Hearing aids are mini instruments designed to amplify sound. Hearing aids collect sounds from the environment, amplify the sounds, and direct this amplified signal into the user’s ear. Following a completed audiologic evaluation, a hearing aid evaluation is necessary in order to select the hearing aids that are most appropriate for a given individual. For many reasons, a hearing aid for each ear provides superior benefit compared to one hearing aid.
There are two main decisions when the audiologist and patient decide on appropriate hearing aids. They are the style of the hearing aids, and the electronic components of the hearing aids. It is important to understand that these decisions are generally independent of one another; for example, a very small, completely in-the-canal hearing aid can have very basic electronics inside, or a behind-the-ear hearing aid could have the most sophisticated digital technology available. The style of the hearing aid does not indicate how sophisticated the electronics inside the hearing aid might be.
Despite their same basic function – amplifying sounds to help those with a hearing loss hear more clearly – all hearing aids are not alike. They come in a variety of sizes and styles and where they are placed or worn differs. Many are custom molded for a unique fit that delivers better sound quality. Optional features vary. Choosing a style depends upon several factors, including your degree of hearing loss, cosmetic preference, and lifestyle needs.
Hearing aid styles are named for where they fit on your ear. Styles include:
Completely In The Canal (CIC).
Custom molded to fit inside your ear canal, CIC hearing aids are virtually invisible. Their deep placement reduces the occlusion effect and limits feedback, and their tiny size requires less power to operate the device (but translates to batteries that don’t last as long). They are perfect for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss.
In The Canal (ITC).
This custom molded device sits in the ear canal, but not as deeply as a CIC device. They are unobtrusive and their slightly larger size enables features that don’t fit on CIC units, though these may be difficult to adjust due to their small size. ITC hearing aids may not fit in smaller ears. They are ideal for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss.
Invisible In The Canal (IIC).
Similar to CIC instruments, IIC hearing aids are even smaller, and placed more deeply in the ear canal, making them invisible to others. They are custom molded and require less amplification while delivering a more natural sound quality, but are susceptible to earwax and their tiny parts may pose problems for those with poor manual dexterity. IIC units are appropriate for those with mild to moderate hearing loss.
Receiver In The Ear (RITE).
In the ear hearing aids are custom molded to fit inside the bowl-shaped portion (concha) of the outer ear. They are more visible to others and may be prone to feedback, but are easier to insert into the ear and they use larger batteries, which last longer and are easier to insert. RITE instruments contain optional features like volume control and wireless connectivity, and are helpful for individuals with mild to severe hearing loss.
Behind The Ear (BTE).
Behind-the-ear hearing aids hook over the top of your ear and sit behind the ear. Sounds are picked up and transmitted to an ear mold that fits inside your ear canal. BTE instruments are the largest and most visible type, but produce more amplification than other units and are not as prone to damage from moisture or earwax. They are suitable for all types of hearing loss and for people of all ages, including children.
Lyric devices are the first extended-wear hearing aids on the marketplace, designed to be worn for as long as four months at a time. They are implanted very deeply within the ear canal and are completely invisible. They do not need to be removed, and are safe for everyday activities such as exercising, showering, and sleeping. Sound quality is excellent, with minimal occlusion effect or feedback, and improved directionality. Lyric instruments are best for people with mild to moderately severe hearing loss.
Earlens is an innovative new hearing aid that converts sound to light, eliminating feedback and allowing patients with hearing loss to communicate more effectively with others. It is custom designed to fit the natural contours of your ears and surface tension prevents it from moving out of place. Earlens comes with a rechargeable battery and adapts automatically to your listening environment to compensate for background noise and other distracting sounds.