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types of hearing aids


Types of Hearing Aids

When selecting a hearing aid that is best for you, there are two main factors that you and your audiologist or Hearing Aid Specialist should consider:

Styles

There are several styles of hearing aids available. The selection of styles varies depending on a number of factors, including:

Behind-The-Ear (BTE)

The hearing aid sits behind the ear and attaches via a tube to an earmold in the ear. The earmold is custom-made for your ear.

Best for:

  • All types and degree of hearing loss

Pros:

  • Fits the widest range of hearing loss
  • Durable and easy to clean
  • Available in a variety of colours with transparent tubing
  • Longer battery life
  • Manual controls (e.g. volume) optional

Cons:

  • May be more visible
  • May interfere with eyeglasses

Open Fit Behind the Ear

This type of hearing aid sits behind the ear and is held in the ear canal by a tube with a small plastic dome. The plastic dome is not custom made but comes in different sizes depending on the size and shape of your ear canal. The “open- t” means that your ear canal is not completely blocked so natural sound can enter your ears along with amplified sound from the hearing aid.

Best for:

  • High-frequency hearing loss and mild to moderately severe hearing loss

Pros:

  • Smaller and less visible than a regular BTE
  • More “natural sounding” amplification

Cons:

  • Small size limits manual controls (e.g. volume)
  • Not suitable for more severe hearing loss

In-The-Ear (ITE)

The hearing aid electronics are housed within a custom-made hard plastic shell that fills the outer ear.

Best for:

  • Mild to severe hearing loss

Pros:

  • Easy to Insert
  • All one piece — no external parts or tubing

Cons:

  • More maintenance and repair due to ear- wax and moisture
  • May be more visible

In-The-Canal (ITC)

The hearing aid electronics are housed within a custom-made hard plastic shell that sits entirely in the ear canal.

Best for:

  • Mild to severe hearing loss

Pros:

  • Less visible than In-The-Ear aids
  • All one piece — no external parts or tubing

Cons:

  • More maintenance and repair due to ear- wax and moisture
  • Small size limits manual controls (e.g. volume)
  • Not suitable for more severe hearing loss

Completely-In-The-Canal (CIC)

The hearing aid electronics are housed within a custom-made hard plastic shell that sits entirely in the ear canal.

Best for:

  • Mild to moderately-severe hearing loss

Pros:

  • Less visible than In-The-Ear aids
  • All one piece — no external parts or tubing

Cons:

  • More maintenance and repair due to ear- wax and moisture
  • Shorter battery life because of small battery size
  • May not fit in certain ear canal shapes and sizes
  • Small size limits manual controls (e.g. volume)
  • Not suitable for more severe hearing loss

Technology Specifications

Once you and your audiologist or Hearing Aid Specialist have decided on a style of hearing aid, you must then discuss the technology, meaning the electronics inside the hearing aid.

Digital Hearing Aid Technology

Digital hearing aids use a small computer chip to process sound, which can be better adjusted for your specific hearing loss and listening preferences than analog hearing aids. Using special software and the results of your hearing test, an audiologist or Hearing Aid Specialist can customize the way the hearing aid processes sounds of different pitches (frequencies). Instead of making all frequencies louder, digital hearing aids will amplify some more than others, focusing on the sounds that you have more difficulty hearing. Digital hearing aid manufacturers offer several different models that can be roughly divided into 3 levels of technology:
  1. Advanced
  2. Mid-level
  3. Entry-level/Basic
These 3 digital technology levels are available in hearing aids of all styles, from BTE through CIC. Generally speaking, higher levels of technology offer more features within the hearing aid that could be helpful in difficult listening situations. If you have a very active social life, a busy work environment, or regular exposure to background noise, then more technologically advanced hearing aids may be right for you. On the other hand, if you lead a fairly quiet life and only need hearing aids to hear your spouse at home, or friends over coffee, then entry-level hearing aids may be sufficient. Regardless of the level of technology being used, most hearing aids perform well in quiet settings. The major advantage of mid-level or advanced hearing aid technology is improved hearing in noisy settings.

Hearing Aid Features

Digital hearing aids have many special features that make them easier to use and make listening more comfortable in different settings. Your hearing health professional will discuss these features with you and recommend those that are suitable for your hearing loss, lifestyle, and financial considerations. Common digital hearing aid features include:

Directional Microphones

Directional microphones reduce the sound coming from behind you while amplifying the sound in front of you. These are very helpful for improving speech understanding in noisy environments.

Noise Reduction

“Noise reduction” monitors the sounds around you and determines whether they are speech or noise. If the sounds are noise, the hearing aid will reduce them to make listening to speech more comfortable in that environment.

Feedback Reduction

Feedback reduction prevents or reduces the occurrence of whistling or squealing noises that hearing aids can make.

Wireless Communication

One hearing aid communicates wirelessly with the other.  When you adjust one hearing aid (for example, turn down the volume on your left hearing aid), the other one will adjust automatically as well.

Data-Logging

The hearing aid records how and when you use your hearing aids, as well as the different listening environments that you are exposed to on a day-to-day basis. This information can be used by your hearing health professional to further fine-tune and customize your hearing aids for your needs.

Bluetooth

A small adapter is paired with your Bluetooth device, which then allows you to hear your Bluetooth device directly through your hearing aids.

Multiple Memories

The hearing aid is initialized with more than one program for different listening situations or environments. The hearing aid user can push a button on the hearing aid, or use a remote control, to select the appropriate program for a given situation. For example, many people use different programs within their hearing aids for listening in noisy environments, quiet environments, and when listening to TV or music.
 
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