What Are The Different Types of Hearing Aids
Learn how to avoid some purchasing pitfalls and save yourself thousands of $
What Are Hearing Aids?
Simply put, hearing aids are sound amplifying products for hearing loss.
The majority of all hearing aids have the same electronic parts. These include a microphone for picking up sounds. Amplifiers that make the sounds louder, and a loudspeaker called a receiver that sends the amplified sound down the ear canal. Pretty simple. Now learn what are the different types of hearing aids. Not quite as simple, but lets see how we do.
As a research writer, I continually come across new terms or catch phrases that were not there a day before. This makes it difficult and confusing for you the purchaser to determine what your personal hearing needs are. I’ll try to keep it as simple and understandable as I can for you.
It used to be if you needed glasses you could only obtain them from an optometrist. Today you get your readers at your local grocery with your milk. The same shift is happening in the hearing aid world. You no longer have to buy expensive hearing aids directly from an Audiologist. Especially when aids start breaking down in two years and are considered obsolete by industry standards in only five.
Your selection of a hearing aid should be based upon the severity of your hearing loss, your listening needs and your hearing aid style requirements. The newer aids have features that can assist you with different options.
Directional microphones are popular. They help you to hear what’s directly in front of you more clearly, and what’s behind you less clearly.
The telecoil, T-coil or telephone switch, is quite a handy innovation. All wired phones today must be manufactured with one for hearing aid compatibility. Using the T-coil setting eliminates background sound and lets you hear only what the phone gives you. The T-coil also turns your hearing aid off so you can talk without the aid painfully whistling in your ear. Called feedback suppression.
The T-coil works in theaters, auditoriums, places of worship, or any large room that has an induction loop (a small wire that goes around the room), it’s also called an FM installation. This lets the speaker from some distance away be heard more clearly without the background noises.
Direct Audio Input lets you to plug into a remote microphone or ALD (assisted listening device). BTE’s or behind the ear hearing aids can be easily connected to Assistive Listening Devices. Such as FM systems, your computer, CD, tape, MP3 player or radio, that directly integrates different sound sources with your hearing aid. BTE aids are also commonly worn by children who need a durable type of hearing aid.
Bands or Channels: Many aids come with bands or channels. Some channels are for outside, some for restaurants and some for just watching TV. Bands can accentuate lower, mid range or higher hearing tones. Depending on your hearing loss requirements. There have been some exciting recent advances with this technology that will see a whole new hearing aid in the next ten years.
Hearing aids also come in a variety sizes and styles. The traditional open fit or (BTE)Behind The Ear is the most commonly used hearing aid. There are other aids so small as to be (almost) invisible to the eye. Keep in mind that the smaller an aid is, the less powerful it its, the more it chews up your batteries and the more it costs.
Here’s a rundown on the different types of hearing aids available today .
BTE’sBehind The Ear hearing aids can be used for mild to profound hearing loss. Traditionally, these BTE hearing aids have a small plastic flesh colored case behind the ear that connects to a small clear tube that sends the sounds into the ear canal. Within the ear canal, a small soft silicone dome or a molded tip that is highly vented holds the tube in place.
This type of aid is appropriate for most types of hearing loss and for people of all ages. Because the electrical components are located outside the ear, the chances of moisture and earwax damage to the components is greatly reduced. This increases the durability and longevity of the hearing aid.
This next category is a good demonstration about how different companies want to create their own “buzz words”. Words that mostly reflect their own keywords for advertising purposes. The only other purpose is to confuse you. For every area of acedemia, like microbiology or psychology for example, there is a whole language to help you understand that particular area of learning. With hearing aids it’s a free-for-all arena.
(OTE) “Over-The-Ear”, or “Open-fit” hearing aids are just small (BTE’s) behind-the-ear type devices. This type is characterized by a minimal amount of effect on how it resonates in the ear canal, and commonly leaves the ear canal as open as is possible. Quite often only being plugged up by a small speaker resting in the middle of the ear canal.
(ITC)In The Canal aids and Completely-In-the-Canal(CIC) aids: These are hearing aids that are contained within tiny cases that fit partially or completely into the ear canal. They are considered the smallest hearing aids available. and offer cosmetic and some listening advantages. However, their small size may make them difficult to handle and adjust for many people with arthritis. They are less likely to pick up wind noise because the ear protects the instrument and is easy to use with the telephone in most cases. They use smaller batteries, which typically don’t last as long as larger batteries and they don’t contain extra features, such as volume control or directional microphones.
(IIC) Invisible in canal hearing aids
This contemporary style of hearing aids fits inside the ear canal completely, leaving little to no trace of an installed hearing aid visible. This is because it fits deeper in the canal than other types, so that it is out of view even when looking directly into the ear bowl (concha). A comfortable fit is achieved because the shell of the aid is custom-made to the individual ear canal after taking a mould.
Invisible hearing aids use venting and their deep placement in the ear canal to give a more natural experience of hearing. Unlike other hearing aid types, with the IIC aid the majority of the ear is not blocked (occluded) by a large plastic shell. This means that sound can be collected more naturally by the shape of the ear, and can travel down into the ear canal as it would with unassisted hearing.
RICReceiver (speaker) In the Canal or Receiver-In-The-Ear, or RITE, is like a BTE. The difference is that while a BTE has a tube to carry sound from the hearing aid speaker over the ear, a RIC puts the speaker (called a receiver) in the ear itself. Taking the speaker out of the body of the hearing aid allows the hearing aid to be much smaller, and rather than thick rubber tubing, only a very thin wire travels from the top of the ear to the ear canal, making the device much more cosmetically appealing.
Apart from cosmetics, RIC’s are by far the most popular style of hearing aid for several important reasons. First, when sound has to travel from the top of the ear to the eardrum, a lot of information is lost along the way, particularly in the high frequencies where sounds like S and T occur. This makes speech sound muffled and unclear, particularly in noisier environments. By putting the speaker in the ear canal and close to the eardrum, sound arrives much more intact and clarity is improved. Additionally, because there is no earmold and the body of the aid is outside the ear canal, the ear is left open, which is not only more comfortable but allows for a more natural sound quality.
ITC In-The-Canal, or ITE In-The-Ear (Half Shell): This is a smaller version of the full shell in-the-canal hearing aid. The half-shell is custom molded and fills the lower portion of the bowl-shaped area of your outer ear. This style is appropriate for mild to moderately severe hearing loss. A half-shell hearing aid is bigger than an in-the-canal hearing aid and is a little easier to handle than the smaller hearing aids
They also include additional features, such as directional microphones and volume control. They fit most ears and are small and discreet. This type is easy to handle and may include additional control functions. In the canal
ITC In-The-Canal, or ITE In-The-Ear(Full Shell):
This type features the widest selection of user-controlled functions and comfort
features in the ear. An in-the-ear (full-shell) hearing aid is custom made and fills most of the bowl-shaped area of your outer ear. This style is helpful for people with mild to severe hearing loss. An in-the-ear (full-shell) hearing aid is more visible to others. They may pick up wind noise. However, it also contains some helpful features as well. Such as volume control, and are easier to adjust. They are generally easier to insert into and out of the ear. The ITC full shell uses larger batteries, which typically last longer and are easier to handle.
A vent is a hole though your ITE In The Ear hearing aid or though your ear mould. If you completely plug up your ear canal, then it can feel like you are “in a drum”, even if the sound is being passed through by the hearing aid. That feeling is called”occlusion”.
In many cases, a vent can lessen that “in a drum” feeling.
Vents are most useful when the hearing loss isn’t serious enough that the amplification required would “leak” out through the vent and reach the microphone, causing a feedback loop.
Very serious hearing losses may even require that there be no vent at all.
Extended Wear Hearing Aid
Extended wear hearing aids are hearing devices that are non-surgically placed in the ear canal by a hearing professional. The extended wear hearing aid represents the first “invisible” hearing device. These devices are worn for 1–3 months at a time without removal. They are made of soft material designed to contour to each user and can be used by people with mild to moderately severe hearing loss. Their close proximity to the ear drum results in improved sound directionality and localization, reduced feedback, and improved high frequency gain. While traditional BTE or ITC hearing aids require daily insertion and removal, extended wear hearing aids are worn continuously and then replaced with a new device. Users can change volume and settings without the aid of a hearing professional. The devices are very useful for active individuals because their design protects against moisture and earwax and can be worn while exercising or showering. Because the device’s placement within the ear canal makes them invisible to observers, extended wear hearing aids are popular with those who are self-conscious about the aesthetics of BTE or ITC hearing aid models.
As with other hearing devices, compatibility is based on an individual’s hearing loss, ear size and shape, medical conditions, and lifestyle. The disadvantages include regular removal and reinsertion of the device when the battery dies, inability to go underwater and earplugs are necessary when showering. Some experience discomfort with the fit since it is inserted deeply in the ear canal, the only part of the body where skin rests directly on top of bone.
Disposable Hearing Aids
Disposable hearing aids are hearing aids that have a non-replaceable battery. These aids are designed to use power sparingly, so that the batteries lasts longer than batteries used in the traditional hearing aids. Disposable hearing aids are also meant to take away the task of battery replacement and other maintenance chores like adjustments or cleanings.
Hearing Aid Electronics
Hearing aid electronics control how sound is transferred from the environment to your inner ear. All hearing aids amplify sounds, making them louder so that you can hear them better. Most hearing aid manufacturers now only produce digital hearing aids — analog hearing aids are being phased out.
What is the difference between analog and digital hearing aids?
Analog hearing aids make continuous sound waves louder. These hearing aids essentially amplify all sounds (e.g., speech and noise) in the same way. Some analog hearing aids are programmable. They have a microchip which allows the aid to have settings programmed for different listening environments, such as in a quiet place, like at a library, or in a noisy place like in a restaurant, or in a large area like a soccer field. The analog programmable hearing aids can store multiple programs for the various environments. As the listening environment changes, hearing aid settings may be changed by pushing a button on the hearing aid. Analog hearing aids are becoming less and less common.
Digital hearing aids have all the features of analog programmable aids, but they convert sound waves into digital signals and produce an exact duplication of sound. Computer chips in digital hearing aids analyze speech and other environmental sounds. The digital hearing aids allow for more complex processing of sound during the amplification process which may improve their performance in certain situations (for example, background noise and whistle reduction). They also have greater flexibility in hearing aid programming so that the sound they transmit can be matched to the needs for a specific pattern of hearing loss. Digital hearing aids also provide multiple program memories. Most individuals who seek hearing help are offered a choice of only digital technology these days.
Some manufacturers say their hearing aids are digital but are not 100% digital.
Unless it say’s “100% digital” it probably isn’t.
-Whew! We made it through all that in one piece. You might have to read it over a few times, but don’t let the hearing industry and all it’s incumbent wordage intimidate you. I sincerely hope I’ve made it as simple as possible for anyone to understand.