Hearing Aid Types and Styles
Not too long ago, whether or not a hearing aid was “digital” was part of the discussion. At this point, as with most electronics, digital hearing aids are pretty much the rule and the need to make that distinction is no longer necessary. They are just hearing aids again. The digital is a given; with very few exceptions.
For better or worse, appearance is the first thing many people think about when they begin to consider hearing aids. We regularly assist patients who need help with hearing aids they have purchased elsewhere. Often these patients will admit that the appearance of the hearing aid they purchased was their primary consideration. This is a questionable approach and we caution you against it.
As with many things, such as architecture, golf clubs, musical instruments—in the world of hearing aids:
Form Follows Function
So when you consider the following information, remember that we will help you choose what is right for you. Often there are several styles that would work well for you, and we can present you with options. Other times it may be necessary to narrow your options to achieve success. In general, though, most contemporary hearing aids are pleasant to wear, and reasonably discreet.
That said, these are the basic forms common to hearing aids.
This has become the most commonly used type of hearing aid. The body of the hearing aid (usually quite small) is placed over the ear, while the speaker is tucked into the ear canal. A thin wire connects the hearing aid to the speaker. Today’s RIC hearing aids fit a wide range of hearing loss, are comfortable to wear, and satisfy patients who value discreet appearance. That said, proper selection, configuration and set-up of the RIC hearing aid makes all the difference. There are several ways the RIC aids can be configured to suit the specific needs of your hearing loss. Reasonable dexterity is necessary to insert them properly. Care and maintenance is important to insure proper function over time.
BTE: Behind-the-ear (with earmold)
This type of hearing aid has been a standard in Audiology for a long time, and shows no sign of going away. Fitting a very wide range of hearing loss, the regular BTE provides a durable, reliable form of amplification. The body of the hearing aid is tucked over the ear. A flexible tube directs sound from the hearing aid into the ear canal, using a custom-made earmold. Proper choice of the earmold material and style is specific to the patient and the hearing loss, and can greatly affect the success of the fitting. While the BTE is often associated with more severe hearing loss, it continues to have many other applications, and can be a useful solution for ears presenting physical challenges, or when cleaning and maintenance is difficult for the patient.
Custom-made in-the-ear models
Custom-made instruments are available in several styles, more or less distinguished by their size and how they fit into the ear. These can be nice for patients who find over-the-ear hearing aids difficult to manage, or would just prefer to have the entire instrument contained within the space of the ear. Sometimes we will use these because of other considerations, such as the use of wigs, extensive physical activity, or other factors which might present a challenge for over-the-ear models. Because all of the electronics need to fit within the space of the ear, use of these models is sometimes restricted by the shape of the ear and the size or shape of the ear canal.
ITE (in-the-ear): Generally fills the whole bowl or “concha” of the ear, and extends into the ear canal.
HS (half-shell): As the name would suggest, generally fills about half the concha of the ear, and extends into the ear canal.
Canal: These are mostly contained within the ear canal, with a small portion protruding into the concha.
CIC (completely-in-the-canal): The entire hearing aid fits within the ear canal. There is a subset to this style of hearing aid (IIC) which is a bit smaller still.
Extended-wear hearing aids
As the heading implies, these are hearing aids that are worn for an extended period of time. The hearing aid is programmed and placed in a specific position within the ear canal, where it remains for two to three months. We take measurements to determine the appropriate position of the hearing aid within the ear. Only a hearing professional, like an Audiologist, may insert the hearing aid. Because the instrument remains in the ear for an extended period of time, we have a thorough screening process to determine your candidacy for this type of fitting. Physical factors of the ear canal, lifestyle, and medical history must be considered before extended-wear hearing aids may be dispensed. Patients who choose extended-wear hearing aids value their discreet appearance and the lack of daily maintenance. They are replaced at regular intervals at our office. Though each device is designed to last up to three months, replacement intervals very from patient to patient. All of this would be discussed at your consultation. Go to Lyric under the Products tab for more information.
As you consider these options, please note that the style of the hearing aid does not determine the technology contained within it. In most cases, all levels of technology are available in each of the various styles. There are some exceptions for size limitation or specialty products, but in general, the style of hearing aid you require will not place a limit on the technology within.
We know, that’s a lot to consider. That’s why we are here.
Ending up with the most appropriate hearing aids for your needs is something that requires our professional help. This is not like picking shoes from a catalog. Making the wrong decision can be an expensive and disappointing experience. Let Auditory Services get you started the right way, and turn your hearing aid choice into a positive, rewarding and educating experience.