Types of Hearing Aids
Choosing the right hearing aid is a big decision. Once you’ve got it, you have to live with it – or else try a different aid and incur additional expense. Knowing what types of hearing aid are available and what factors to be on the lookout for will help you to make an informed decision that suits your specific situation.
Before we begin, you should know that a hearing aid can’t return your hearing to ‘normal’. What it will do is to amplify important sounds and help to filter out background sounds that could interfere with it.
The parts are all pretty much the same, but hearing aids vary in the way they are worn and various sizes and special features are available. You’ll also find a wide variation in prices, but if you decide a hearing aid is right for you, you should value your personal preference above the cost.
Because size matters when it comes to hearing aids, this article will list the various styles beginning with the smallest and working up to the larger variants. However, although size is an important cosmetic consideration, smaller aids are less powerful and may not work as well. Get advice from your hearing practitioner if you are hoping to use one of the smaller types.
Completely in the Canal (CIC) or mini CIC hearing aids
This type of hearing aid is the least visible because it fits into the ear canal with no external parts. However, it is only suitable for those suffering from mild or moderate hearing loss. Apart from the cosmetic benefits of a small hearing aid, the placement of this device ensures that it won’t pick up large amounts of wind disturbance – an irritation for many hearing aid wearers. On the downside, you can’t adjust the volume or use a directional mic to zero in on sounds around you. It can also get blocked up with earwax.
In the canal (ITC) hearing aids
Instead of fitting completely into the ear canal, this type of hearing aid fits so that is partially in the ear canal. It’s still not all that visible and it has a few advantages over its smaller cousin. Once again, this type of hearing aid is only suitable for those with mild or moderate hearing impairment. You will be able to make some adjustments such as volume setting adjustments, but because your hearing aid is so small, this can be a tricky process. Earwax clogging can be a problem with this type of hearing aid.
In the Ear (ITE) hearing aids
There are two styles of ITE hearing aids. They fit into the outer part of the ear and are molded as either full shell hearing aids that fill up the outer ear or half shell hearing aids that don’t fill up the whole of the outer ear. This is the smallest hearing aid variant that will work for those with severe hearing loss. There are several advantages in choosing this still relatively inconspicuous type of device. Volume control and directional mics are fitted and are relatively easy to adjust, fitting the aid into the ear is easy, and there is room for stronger batteries that last a lot longer. On the downside, you may hear more wind interference, you still have the earwax problem and it is a lot easier for other people to spot.
Behind the ear hearing aids
This is the classic hearing aid that fits into the ear and has a tube connecting it to the electronics of the hearing aid itself. This portion of the hearing aid rests behind the ear and is relatively visible compared to the devices already discussed. However, it works for just about any type of hearing impairment and although it is the largest type, new designs have come up with less obtrusive designs to the ones we saw a few years ago. You’ll get better amplification, but you will pick up more wind noise.
Receiver in canal or receiver in the ear hearing aids
These hearing aids are very similar in appearance to the behind the ear types, but they are connected up with a tiny wire instead of the more obvious tubing making the behind the ear components less obvious. Unfortunately, placing the receiver in the canal once again opens it up to clogging.
Open fit hearing aids
This is the least visible of the hearing aids that include a behind the ear component. It helps to keep the ear open allowing low frequencies to pass through and be heard while higher frequencies are amplified by the hearing aid. The major advantage is that your own voice doesn’t sound odd to you, but the parts are really small, and adjustment is difficult.