Hearing loss can have a huge impact on your life by affecting everyday activities, relationships, and well-being. Hearing aids do not recover your hearing but, rather, they help you to hear more clearly so that you can interact more comfortably with those around you. Hearing aids are small electronic devices worn in or behind the ear to aid people with hearing loss. They improve your hearing by amplifying sounds so that you can hear better no matter how noisy your environment is.
Different Kinds Of Hearing Aids
There are many different kinds of hearing aids in the market today that differ in size, placement, and how they work. With such a variety, knowing which hearing aid to choose can be quite a daunting task.
Different types of hearing aids
Here is everything you need to know about all the different hearing aid styles, including the pros and cons of each.
In the canal (ITC)
In the canal (ITC) hearing aid sits mostly inside the ear canal with some of it lying in the outer ear. An ITC hearing aid encases all three hearing aid components in a very lightweight plastic shell. They are used by people with mild to moderately severe hearing loss. In the canal aids are usually smaller in size and, therefore, they have less space for large batteries and additional features, such as telecoils. Having said that, they are far more powerful than their size may indicate. However, due to their small size, these hearing aids are not recommended for children, or even older individuals with poor finger dexterity, as they will have difficulty using them.
- Easier to put in the ear
- Hard to adjust and handle due to their small size.
- Less room for components
- Susceptible to ear wax and moisture damage
Completely in the Canal (CIC)
This style of hearing aid is popular for its small size and cosmetic appeal. Completely in the canal hearing aids are made customized to fit completely inside your ear canal. Only a small tip of the plastic handle is visible outside the canal which is used to remove or insert the aid inside your canal. These hearing aids are used to help people with mild to moderate hearing loss. Given their small size they are not recommended for kids and older people as they can not properly maintain and handle these hearing aids.
- Small and discreet
- Offers listening advantages
- Small size of hearing aids poses dexterity challenges
- Little on the expensive side
- Prone to causing an occlusion effect (a person's own voice sounds too loud)
As the name suggests these invisible in canal hearing aids are invisible and nearly impossible for others to see. They sit deep in the second bend of the ear canal. These invisible in the canal aids are similar to CIC aids in the way that they both fit entirely inside the ear canal. They are the smallest hearing aids available on the market. They can be removed daily by a small plastic handle. These hearing aids are only used for people with mild hearing loss.
- Smallest, most discreet, and almost invisible
- Leave room for the person to wear earbuds or headphones
- Small size can be difficult to handle
- Less battery life
- A person may hear his own voice too loudly
The In-the-Ear hearing aids contain a plastic case that holds the electronics. This case sits on the outer part of the ear. In the Ear hearing aids are comparatively large in size and therefore easy to handle and manage. These In the Ear hearing aids are suitable for people with mild to severe hearing loss. They are also among the very few hearing aids which are suitable for profound hearing loss, as they are very powerful. Some ITE’s include a telecoil that enables the person to connect the hearing aid to their phone. Hear-Hi provides you with ITC Digital Hearing Amplifier which offers multiple features such as rechargeable batteries and wireless connectivity to your smartphones.
- Excellent option for people with limited dexterity
- Have large batteries so long battery life
- Large in size
- May need to be re-shelled as the ear shape changes as you age
Behind-the-Ear Hearing Aids sit in a plastic case behind the ear. The plastic case includes the electronics and is placed behind the ear. The plastic case is connected by a piece of clear tube to an earmold that is inside the outer ear. The Sound signals travel from the microphone to the electronics and then back to the speaker in the ear molds and into the ear. Behind the Ear Hearing Aids by Hear-Hi have features of telecoil and wireless connectivity as well. Some people shy away from Behind the Ear hearing aids because of their large size. Behind-the-ear hearing aids have longer life because the components are placed outside the ear and are not exposed to earwax or perspiration. They are used by people who have mild to severe hearing loss. These hearing aids are mainly recommended to young children as the ear mold can be made to perfectly fit their ears and can be easily replaced as the ear grows.
Pros and Cons of Behind the Ear Hearing Aid
- Easy to clean, handle and manage
- Comfortable to wear
- More room available for buttons
- Bulky and large
- Tubing needs to be regularly replaced.
- Condensation in the tube affects the sound quality
- Earmolds might make your own voice muffled
Mini BTE / On the Ear
The mini Behind the Ear hearing aids fit entirely behind your ear. They contain a narrow, almost invisible, tube that connects your aid to your ear canal. This tube transmits the sound to the canal which is partially opened. These hearing aids are relatively smaller than the BTE hearing aids. These hearing aids keep earwax from building up so that you can hear your own voice loud and clear.
- Small and comfortable to wear
- Does not cause feedback
- Not for severe hearing loss
Receiver in Canal Hearing Aids are the aids where the receiver i-e the speaker sits inside the ear canal. It is connected to the main drive by a thin electrical wire. The microphone and processor sit in a case behind the ear. The sound is electronically transmitted from the hearing aid to the speaker. The speaker allows the sound to flow in the ear canal. If these hearing aids get damaged the speaker of the hearing aid can be easily replaced. RIC hearing aids come with advanced technology and multiple features such as wireless connectivity. They are great for people who have mild to severe hearing loss.
- Sleek and stylish
- Less visible than BTE hearing aids
- Smaller models of RIC may not include all volume control
- Might be difficult to insert for people with dexterity issues
- Speaker is susceptible to moisture and ear wax damage
Middle Ear Implants (MEI)
A middle ear implant is a device that is attached to one of the bones of the middle ear. What this device does is that instead of amplifying the sound signals traveling to the eardrum, it moves the bones to strengthen the sound vibrations. It makes it easier to trigger the hair cells to detect the sound. People need surgery in order to place this hearing aid inside their ears. Middle ear implants are usually worn by people with profound and severe hearing loss.
- Less feedback
- Small size
- Requires surgery
- Not as discreet
How do the Middle Ear Implants work and look?
Extended-Wear Hearing Aids
Extended-Wear Hearing Aids are placed deeply into the ear by a professional. This is the hearing aid that is worn 24/7 by the person. The extended wear hearing aid has a solid core that has a battery and other components. They are surrounded by a flexible material that conforms to the curvature of the ear canal. They stay in their place for up to four months.
- Completely invisible
- No need to insert and remove the hearing aids daily
- Must be inserted by a healthcare professional
- Replaced each time the battery dies
How Hearing Aids Work?
There are two main types of electronics that can be applied to all types of hearing aids namely; Analog and Digital.
Analog Hearing Aids
Analog hearing aids convert sound signals into electrical signals to make the sound louder. They amplify all the sounds in the same way whether it is speech or sound which makes the differentiation difficult. Analog/programmable circuitry can be used in all types of hearing aids. They have simple volume controls. They are custom-built to meet the needs of their users. They are comparatively less expensive than digital hearing aids. And are becoming less and less common as digital hearing aids are coming into the market.
Digital Hearing Aids
Digital hearing aids convert the sound signals into digital codes and then amplify the sound. The code includes information about the sound, its direction, pitch, and volume. They have greater flexibility in hearing aid programming so that the sound they transmit can be matched to the needs of a specific pattern of hearing loss. They offer multiple programs to be used in different listening settings. But digital hearing aids are a lot more expensive than analog hearing aids. They not only cost more but the results are much better as well. Most hearing aids available today are digital.
So now that we have explained in detail all the different types of hearing aids, how they work, and their pros and cons, you can choose one that is the best fit for you.
Remember the main thing is that your hearing aid caters to your specific hearing loss; aesthetics are secondary to function. If you are suffering from severe hearing loss, receiver-in-the-ear hearing aids are suitable for you. Some hearing aids come with different features like telecoil, wireless connectivity, etc. If this is something you are looking for then you should look for behind-the-ear hearing aids. If you prefer discreet hearing aids, then in-the-canal hearing aids are perfect for you. Now that you know about all the different types of hearing aids out there, you are ready to make an informed decision about which one is best for you!
Are All Hearing Aids The Same?
Technically speaking yes and no. In one way all hearing aids are the same. They are made of the same three components, a microphone, an amplifier, a speaker, and a battery source. From a functional point of view also all hearing aids are the same, they amplify the sounds. But it's not as simple as that. Hearing aids have different technologies. Some might be analog and others digital. There are different features such as the telecoil, wireless connectivity, channels, and remotes that are available in some hearing aids. All hearing aids are placed differently in the ear. Some are placed in the ear canal, some behind the ear, and some on the outer ear. So hearing aids are similar in some ways and in some aspects, they all differ.
Do Hearing Aids Restore My Hearing To Normal?
Hearing aids should not be taken as a cure for hearing loss. They do not restore your hearing to normal rather they maximize your hearing potential so you can improve your quality of life. They just help you hear the sounds more clearly. Hearing aids make communication easier by making the most sounds available to you.
Will My Hearing Get Worse If I Don't Wear A Hearing Aid?
One thing is important to realize your hearing loss may decline whether you wear hearing aids or not as you age. If you don’t wear your hearing aids your ability to hear won't necessarily get worse but your discrimination of speech is likely to get worse faster.