New consumer guide provides easy-to-understand overview of hearing aid features

It can be difficult for people to navigate and understand different hearing aid features. The NALguide empowers hearing aid users to better understand the vast landscape of hearing technology available.

In August of this year, the National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL) released a new consumer guide to hearing aid technology features, titled “NALguide: Hearing Aid Features Explained”.

NALguide provides an overview of the many hearing aid features available and helps make otherwise complex technologies easier to explain and understand. We hope this guide becomes a useful tool in clinical practice to further facilitate clear and meaningful discussion between hearing care professionals and their patients. The guide makes it easy to note important features as they are discussed or considered (with a hard copy this can be done through tick boxes or circling), and allows a hearing aid user to recall and revisit key features and discussion points at a later time.

This project was undertaken to help hearing aid users and the general public understand the vast and often overwhelming landscape of hearing aid technology available in today’s hearing device market.

The guide is presented from the perspective of consumer listening needs and assists individuals who are interested in exploring hearing aid features on their own or discussing them with a hearing care professional, friends, and family.

5 facts about the NALguide

  1. Developed through a scoping review
    NALguide was developed through a scoping review conducted by a team of NAL audiologists and engineers. This review involved capturing each feature listed or described in publicly available data sheets, documents or publications from all major hearing aid manufacturers, across different technology levels in their portfolios.
  2. Adapted following input from the hearing industry
    The guide was then adapted following input from the hearing industry peak body, The Hearing Aid Manufacturers and Distributers Association of Australia (HAMADAA) and consumer peak body Deafness Forum, along with associate members. The end product is a user-friendly guide organised into overarching categories of technological purpose, which then lead to families of hearing aid technologies. These categories further lead to detailed descriptions of specific features.
  3. Designed to be accessible and easily understood
    Brief definitions and descriptors accompany each entry to provide a clear understanding of the technology and potential benefits without relying on jargon or technical terms. In short, NALguide is designed to be accessible and easily understood by the general public and allied health professionals who want to understand and discuss hearing aid technology.
  4. Communicates no preference or bias  
    This guide was carefully consolidated and compiled from a wide range of publicly available sources and refined to communicate no preference or bias toward a certain feature, technology level, or manufacturer. NALguide serves to empower hearing aid users and other stakeholders to better understand and discuss hearing aid technology. and, ultimately, to achieve the best outcomes for their individual needs.
  5. Groups features highlighting intended purpose
    The intention of this approach was to capture and then map the features that are currently most fundamental and commonly available as well as the more advanced, latest, and niche features available across manufacturers. The features were then grouped together by feature families, highlighting intended purpose underlying the technology and how features may address a person’s hearing goals.

With information available from such a wide array of sources, it can often be difficult to navigate and understand these technologies and features, especially when a person finds themselves evaluating opinions, reviews, forums and marketing materials. We aim for this guide to remain a relevant resource that evolves with changes in hearing aid trends and ever-improving technologies.

NALguide is accessible as a downloadable PDF as well as an interactive webpage on the NAL website which provides more detailed information. Printed booklets will also be available as a resource for hearing clinics, medical practices, and pharmacies.

Website: NALguide: Hearing Aid Features Explained – NAL

PDF: NALguide: Hearing aid features explained

This work was undertaken with support from and in consultation with the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care, the Hearing Aid Manufacturers and Distributors Association of Australia, and Deafness Forum Australia.

Project Lead: 

Dr Paola Incerti, Senior Research Audiologist 

NAL Project Team: 

Taegan Young, Research Audiologist 

James Galloway, Research Engineer 

Jason Gavrilis, Research Audiologist 

Matthew Croteau, Audiologist 

Sanna Hou, Research Audiologist  

Jennifer Clemensha, Research Audiologist 

Dr Megan Gilliver, Research Scientist 

Dr Jorge Mejia, Head of Signal Processing 

Research Area Lead: 

Dr Padraig Kitterick, Head of Audiological Sciences 

Executive Sponsor: 

Dr Brent Edwards, NAL Director