Hearing Aids

Types of Hearing Aids

When selecting a hearing aid that is best for you, there are four main factors that you and your audiologist/hearing health professional will consider:

1) The Style, or the appearance of the hearing aid.

2) The Technology, or the electronic circuit inside the hearing aid.

3) The Batteries, rechargeable or replaceable.

4) The Features, or various options different hearing aids have.

Hearing aid styles, technology, batteries and features are discussed in detail in the following sections.

Style

There are several styles of hearing aids available. The choice of style varies from person to person depending on a number of factors, including:

  • Degree of hearing loss
  • Dexterity issues
  • Size and shape of your ear canal
  • Earwax issues
  • Lifestyle and communication needs

Behind the Ear (BTE)

Behind The Ear (BTE) The hearing aid sits behind your ear and attaches via a tube to an ear mould in your ear. The ear mould is custom-made for your ear.

Best for:
All types and degrees of hearing loss

Pros:
Fits the widest range of hearing loss
Durable and easy to clean
Available in a variety of colours
Longer battery life
Manual controls (e.g. volume) optional

Cons:
May be more visible
May interfere with glasses

Open Fit / Receiver in the Ear

Open Fit / Receiver in the EarThe hearing aid sits behind your ear and is held in your ear canal by a tube with a small plastic dome. The plastic dome comes in different sizes, depending on the size and shape of your ear canal. The “open-fit” means your ear canal is not completely blocked so natural sound can enter your ears along with amplified sound from the hearing aid. A custom earmold is also available for better retention and amplification for some hearing loses.

Best for:
High-frequency hearing loss Mild to moderately severe hearing loss

Pros:
Smaller and less visible than a regular BTE
More “natural sounding” amplification
More flexible for following changes in your hearing loss

Cons:
Small size limits manual controls (e.g. volume)
Not suitable for more severe hearing losses

In-The-Ear (ITE)

In-The-Ear (ITE)The hearing aid electronics are housed within a custom-made hard plastic shell that fills the outer ear.

Best For:
Mild to severe hearing loss

Pros:
Easy to insert
All one piece, no external parts or tubing

Cons:
More prone to repairs due to earwax and moisture
May be more visible

In-The-Canal (ITC)

In-The-Canal (ITC)The hearing aid electronics are housed within a custom-made hard plastic shell that sits entirely in the ear canal.

Best For:
Mild to moderately-severe hearing loss

Pros:
Less visible than In-The-Ear aids
All one piece, no external parts or tubing

Cons:
More prone to repairs due to earwax and moisture
Small size limits manual controls (e.g. volume)
Not suitable for more severe hearing losses

Completely-In-The-Canal (CIC)

Completely-In-The-Canal (CIC)The hearing aid electronics are housed within a small custom-made hard plastic shell that sits deep within the ear canal.

Best For:
Mild to moderately-severe hearing loss

Pros:
Least visible of all styles of hearing aids
All one piece, no external parts or tubing

Cons:
More prone to repairs due to earwax and moisture
Shorter battery life, small battery size
May not fit in certain ear canal shapes and sizes
Small size limits manual controls (e.g. volume)
Not suitable for more severe hearing losses

Technology

Once you and your hearing care provider have decided on a style of hearing aid, you must then discuss the technology or the electronics inside the hearing aid.

Digital Hearing Aid Technology

More than 95% of hearing aids sold today are digital. Digital hearing aids use a small computer chip to process sound, and they can be more specifically adjusted for your specific hearing loss and listening preferences than analog hearing aids. Using special software and the results of your hearing test, a hearing care provider customizes the way the hearing aid processes sounds of different pitches (frequencies). So, instead of making all sounds louder, digital hearing aids will amplify certain sounds more than others, focusing on the sounds that you have more difficulty hearing.

Digital hearing aid manufacturers offer several different models that can be roughly divided into 3 technology levels:

1) Advanced
2) Mid-level
3) Entry-level/Basic

These 3 digital technology levels are available in hearing aids of all styles, from BTE through CIC.

Generally speaking, higher levels of technology offer more features within the hearing aid that could be helpful in difficult listening situations. If you have a very active social life, a busy work environment, and you have difficulty hearing in background noise, then more technologically advanced hearing aids may be right for you. On the other hand, if you lead a fairly quiet life and only need hearing aids to hear your spouse at home, then entry-level hearing aids may be sufficient. Regardless of the level of technology, most hearing aids perform well in quiet settings. The major advantage of mid-level or advanced hearing aid technology is better hearing in noisy settings.

Rechargeable Hearing Aids: “Never change your battery again.”

Rechargeable hearing aids have been around for over a decade now.  Over the course of the last few years, manufacturers have shifted to lithium-ion rechargeable batteries, to ensure a full days worth of usage can be provided to patients. Patients are now leaning towards rechargeable, to avoid having to purchase disposable batteries.

Disposable Batteries

Hearing aid batteries usually last between 5-10 days depending on usage. There are different types of hearing aid batteries depending on the make and style of hearing aids you wear. Consider the following when choosing replaceable batteries.

  • Always carry a spare battery with you.
  • Batteries should be kept at room temperature: do NOT store them in the refrigerator.
  • Put the battery in your hearing aid correctly: check proper orientation before inserting.
  • Do not buy more than a 6-months supply: beyond this time period, batteries may become stale.
  • Do not use corroded batteries.
  • Properly dispose of dead or corroded batteries.
  • Batteries are poisonous: keep them away from small children or pets.

Hearing Aid Features

Digital hearing aids have many special features that can make them easier to use and can make listening more comfortable in different settings. Your hearing health professional will discuss these features with you and recommend those that are suitable for your hearing loss, lifestyle and financial considerations.

Common digital hearing aid features include:

Directional Microphones

Directional microphones reduce the sound amplified from behind you while amplifying the sound in front of you. These are very helpful for improving speech understanding in noisy environments, especially when the noise you don’t want to hear is behind you and the person you want to hear is in front of you.

Noise Reduction

Noise reduction monitors the sounds around you and determines whether they are speech or noise. If the sounds are noise, the hearing aid will reduce the noise to make listening more comfortable in that environment.

Feedback Reduction

Feedback Reduction prevents or reduces the occurrence of whistling or squealing noises that hearing aids can make.

Wireless Communication

One hearing aid communicates wirelessly with the other, so when you adjust one hearing aid (for example, turn down the volume), the other one will adjust as well.

Data-Logging

The hearing aid records how and when you use your hearing aids and the different listening environments that you are exposed to on a day-to-day basis. This information can be used by your hearing health professional to fine-tune and customize your hearing aids for your individual needs.

Bluetooth

A small adapter is “paired” with your Bluetooth device, such as a cell phone or mp3 player, which then allows you to hear your Bluetooth device directly through your hearing aids.

Multiple Programs

The hearing aid contains more than one program for different listening situations or environments. The hearing aid user pushes a button on the hearing aid or uses a remote control to choose different programs for a given situation. For example, many people use different programs for listening in noisy versus quiet situations, or when listening to TV or music.