Types of Hearing Aids
Are you on the hunt for a hearing aid? Many types of hearing aids exist. Sometimes you know that you need to buy one, but you are worried about whether it will help or what it will look like. It might ease your concerns to know more about the hearing aid options available in the market, what preferences to look for when buying the hearing aid, and how to get used to wearing it. Read more to find what to consider when choosing your hearing aid.
What are hearing aids?
Hearing aids don’t restore your hearing. This is a fact you should know! What they can do is improve your hearing by amplifying sounds you have trouble hearing. They reduce all the unwanted sounds and focus on the ones important to you, even the soft sounds in noisy environments.
A hearing aid is a small electronic device or hearing machine that you can wear behind or in your ear. It makes sounds louder so the person experiencing hearing loss can communicate, listen and participate more in their daily activities.
Certain damage can occur to the small sensory cells found in the inner ear and called hair cells. This damage can be due to aging, diseases, infections, certain medications or injury from noise. The greater the damage to the hair cells, the more severe the hearing loss becomes, and the greater the hearing aid amplification is needed to make up the difference.
How do hearing aids work?
All hearing aids, regardless of their type, have the same basic parts that make sounds better and clearer. Most of the hearing aids available currently are digital and powered with either traditional or rechargeable batteries.
They consist of four basic components: a microphone, an amplifier, a receiver/speaker and a battery.
Small microphones collect the sound from your surroundings. A computer chip joined with an amplifier converts the incoming sound into digital code. It analyzes the sound and adjusts it based on your hearing loss and listening needs. The amplified signals are then converted back to sound waves and delivered into your ears through speakers that are sometimes called receivers.
Not all hearing aids provide the same listening experience or comfort. Most modern and digital hearing aids have a computer chip, programmed specifically by the audiologist to fit your needs and preferences.
Do all hearing aids function in the same way?
Depending on the electronics used, hearing aids function in different ways. There are two main kinds of electronics:
Analog hearing aids
They convert sound waves into amplified, electrical signals. They are custom built to meet each user’s needs. It is programmed by the manufacturer based on the specifications recommended by the audiologist.
They have more than one setting or program. They are usually less expensive than the digital hearing aids.
Digital hearing aids
They convert sound waves into numerical codes or digital signals before amplifying them. Such hearing aids can be specially programmed to amplify some frequencies more than others and to focus on sounds coming from a certain direction. They use a computer chip that analyzes the environment for speech and other sounds. Most hearing aids nowadays are digital.
How many types of hearing aids are there?
Widex hearing aids vary in size, shape, placement in the ear, price and features. Hearing aid manufacturers keep designing smaller hearing aids in order to meet the demand for a hearing aid that is discreet and not noticeable. Hearing aids are categorized into different types. As a starting point, there are two basic types of hearing aids, which come in different styles:
In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids
These hearing aids are custom made in two styles- one that fills either the entire ear or most of the bowl-shaped area of the outer ear, known as full-shell, or a portion of the lower part area of the outer ear, known as half-shell. Both styles are recommended for people with moderate to severe hearing loss. We have the standard ITE hearing aids and the invisible completely-in-canal (CIC) hearing aids.
Standard in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids
They are best used for those who have dexterity issues or difficulty handling small items.
They come with directional microphones, which are two microphones that are used for better hearing in noises.
They are prone to earwax clogging the speaker.
They are able to pick up more wind noise than smaller devices.
They are more visible in the ear than smaller devices.
They are typically less visible than the ITE, since they are custom molded and fit more deeply and partly into the ear canal. This style is proper for those with mild to moderate hearing loss in adults.
They use smaller batteries because of their small size.
They are less visible than other larger types.
It might be a bit difficult to adjust to due to its small size.
They are made to fit the shape and size of the person’s ear canal.
This hearing aid is molded to fit inside your ear canal. It is also proper to help those with mild to moderate hearing loss.
It is the least visible and smallest type.
It uses very small batteries which can sometimes be difficult to handle.
Because of their small size, they do not offer extra features, such as directional microphones or volume control.
They can be susceptible to earwax blocking the speaker.
Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids
They are appropriate for users with a wide range of hearing loss, from mild to profound. They neatly fit behind the ear in a hard plastic case which attaches to a thin tubing or a custom plastic ear mold. The electronic parts are put in the case behind your ear.
There are three hearing aid types to choose from. We have the:
Standard BTE hearing aid
It is a solution to those with severe hearing loss and small ear canals.
You can choose from a wide variety of sizes, shapes and colors.
Volume and specific programs can be easily controlled in BTE hearing aids.
Widex MOMENT BTE models include:
BTE 13 D
BTE R D
Receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) hearing aid
The body of this hearing aid sits behind the ear.
A slim receiver wire extends from the body of the hearing aid over the outer ear and into your ear canal. A very soft tip sits inside the ear canal without sealing it.
Such hearing aids are appropriate for mild to severe hearing loss.
Some ITE hearing aids have an added feature called telecoil. It allows sound to be received through the circuitry of the hearing aid and not through the microphone. This helps in public facilities that include special sound systems, called induction loop systems.
These hearing aids are usually not worn by young children because the casings need to be frequently replaced as the ear grows.
Receiver-in-canal (RIC) hearing aid.
They are smaller than BTE hearing aids because their receiver or loudspeaker is placed in the ear-tip rather than the housing.
They are suitable if you have mild to severe hearing loss.
Widex MOMENT SHEER RIC models include:
sRIC R D
RIC 312 D
mRIC R D
Which type of hearing aid is best for your condition?
Selecting the best hearing aid from a wide selection of hearing aids on the market can be very overwhelming. Having your audiologist with you can aid in selecting the right device based on your specific situation and health condition. An audiologist is a healthcare provider that specializes in diagnosing and treating hearing loss, balance disorders and many other hearing problems. There are different hearing aids for:
Tinnitus, which is known as ringing in the ears
Meniere’s disease, in which swelling and pressure in the inner ear cause hearing issues or balance
High-frequency and low-frequency hearing loss
Different levels of hearing loss
People with limited manual dexterity
What type of hearing aid should you get?
Each type of hearing aids has its own advantages and limitations. If you have hearing loss in both of your ears, two hearing aids are usually recommended because they provide a more natural signal to the brain. Selecting the right hearing aid depends on a number of factors, including:
Severity of hearing loss
Shape and size of the ear
Ease of handling
This means manual dexterity, how well you can use your fingers and hands.
New hearing aid technology
Hearing aid price/budget
Services covered by the warranty
Estimated costs for repair and maintenance
Hearing aid company’s reputation for customer service and quality
Where you buy your hearing aids matters a lot. If you seek out professionally fitted hearing aids, you can have access on a wide variety of styles and types, with customization provided by your audiologist.