How to choose the right hearing aid?

Finding out that you have any degree of hearing loss can be a scary time. We do not realise how much we rely on something until it is taken away from us.

Thankfully when our hearing does start to fail us there are options that can help. Whether the hearing loss is caused by ageing, disease or injury.

A hearing aid will not restore your hearing but they can help give you back your quality of life and let you carry on doing the things that you love. 

It can be difficult to know which one is best. Which is why it is advised to always seek professional advice from a qualified audiologist. Not only will they be able to diagnose your degree of hearing loss, but they will also help you to find the perfect hearing aid for your lifestyle. They will also be able to provide aftercare advice during the adjustment period. 

Symptoms of hearing loss

There are several symptoms of hearing loss. Some people may not have all of these symptoms present at once. 

  • Does it sound like people are always mumbling when they are talking to you? 
  • Do you constantly have to ask people to repeat themselves?
  • Do you find that you need to have the television or radio louder than normal?
  • Do you struggle to hear people when on a telephone call? 
  • Do you find it difficult to understand the dialogue in a play or theatre show? 
  • Do you have to look at people’s mouths when they are talking? 
  • Do you struggle to hear conversations in a loud, group setting? 
  • Are you finding yourself withdrawing from social settings and becoming frustrated and irritable?

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

A hearing aid will work to amplify sounds so that you are able to hear better. Sound is picked up from the microphone, converted into sound waves and then sent to the amplifier. The amplifier will boost this and send it to your ear via the speaker.

Years ago there was only one kind of hearing aid available, but now we have many on the market. They all have different advantages and disadvantages. Although some are not suitable for severe to profound hearing loss.

With all of the different options and prices ranging from £500-£3,500 per ear, how do we know which one is the best one for us? 

Types of hearing aids including advantages and disadvantages

Older types of hearing aid

Behind-The-Ear (BTE)

This is the model of hearing aid that has been around for the longest.

It is typically what most people think of when they hear the words “hearing aid”.

They used to be large and bulky, but nowadays are smaller and more compact. Although the design is still the same.

A small, plastic case sits behind the ear and is connected to the ear mould that sits inside the outer ear. Due to their larger size than other models, a BTE is suitable for people with mild to profound hearing loss and is the most popular choice for children.

They are also able to host more additional features than their smaller cousins. 

Advantages of BTEDisadvantages of BTE
Comfortable to wear.Reduced sound quality.
One of the cheapest options.Less discrete.
Easy maintenance.Increased environmental noise. 

Receiver-In-Canal (RIC)

This is very similar to a BTE model. It is smaller in size and is classed as an open fit hearing aid.

A thin plastic tube extends from the body of the hearing aid that sits behind the ear. The tube extends over the outer ear and into the ear canal. A small soft tip sits inside the ear canal without sealing it, meaning air and sound can continue to flow into the ear naturally.

These tend to have a longer battery life thanks to their size. 

Advantages of RICDisadvantages of RIC
More natural sound as the ear canal is open.Receiver is vulnerable to moisture in the ear canal. 
Feedback is less of a problem and it amplifies high pitched sounds well. Is a more expensive option that the BTE

Newer hearing aids

The newer models of hearing aids are designed to be worn completely inside the ear and therefore have no casing that sits behind the ear.

There are several models under this umbrella to choose from. 

In-The Ear (ITE)

This is a single unit that sits in the outer ear. It is sometimes known as a full shell. 

In-The-Canal (ITC)

This is similar to an ITE but sits slightly further in the canal. It is also known as a half shell hearing aid

Completely-In-Canal (CIC)

This fits neatly in the ear canal and is very discrete. This would be removed with a nylon thread. 

Invisible-In-Canal (IIC)

As the name suggests this is completely invisible as it sits deeply inside the ear canal. These are also removed with a nylon thread. Although in some cases needs to be removed by an audiologist. 

These smaller models are popular amongst users where discretion is their main concern or they live a very active lifestyle. Although due to their size they are not as powerful and therefore not suitable for those with severe to profound hearing loss. They also do not have the range of additional features that the larger models have. 

Advantages of In-Ear Models Disadvantages of In-Ear Models
No external tubes or wires so they are extremely discrete. Not suitable for severe to profound hearing loss.
Typically more comfortable as custom made for the user.Not every ear canal is suitable. Those with a short ear canal would not be able to wear these. 
Less likely to pick up environmental noises such as wind. A more expensive option and is not available on the NHS.
Less power is needed as these sit closer to the eardrum.Due to their smaller size they have limited features. 

How do I choose the right hearing aid for me?

There is no one size fits all when it comes to hearing aids. Several factors should be taken into account when trying to make your decision. 

  • Age – Children are not advised to wear the smaller In-Ear models due to their ears not reaching their full size yet. 
  • Degree of healing loss – Those with severe to profound hearing loss would benefit more from a BTE or RIC model. 
  • Lifestyle – Those with an active lifestyle may prefer a smaller In-Ear model. 

It can be difficult to know which one is best. Which is why it is advised to always seek professional advice from a qualified audiologist. Not only will they be able to diagnose your degree of hearing loss, but they will also help you to find the perfect hearing aid for your lifestyle. They will also be able to provide aftercare advice during the adjustment period. 

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