What are the different types of hearing aids?

We live in a world where options for most things are becoming unlimited. However, sometimes having too many options can become overwhelming. To the point where we end up not knowing which one is better than another one.

This can be applied to hearing aids. Long gone are the days where there was one type of hearing aid and that was your only option.

Now we have many different designs, different features and different customisable options.

Trying to decide which model of hearing aid is best for you can be difficult. It can depend on not only the degree of hearing loss you are suffering from, but also your budget.

What are the different types of hearing aids and what do they offer us as the users? 

How does a hearing aid work?

The most common form of hearing loss is sensorineural hearing loss and typically affects the frequencies over 1000Hz. These frequencies include nearly all of the range of children’s speech, most of the range of male speech and half of the range of female speech.

A hearing aid works to amplify these frequencies whilst reducing background noise.

All hearing aids have three main parts.

  1. A microphone
  1. An amplifier
  1. A speaker

Sound is received through the microphone and converted to an electrical signal. This signal is then sent to the amplifier which increases the power of the signal and sends it through to the ear through the speaker.

Different types of hearing aids are more beneficial to different degrees of hearing loss. 

Different types of hearing aids 

External hearing aids

  • Behind-The-Ear (BTE) – This is the model that most people probably think about when they hear the word hearing aid. A small plastic case sits behind the ear which is connected to an earmold which sits inside the outer ear. This is the largest of the options, although they are becoming smaller. Due to its larger size, it is one of the most powerful hearing aids. For that reason it can be used for mild to profound hearing loss. Most models require the batteries to be changed every 3-20 days. Rechargeable batteries are becoming more common. 
  • Receiver-In-Canal (RIC) This is also sometimes known as a Receiver-In-The-Ear (RITE) and is similar to a BTE although it is smaller. A very small wire connects the hearing aid to a receiver that is within the earmold which sits in the outer ear. The microphone sits behind the ear, whereas the speaker rests inside the ear. The main advantage to this model is, if the speaker becomes damaged it can be replaced separately. 

Discreet hearing aids

  • In-The-Ear (ITE) – The whole hearing aid fits inside of the outer ear. Due to its smaller size it is not used for profound hearing loss, but can be used for mild to severe cases. Many ITE’s now come with a telecoil. A small magnetic coil allows the user to receive audio through the circuitry of the hearing aid. Instead of through the microphone which can be especially beneficial when holding telephone conversations. In some public facilities they have a special sound system installed, known as an induction loop system. In these places when the user has their hearing aid set to the ‘T’ program they can take full advantage of the system. An induction loop system works by picking up sounds via the microphone and amplifying those sounds, this signal is then sent through the loop cable. The loop cable is a wire which is placed around the perimeter of the area, this then radiates the signal back to the hearing aid
  • In-The-Canal (ITC) – An ITC sits in the lower portion of the outer ear making it more comfortable to wear and slightly more discreet than the larger models. As they are larger than the Completely-In-Canal models they can host more additional features such as a directional microphone. They also tend to have a longer battery life. Due to their smaller size than alternative models, they can have issues with wireless connectivity. 
  • Completely-In-Canal (CIC) & Invisible-In-Canal (IIC) – These are the two most discreet models that are on the market. They both sit deeper within the ear canal and can be removed with a nylon string. In some cases they may need to be removed by a qualified audiologist. As they are nearly completely invisible, they are great for people who lead an active lifestyle. Due to their tiny size they are only used for users with mild to moderate hearing loss. They also do not come with any manual controls such as volume or program settings. The sound quality is normally slightly better due to how they fit inside the ear.  

Benefits and features available

Depending on the kind of hearing aid you decide to go for there may be added benefits or extras available to you.

These features can include – 

  • Noise reduction – Almost every type of hearing aid will come with noise reduction technology but this can be increased with certain models. 
  • Environmental noise reduction – Some models will also come with environmental noise reduction to help reduce sounds such as the wind. 
  • Directional microphone – Directional microphones can help to pick up sounds coming from the front of you whilst cancelling out some of the noise behind you. 
  • Rechargeable batteries – Rechargeable batteries can help reduce the need for constant maintenance. 
  • Remote control – This helps you to be able to change the program settings and volume without having to touch your hearing aid
  • Synchronisation – This is beneficial for those who need to wear two hearing aids as any changes made to one, such a volume level, will automatically be made to the other. 
  • Wireless connectivity – Many hearing aids are now able to use bluetooth to connect to your phone, computer, music device or television.
  • Variable programming – This feature can help you store several pre-programmed settings for various listening needs. 
  • Direct audio input – This allows you to connect straight to an audio device such as your television or music player with a cord. 

Trying to decide which model of hearing aid is best for you can be difficult. It can depend on not only the degree of hearing loss you are suffering from, but also your budget. Any added extras that you want and what kind of lifestyle that you lead.

By working with a qualified audiologist they will be able to help you select the hearing aid that will fit right in with your lifestyle in the hopes to keep any disruptions to a minimum. 

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