Hearing Aids

Perhaps you've thought about getting a hearing aid, but you're worried about how it will look or whether it will really help. It may help ease your concerns to know more about:

  • The hearing aid options available to you

  • What to look for when buying a hearing aid

  • How to get used to it

Hearing aids can't restore normal hearing. They can improve your hearing by amplifying soft sounds, helping you hear sounds that you've had trouble hearing.

 

How hearing aids work

Hearing aids use the same basic parts to carry sounds from the environment into your ear and make them louder. Most hearing aids are digital, and all are powered with a hearing aid battery.

Small microphones collect sounds from the environment. A computer chip with an amplifier converts the incoming sound into digital code. It analyzes and adjusts the sound based on your hearing loss, listening needs and the level of the sounds around you. The amplified signals are then converted back into sound waves and delivered to your ears through speakers.

 

Hearing aid styles

Hearing aids vary a great deal in price, size, special features and the way they're placed in your ear.

The following are common hearing aid styles, beginning with the smallest, least visible in the ear. Hearing aid designers keep making smaller hearing aids to meet the demand for a hearing aid that is not very noticeable. But the smaller aids may not have the power to give you the improved hearing you may expect.

Micro CIC (Completely-In-Canal)
A completely-in-the-canal hearing aid is molded to fit inside your ear canal. It improves mild to moderate hearing loss in adults. A completely-in-the-canal hearing aid:
• Is the smallest and least visible type
• Is less likely to pick up wind noise
• Uses very small batteries, which have shorter life and can be difficult to handle
• Doesn't contain extra features, such as volume control or a directional microphone
• Is susceptible to earwax clogging the speaker
CIC (Completely-In-Canal)
A completely-in-the-canal hearing aid is molded to fit inside your ear canal. It improves mild to moderate hearing loss in adults. A completely-in-the-canal hearing aid:
• Is the smallest and least visible type
• Is less likely to pick up wind noise
• Uses very small batteries, which have shorter life and can be difficult to handle
• Doesn't contain extra features, such as volume control or a directional microphone
• Is susceptible to earwax clogging the speaker
ITE (In-The-Ear)
An in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aid is custom made in two styles — one that fills most of the bowl-shaped area of your outer ear (full shell) and one that fills only the lower part (half shell). Both are helpful for people with mild to severe hearing loss:
• Includes features that don't fit on smaller style hearing aids, such as a volume control
• Easier to handle
• Uses a larger battery for longer battery life
• Susceptible to earwax clogging
• May pick up more wind noise
• More visible in the ear
Micro BTE (Behind-The-Ear)
A behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid hooks over the top of your ear and rests behind the ear. A tube connects the hearing aid to a custom earpiece called an earmold that fits in your ear canal. This type is appropriate for people of all ages and those with almost any type of hearing loss:
• Traditionally has been the largest type of hearing aid, though some newer mini designs are streamlined and barely visible
• Is capable of more amplification than are other styles
• May pick up more wind noise
BTE (Behind-The-Ear)
A behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid hooks over the top of your ear and rests behind the ear. A tube connects the hearing aid to a custom earpiece called an earmold that fits in your ear canal. This type is appropriate for people of all ages and those with almost any type of hearing loss:
• Traditionally has been the largest type of hearing aid, though some newer mini designs are streamlined and barely visible
• Is capable of more amplification than are other styles
• May pick up more wind noise
RIC/RITE (Receiver-In-The-Ear)
The receiver-in-canal (RIC) and receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) styles are similar to a behind-the-ear hearing aid with the speaker or receiver in the canal or in the ear. A tiny wire, rather than tubing, connects the pieces:
• Has a less visible behind-the-ear portion
• Is susceptible to earwax clogging the speaker
RIC (Receiver-In-Canal)
The receiver-in-canal (RIC) and receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) styles are similar to a behind-the-ear hearing aid with the speaker or receiver in the canal or in the ear. A tiny wire, rather than tubing, connects the pieces:
• Has a less visible behind-the-ear portion
• Is susceptible to earwax clogging the speaker
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Additional Features

Some hearing aid optional features improve your ability to hear in specific situations:

  • Noise reduction. All hearing aids have some amount of noise reduction available. The amount of noise reduction varies.

  • Directional microphones. These are aligned on the hearing aid to provide for improved pick up of sounds coming from in front of you with some reduction of sounds coming from behind or beside you. Some hearing aids are capable of focusing in one direction. Directional microphones can improve your ability to hear when you're in an environment with a lot of background noise.

  • Rechargeable batteries. Some hearing aids have rechargeable batteries. This can make maintenance easier for you by eliminating the need to regularly change the battery.

  • Telecoils. Telecoils make it easier to hear when talking on a telecoil-compatible telephone. The telecoil eliminates the sounds from your environment and only picks up the sounds from the telephone. Telecoils also pick up signals from public induction loop systems that can be found in some churches or theaters, allowing you to hear the speaker, play or movie better.

  • Wireless connectivity. Increasingly, hearing aids can wirelessly interface with certain Bluetooth-compatible devices, such as cellphones, music players and televisions. You may need to use an intermediary device to pick up the phone or other signal and send it to the hearing aid.

  • Remote controls. Some hearing aids come with a remote control, so you can adjust features without touching the hearing aid.

  • Direct audio input. This feature allows you to plug in to audio from a television, a computer or a music device with a cord.

  • Variable programming. Some hearing aids can store several preprogrammed settings for various listening needs and environments.

  • Environmental noise control. Some hearing aids offer noise cancellation, which helps block out background noise. Some also offer wind noise reduction.

  • Synchronization. For an individual with two hearing aids, the aids can be programmed to function together so that adjustments made to a hearing aid on one ear (volume control or program changes) will also be made on the other aid, allowing for simpler control.