There are many types of hearing aids today and the type of hearing aid is dependent upon both the style chosen and technology chosen.
Styles of Hearing Aids
Hearing aids are available in many different sizes and styles thanks to advancements in digital technology, miniaturization of the digital electronic part and fresh focus on design among the hearing aid manufacturers. Many of today’s hearing aids are considered sleek, compact and innovative – offering solutions to a wide range of hearing aid wearers.
When selecting style the following is considered:
- The degree of the hearing loss (power requirements)
- Manual dexterity abilities
- Patient budget
Completely-In-the-Canal (CIC) – The smallest custom hearing aids made, CICs sit deeply and entirely inside the ear canal. They usually require a “removal string” due to their small size and the fact that they fit so deeply into the canal. They fit a mild to moderate hearing loss and offer high cosmetic appeal.
In-The-Canal (ITC) hearing aids sit in the lower portion of the outer ear’s bowl and are slightly larger than a CIC hearing aid. Because of their slightly larger size, they often have a longer battery life than CICs and come available with more options depending upon the size of ear. They fit mild to moderate hearing losses.
Half-Shell – The half shell model fills half of the bowl of the outer ear and like ITC hearing aids, they allow more options and longer battery life due to the larger size. This size is ideal for persons seeking a smaller hearing aid that may have potential dexterity concerns.
Full Shell or In-The-Ear (ITE) – The largest of the custom hearing aids made, full shell hearing aids fill up the entire bowl of the outer ear. This size allows the maximum number of controls and features and is able to fit mild to severe hearing losses.
Behind-the-Ear (BTE) Styles
Mini-BTE with slim tubes – This type of BTE is often referred to as an “open fit” hearing aid. The small miniature hearing aid sits behind the ear and transmits sound into the ear canal via a thin plastic tube. The tubing connects to a soft tip that sits in the ear canal but doesn’t occlude it. The result is a natural, open feeling as air and sound enter the ear naturally around the tip, while amplified sound enters through the tip. This style of BTE is recommended for mild to moderate high frequency losses and offers cosmetic appeal to the small size of the hearing aid.
Receiver-in-the-Ear (RITE) – RITE hearing aids, also known as Receiver-in-canal (RIC) models, are similar to the mini BTE however instead the speaker of the hearing aid sits inside the ear canal versus the main body of the hearing aid behind the ear. Although it looks like a mini BTE when worn on the ear, the RITE style fits a higher degree of hearing loss (mild to severe), while still providing the “open” fitting.
BTE with custom earmold – BTEs with custom earmolds fit the widest range of hearing loss, from mild to profound. They are slightly longer in shape and are contoured to sit nicely behind the ear for a sleek, compact look. This style of hearing aid typically offers a wide array of features and options, as well as more control and power than custom models. BTEs are connected to the ear canal via custom-made plastic tubing and earmold. The earmold color and style, as well as the wearer’s hairstyle will determine how this style looks on each person.
Hearing Aid Technology
A wide range of technology and a whole host of features are available in each hearing aid style. The cost of hearing aids generally depends on the technology and the number of features the instrument has, and not necessarily on the style selected.
Today’s digital hearing aids are typically offered in various levels such as basic or entry-level to advanced or premium-level. Within each level, different technology and features are available.
Basic digital hearing aids generally require the wearer to make some manual adjustments in certain listening environments such as turning a volume control up or down, or pushing a button to change listening programs. In contrast, a premium or more advanced hearing aid responds automatically to changes in the listener’s environment, making changes based on the signals being detected by the hearing aid. The hearing aid wearer is not required to make any manual changes.
As the level of the technology increases in hearing aids, so do the availability of advanced features. Examples of some of the advanced features found in today’s digital hearing aids are shown below.
- Directional Microphones – Applies preference to sounds in front of the wearer and reduced sound from behind the wearer. This technology has been proven in studies to improve speech understanding in background noise.
- Noise Reduction -Determines if signal contains unwanted background noise and reduced level of background noise if present. Background noise is less annoying and hearing aid wearer’s listening comfort is improved in noisy situations.
- Feedback Management – Reduces or eliminates whistling that can often occur with hearing aid use. Hearing aid wearer’s comfort is improved from annoying whistling.
- Wind Noise Reduction – Reduces the noise created from wind blowing across the hearing aid’s microphone(s). Designed to improve comfort for persons who spend a lot of time outdoors.
- Data Logging/Learning – The ability of the hearing aid to track and learn the hearing aid wearer’s preferences in various listening environments. This information can assist the hearing professional in making future programming adjustments and allows the hearing aid to adapt to the wearer’s preferences.
- Telecoil/Auto-telecoil – This feature picks up a signal from a compatible telephone and hearing aid wearers can listen to the telephone without whistling. Some hearing aids this requires a push of a button to activate, other manufacturers offer an auto-telecoil where the hearing aid switches automatically when a telephone signal is detected.
- Bluetooth Interface – Establishes a wireless connection between hearing aids and Bluetooth compatible devices. Designed to improve wearer convenience and use with devices such as cell phones, Mp3 players, computers, etc.