SELECTING HEARING AIDS
There are 2 main decisions when choosing hearing aids:
- What style, or size of hearing aids, will suit you best?
- What level of technology will give you the options you need?
There are 5 different hearing aid styles. Each offers different advantages and disadvantages. Some of the styles will work better for certain types of losses. Below you will see a description and pictures of each of these styles.
HEARING AID STYLES
- Completely-in-the-Canal (CIC)
Completely-in-the-Canal hearing aids are the least visible aids. They fit deep in your ear canal and have a small wire used to remove them. Most patients have no problems talking on the phone with these aids. Because they fit deeper in your ear they can give some people a stuffed-up, full feeling. They also tend to require the most maintenance and repairs because they are exposed to more wax with the deeper fit. Volume controls and directional microphones are not available on this style. These aids can also be more difficult to handle for people with poor dexterity due to the small size.
- In-the-Canal (ITC)
In-the-Canal hearing aids are still small, but sit just outside the ear canal. All features and controls are available on this style.
- In-the-Ear (ITE)
In-the-Ear aids fill up most of the bowl-like area of your ear. They are usually the easiest aids to handle for people with poor dexterity.
- Behind-the-Ear (BTE)
Behind-the-Ear aids fit over your ear and are connected to a mold that fits in your ear. Some people find this soft mold more comfortable than the hard plastic of the in-the-ear styles. These aids have the fewest repairs due to wax, but are more susceptible to moisture damage. They offer the strongest amplification possible. These aids can be more difficult to insert because there are two parts to get in place.
- Open Fit Behind the Ear
Open Fit Behind the Ear aids have a smaller, thinner behind-the-ear piece and a nearly invisible thin tube that fits down in the ear canal. A soft tip leaves your ear canal more open, which keeps you from feeling plugged up. These aids are ideal for high frequency hearing loss. They do not require a custom impression and are very easy to keep clean. They are more susceptible to moisture just like a traditional BTE. The thin tubing makes insertion difficult for people with poor dexterity.
Each of these hearing aid styles is available in various levels of technology, each having different options. The following offers an explanation of some of the different options you will want to become familiar with. At your hearing aid evaluation the audiologist will help you determine which options are most important for you.
Automatic or Manual
The first thing to consider is if you want the volume and other settings to be controlled automatically or manually. While most people prefer their hearing aids to be automatic, there can be cases where users prefer to have the ability to control the aids themselves.
If you find yourself in a variety of listening situations you will want to consider directional microphones. This technology cannot eliminate all unwanted noise, but it gives the listener an advantage by amplifying more from the front and less from behind.
When the audiologist programs the hearing aids for your loss, there will be a certain number of channels that can be adjusted based on your hearing test. Basic technology will have fewer channels to adjust than more advanced aids. Generally, the more channels the hearing aids have, the more adjustments the audiologist will be able to make. When the microphone brings the sound into the hearing aid it is analyzed in each of the channels. More channels allow for better and more precise processing of the sound.
Many hearing aids now have the ability to record user information. This can include how many hours per day the hearing aids are worn and what percentage of time the aids are worn in quiet or noise. This information can help the audiologist tailor the settings to your hearing loss. Some hearing aids even track how much the user turns the volume up or down and then change the internal settings accordingly. This may mean less visits back to the office for adjustments.
Some hearing aids offer a telecoil that works to amplify the sound of the phone. This can be operated either with a push button or sometimes automatically. The audiologist will discuss with you your needs for the telephone.
In addition to these features, almost all hearing aids now have some sort of feedback cancellation and wind noise reduction. Technology is constantly improving and new features are always being developed. At the hearing aid evaluation we will discuss the current options that are important for your hearing.