Hearing aid technology is evolving and hearing devices are now less noticeable, more customizable, and simply work better. With so many types of hearing aids on the market how do you know which one is best for you?
There are many questions to consider when deciding which of the latest hearing aids is right for you. It is important to know your options. Talk to your audiologist about how you can find your perfect fit.
How Do Hearing Aids Work?
Before we get into the specifics, you may need a refresher on how hearing aids actually work! All hearing aids use the same basic parts to deliver sounds from your environment to your ear and amplify them. They all have three critical components: microphones that gather sounds from your surroundings; a computer chip that converts sound to digital code; and speakers that amplify the sound so you can hear it.
While these components stay the same, the style and functionality of each type of hearing aid differs, and choosing one is a personal choice based on your needs.
Types of Hearing Aids
The latest hearing aids range greatly in price, size, style and features. Growth in hearing aid technology has led to less noticeable devices. It is important to understand the different devices and consult a trusted professional about which works for you and gives you the best results. Here are the pros and cons of each type of hearing aid:
Completely in the Canal (CIC) or mini CIC
These hearing devices house the entire product and technology in one unit that fits deep and directly into your ear canal.
Pros: barely visible, minimal feedback when used with a phone, and low sensitivity to wind noise.
Cons: too small to have directional microphone, ear can feel plugged unless aid is vented, susceptible to wax buildup, physical comfort, and battery life is short.
In the Canal (ITC)
Similar to a CIC model, this device houses the receiver in the ear canal, but includes a slightly larger electronics casing and microphone just outside the canal.
Pros: barely visible, produces a less plugged-up feeling, and due to the larger size they can include a directional microphone.
Cons: discomfort is an issue for some; they are susceptible to moisture and wax buildup, and the battery life is short.
In the Ear (ITE)
ITE hearing aids are more traditional, everything is included in once case that rests in the outer ear.
Pros: more room for features (i.e., directional mic, telecoil, wireless streaming), easy to insert, and less plugged-up feeling.
Cons: more visible than other aids, fuller feeling since they fill the entire outer concha area and they may not be as powerful as BTE devices.
Behind the Ear (BTE)
This group of aids holds all the electronic components in a light-weight case behind the ear. A tube connects the case to the earmold that is worn inside the ear.
Pros: great low and high-frequency amplification, ideal for those with severe hearing loss. They have flexible features, simple controls, and longer battery life.
Cons: some earmolds are visible, and may require tubing changes. Some people feel the overall size is a limitation.
Receiver in Canal (RIC) or Ear (RITE)
This hearing aid fits behind the ear with a thin wire and either a soft tip or custom earmold inside the ear canal. The speaker rests right inside the ear canal.
Pros: comfortable, barely visible, easy to use, more natural quality, good high frequency sound delivery into the ear canal and the open fit often prevents a plugged-up feeling.
Cons: Wax and moisture buildup can shorten the speaker lifespan. Also it has reduced amplification in low frequencies unless a custom earmold is utilized.
Extended-Wear Hearing Aids
These hearing aids fit deep in the ear canal, and are designed to be worn continuously, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for several months at a time. You can wear the device during daily activities, like exercising, showering, talking on the phone, and sleeping. These hearing aids are purchased on a yearly subscription basis. The audiologist replaces the device(s) in the clinic approximately every 120 days. This removes the need to change batteries and perform daily maintenance. The ideal extended-wear candidate is an individual with mild to moderate hearing loss who enjoys an active lifestyle. Our audiologists can determine whether you are a good candidate for extended-wear hearing aids.
Most Important Features
The most important feature described by over 70 percent of people who wear hearing aids is the option of multiple settings. This allows people to adjust their device based on their environment and in some cases more advanced hearing aids do this automatically. Some other features you can look for in the latest hearing aids are:
- Automatic noise level adjustment
- Speech Enhancement
- Directional Microphone – this helps make sounds right in front of you louder than behind or beside you—perfect for conversations in a loud room.
- Feedback Suppression – helps to stop high-pitched whistling sounds
- Digital Noise Reduction
- Low battery indicator sounds
- Wireless connectivity
- Memory of listening preferences
- Bluetooth connectivity
Book an appointment with a doctoral-level audiologist at Associated Audiologists to find out about the features you should consider for your lifestyle, budget, and hearing needs.