Types of Hearing Aids
Hearing aids have come a long way from the proverbial ear trumpet. You now have choices that range from completely invisible in the ear hearing aids to the conventional over the ear hearing devices. The number of options is almost overwhelming, which is why we’re providing you an overview here.
Ultimately which type of hearing aid you buy depends on your hearing needs and your lifestyle. The best way to select the right one of the hundreds of hearing aids available today is to get guidance from your local hearing experts.
The Newest Hearing Aids
The digital revolution has made a huge impact on the way hearing aids look, feel and function. They can be so small that they are virtually invisible, so “cool” looking that you will want everyone to see them and so natural sounding, they mimic the way you used to hear before you experienced hearing loss.
It’s no secret why digital hearing aids account for most hearing aids sold today. The quality of sound is amazing. Once you try a pair, you’ll see why they’re often the best choice.
Digital Hearing Aid Features
- Dual microphones allow you to hear better in noisy situations. Some can even identify the source of the noise and reduce it!
- Open technology that keeps the ear canal unobstructed eliminates that “talking in a barrel” effect.
- Feedback cancellation does just that — it cancels feedback before you hear it as an annoying whistle.
- Hands-free technology automatically adjusts to your listening environment, whether you are on the phone, in a crowd or in a windy area.
- Your digital hearing aid can be programmed with a computer to meet your individualized needs.
- Wireless technology allows you to hear your cell phone, television and home phone in stereo, directly through your hearing aids!
Digital hearing aids can act on soft sounds in one way and on loud sounds in a completely different fashion. The more advanced the digital chip the more bands that it will possess. Some digital hearing aids have the capability to reduce some environmental noises such as motors running or dishes clanging.
There are so many options available to you! There are four basic technology levels: Basic, Calm, Social, and Vibrant. Each level offers digital hearing solutions based on your level of hearing loss, lifestyle and budget.
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What You Need to Know about Conventional (Analog) Hearing Aids
Conventional analog hearing aids are basically amplifiers that feature manual volume controls and manual fine-tuning. These hearing aids are primarily beneficial for listening in easy, relatively quiet situations, such as one-on-one conversation and listening to the television, because all of the sounds are typically amplified in exactly the same way. This technology provides limited flexibility in meeting individual needs.
Why Wireless Hearing Aids Are So Popular
Paired with a handheld device like your smartphone, this type of hearing aid connects you directly and wirelessly to the sound sources you need to hear, such as your TV.
This technology picks up the sound you wish to hear while dampening other distracting noises. No more cranking up the volume on the television; no more screaming into your cell phone and no more missing out on the things you enjoy most.
Imagine you’re watching television from your favorite armchair. Your hearing aid is working fine until–the kids sit down in front of you and start a conversation, the clattering of dishes from the kitchen sink fills the house, the neighbors basset hound begins to bark and your neighborhood’s annual firework extravaganza comes a day early. With wireless hearing aid technology you can cut through the noise clutter and just tune into the TV.
Each person is different, in a good way, which means the hearing aids you buy need to be selected, fitted and programmed to your individual needs. Our practice can do that, and help you live better with the right hearing aid.
Which Type of Hearing Aid is Right for You?
No one wants hearing aids that makes them look like they have an appliance strapped to their head. Seriously, our patients tell us they don’t want anyone to notice their hearing aids. They want hearing aids that work well but are discreet. Below we review the primary styles along with our recommendations.
Behind the Ear (BTE) Hearing Aids
This type of hearing aid can be beneficial for people of all ages and degrees of hearing loss.
BTE hearing aids are designed to give your ears an incredible boost in power. The hard plastic casing fits directly behind the top of your ear in a place where it is easily hidden by your hair.
The custom earmold is shaped to match the exact contours of your ear canal, and can be ordered in a variety of colors including clear, pink, and tan to decrease visibility even more. The BTE has a wide variety of programming features and options which may be customized to meet your hearing needs.
In the Canal (IC) Hearing Aids
Our IC hearing aids are our smallest, most invisible custom hearing aid products. These amplification devices are designed to fit snug into your ear canal. The hard plastic casing is tiny, ranging anywhere between 1-3 cm long. It’s just that small!
The Completely in the Canal (CIC) hearing aids are even smaller. These are designed to fit even deeper into the ear canal resulting in a really invisible fit closer to the ear drum. CICs come with standard features and may have wireless capability. Both styles of hearing aids are beneficial for individuals with mild to moderately severe hearing losses.
In the Ear (ITE) Hearing Aids
This type of hearing aid is especially helpful for individuals with disabilities or dexterity challenges and can meet the hearing needs of individuals with mild to severe hearing losses.
ITE hearing aids are true custom-designed hearing aids in which the entire hearing aid is molded to match the contours of your outer ear. It provides great amplification and you won’t have to worry about this hearing aid slipping off or falling out. The hard plastic casing forms to the exact shape of your ear making a nice and snug fit.
Many features may be added to this hearing aid to make it hassle free including telecoil, ear to ear communication and automatic programming. The ITE hearing aid may be ordered in a variety of colors to match your skin tone including pink, beige, cocoa and brown.
Receiver in the Ear (RIC) Hearing Aids
This type of hearing aid can easily be tailored to meet the needs of individuals with mild to severe hearing losses.
Our RIC hearing aids are perfect for the active adult. The directional microphone technology makes it easier to understand conversations in crowded environments by detecting and amplifying the target speech signal and decreasing the background noise.
Visibility isn’t a problem. You can attend business meetings, parties and other social events without anyone even knowing that you are wearing hearing aids. The small hard plastic casing on this device is often hidden behind the ear or underneath your hair.
The ultra-thin wire picks up sound and carries it directly into a speaker which fits invisibly into the ear canal. The RIC hearing aid can come with many programming features including telecoil, automatic programming, volume or programming controls and alert signals. It can also come with accessories which activate the bluetooth compatibility. With bluetooth, you can easily connect your RIC hearing aids to your phone, your iPad or even your car.
Special Hearing Aid Features
Many of our devices come with special programming features including noise management programs, automatic adjustments, ear to ear communication, function controls, directional microphones, wireless bluetooth controls, music programs and telecoil. These features help make communication much easier. The telecoil feature is also useful in public facilities with induction loop systems. Consult with our hearing professionals to determine which features are best for you!
Are Assistive Listening Devices the Solution?
A range of assistive listening devices is available to help people with distinctive hearing needs. They fall into these general categories:
- Assistive listening devices (ALDs) help amplify the sounds you want to hear, especially where there’s a lot of background noise. ALDs can be used with a hearing aid or cochlear implant to help a wearer hear certain sounds better.
- Augmentative and alternative communication devices (AAC) help people with communication disorders to express themselves. These devices can range from a simple picture board to a computer program that synthesizes speech from text.
- Alerting devices connect to a doorbell, telephone, or alarm that emits a loud sound or blinking light to let someone with hearing loss know that an event is taking place.
Assistive listening devices typically use a microphone to capture an audio source near its origin and broadcast it wirelessly to over an FM (Frequency Modulation) transmission, IR (Infra Red) transmission, IL (Induction Loop) transmission or other transmission method.
FM systems use radio signals to transmit amplified sounds up to 300 feet. That makes them useful in many public places such as classrooms, where the instructor wears a small microphone connected to a transmitter and the student listens via a worn receiver, which is tuned to a specific frequency or channel.
Infrared systems use infrared light to transmit sound. Unlike induction loop or FM systems, the infrared systems signal cannot pass through walls, making it particularly useful in courtrooms, where confidential information is often discussed, and in buildings where competing signals can be a problem, such as classrooms or movie theaters. However, infrared systems cannot be used in environments with too many competing light sources, such as outdoors or in strongly lit rooms.
Personal amplifiers are useful in places where the above systems are unavailable or when watching TV, being outdoors or traveling in a car. About the size of a cell phone, these devices increase sound levels and reduce background noise for a listener. Some have directional microphones that can be angled toward a speaker or other source of sound. As with other ALDs, the amplified sound can be picked up by a receiver that the listener is wearing, either as a headset or as earbuds.