than rechargeable ones. But overall, that’s a small nit to pick in an otherwise impressive hearing aid.
- A combination of mics boosts gain without increasing noticeable feedback
- It has options to work around tinnitus
- It can connect to a whole range of technology – including cochlear implants
- A simple app makes it easy to change the settings on the aid
- It uses disposable, rather than rechargeable, batteries
The Phonak Naida Marvel 90 is another BTE hearing aid, but its approach is slightly different to the ReSound offering. It can connect directly to an external microphone. That means it can boost the sound amplification of particular voices even in a noisy environment or at some distance. That allows for a degree of conciseness in what is picked up and usefully magnifies against a heavy noise floor or over a challenging distance environment.
The Naida Marvel comes in two variants – the Naida Marvel or the Naida Link M – the latter of which is compatible with cochlear implants.
Because it connects directly to an external microphone, it has no need of an external receiver – it’s a different approach, but it’s one that can work well for people with a profound hearing loss.
You won’t be surprised to learn it can work with other devices like smartphones and TVs. Where it goes above and beyond – aside from the unusual approach to sound amplification in a world of receiver-based hearing aids – is in some of the options it includes.
Naturally, there’s an app to control the settings on the hearing aid. But it also comes with an app to turn calls to text, just in case you’re struggling to get the words of a caller distinctly interpreted.
An additional remote control separate from the app gives you options on controlling your hearing aid.
Also, unlike many hearing aids, the Naida allows you to get real-time video support in the event you need it.
Like the ReSound, it has options for those who also suffer from tinnitus. But also unlike our list-leading hearing aid, it’s powered by disposable, rather than rechargeable batteries, which amount to more expense over time and are significantly less eco-friendly.
- It uses an unusual approach and an external microphone to deliver distinct sounds in noisy or distance-challenged environments
- It includes a call-to-text app as an extra aid for smooth phone calls
- It allows you to access real-time video support in the event of anything going wrong with the aids
- It includes options for those who suffer with tinnitus
- Again, the main issue with the Naida hearing aid is that it still sues disposable, rather than rechargeable, batteries
There’s a notion, built into both karmic, religious, and capitalistic systems, that states that you’re never given more to handle than you can cope with.
It is of course a notion clearly nonsensical in nature, and that fact is rarely clearer than when you have a medical condition that needs treatment or attenuation within a free market. If you have a profound hearing loss, the universe doesn’t magically give you the thousands of dollars you need for the hottest, high-tech hearing aids available.
That’s why options like the Oticon Xceed 3 are so useful – they give you an impressive degree of assistance without starving you to death or taking every last scrap of your rainy day fund.
Built on Oticon’s Velox platform, the Xceed 3 can give you a great deal more gain without the corresponding rise in interference or feedback. Like the Naida Marvel, it comes in two power versions, the BTE Super Power, with a 13 battery or the BTE Ultra Power, with a 675 battery.
Like the other aids we’ve looked at so far, it can connect to your smartphone for direct call streaming, though at the time of writing, the Oticon only connected to iPhones, rather than Androids – a point worth noting before you buy. It has an adaptor to stream TV sound directly to the aid, a separate remote control, and an easy-to-use app to change the settings on the aid.
Also like those placed higher on the list, it uses disposable, rather than rechargeable batteries.
The important thing to keep in mind about all of this is that it puts up a pretty even-matched fight, while being available for significantly less money than many on our list. So if you’re determined not to let profound hearing loss slow you down, but you don’t have the mega-dollars you need for the high-end, swish-as-all-get-out hearing aids, the Oticon Xceed 3 may well have your name on it.
- It offers a lot of what more highly-priced hearing aids do, but at a fraction of the cost
- It delivers a surprising gain in sound, while minimizing feedback
- It includes an adaptor to stream TV sound
- It includes a separate remote control and an app to help fine-tune the hearing aids’ settings
- Like others on the list, it depends on disposable, rather than rechargeable batteries
- At present, it’s only compatible with iPhones, rather than both iPhones and Androids
Siemens is a company with a very strong reputation in all areas of electronics, but especially those areas dealing with signals and sound waves.
That makes it an unlikely player in the hearing aid market, but actually a highly skilled one when it gets down to engineering solutions to existing and understood problems, like the needs of people with a profound hearing loss.
The Nitro BTE hearing aid uses Siemens’ BestSound technology, that minimizes battery consumption, and uses wireless connectivity to deliver significant improvements to speech intelligibility. Adding feedback cancellation technology to the mix and offering options for those who suffer from tinnitus, it’s an impressive aid from what is at first an unlikely source.
Where you really feel the Siemens difference is in the bouquet of additional technological elements that speak of a solution over-engineered to the point of geekery, but all in the service of making a better hearing aid.
Elements like a wind cancellation algorithm, a sub-system that learns your preferred settings, and data logging, so your audiologist can make use of any real-time information on your hearing aid use make for a very geeky but pretty cool hearing aid.
If there’s anything to warn against about the Siemens Nitro, it’s that the technology is ageing fast, and there may well be upgraded versions coming in the near future, so you might just possibly want to hang on until the newest version is announced if you’re determined to go down the Siemens route.
- It delivers feedback cancellation, allowing for more crisp speech intelligibility
- It includes data logging, to help your audiologist refine your data
- It has systems that allow for maximum speech clarity, like a wind-cancellation algorithm
- It may be superseded by a newer version imminently, which would leave you stuck with older technology
We know – but hear us out. If Oticon was a great option for budget-friendly high-power, low-feedback hearing aids for people with profound hearing loss, the Philips BTE PP is the option below the Oticon in the budget scales.
Weirdly perhaps, the Philips hearing aids are made by Demant – the parent company that’s also behind the Oticon aids. But the Philips aids are based on Philips HearLink technology, which prioritizes speech intelligibility in crowded, multi-source noise environments.
Using directional microphones, the Philips aids also meet the main standard for modern hearing aids, which is connectivity with smartphones – though as with the Oticon aids, as yet this is only true with iPhones. So you can use your Philips aids with your phone to help boost the volume and the intelligibility of speech sounds
As you might expect by now, Philips uses disposable, rather than rechargeable batteries for its powerful hearing aids. And if you’re looking for a unique selling feature, the Philips aids are available at Costco – so you’re pretty certain of being within rock-slinging distance of someone who can offer your in-person support in the event that your aids go wrong.
- The Philips hearing aids excel in high-noise, multi-source environments
- They’re relatively affordable, and available at Costco
- You can easily get in-person advice and support if you’re in most American large towns or cities
- They’re only compatible with iPhones, rather than with both iPhones and Androids
Best Hearing Aids For Profound Hearing Loss Buying Guide
As we mentioned at the start, a buyer’s guide for hearing aids for people with profound hearing loss can only touch on some basics.
Your needs from your hearing aids will be specific to you – whether you need them to be able to work with cochlear implants, for instance, or whether they need to excel in high-noise environments. But in general terms, there are some things to look out for.
If you’re looking for hearing aids for profound hearing loss, the strong likelihood is that one of the things you need most is a boosted gain, to make sounds both louder and more intelligible.
Any aids that specialize in making speech sounds more intelligible are likely to help you, as this can be an area that is especially challenging.
Fight the feedback
Similarly, the facts of physics are that usually when you turn up the gain on a sound signal, the feedback or interference rises along with it, to the point of negating any positive effects.
If you can get hearing aids that actively fight or suppress the rise in feedback that comes with increased gain, you’re on to a relative winner, and they deserve further investigation.
If you can get aids that make your life easier by connecting to other modern technologies, and the manufacturers don’t charge the earth for those extra touches, go for them.
Connecting to smartphones is pretty much standard (though you might be surprised that some specify the kinds of smartphones they connect to), as is TV streaming. Any extras like an app that turns call speech into text for a back-up, or data logging to help your audiologist get a better picture of your hearing aid use, are pure gravy, worth getting if you can.
Let’s not kid ourselves here – the money to pay for advanced super-duper hearing aids is sometimes difficult to square with everything else we need to do, like making house payments, car payments, etc. Be realistic about the aids you can afford and weigh up how much difference you feel they will make to your life. Then – buy accordingly.
Frequently Asked Questions
1.What counts as profound hearing loss?
Usually, profound hearing loss means you can hear very few or none of the sounds coming at you. It’s defined as being able to hear little or no sounds at 90 decibels.
2.What’s special about hearing aids for profound hearing loss?
There are likely to be fewer out-of-the-box solutions for profound hearing loss than there are for mild or even severe hearing loss. Hearing aids for profound hearing loss tend to be more powerful, and based on the fundamental balancing act of increasing the gain and reducing any subsequent feedback.
3.What’s a BTE hearing aid for profound hearing loss?
BTE simply means “Behind-the-ear,” and refers to the position of the main receiver or microphone. Hearing aids for profound hearing loss tend to be limited to either BTE or RIC (Receiver-in-canal) types.