When buying hearing aids, it’s important to weigh your options carefully and consider what you want from them. While hearing care professionals can give you valuable insight on how to make this decision, going into your consultation well-informed can make the decision-making process easier on everyone, including you.
If you’re not sure where to start learning about hearing aids, this guide can give you the basics, so you can begin pursuing information on potential hearing aids.
Many types of hearing aids exist. So which is best for you? Find out what to consider when choosing a hearing aid.
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.
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Hearing aid styles
Depending on what you want from your hearing aid and what you are compatible with, you might be able to choose between a few different types of hearing aids. These product types/styles vary in size, but the primary differences are where they go. Some go in your ear, while others sit behind the earlobes. Different kinds of hearing loss call for different hearing aid styles, so you might not be compatible with every one on this list. However, knowing about each one can help you make a decision if you have to choose between two or more.
BTE, or behind-the-ear hearing aid. This is the largest type of hearing aid, and one of the most common. While BTE models sometimes come in mini versions, both kinds sit behind the shell of your ear, and run tubing over the top. Pros: easy to adjust, lots of features, and compatible with severe hearing loss. Cons: bulky and might cause a plugged feeling in the ear.
ITE, or in-the-ear hearing aid. These sit in the bowl of the ear, lightly plugging the entrance to your ear canal. Smaller than BTE models, though somewhat more noticeable. Pros: easy to insert, and relatively flexible features. Cons: visually noticeable and less powerful than most BTE models.
ITC, or in-the-canal hearing aid. Similar to the ITE model, but even smaller. This hearing aid sits just within the ear canal. Pros: relatively unnoticeable, and less of a “plugged” feeling during wear. Cons: discomfort, short battery life, and challenging removal.
CIC, or completely-in-the-canal hearing aids. These are the smallest type. Aptly named, they sit completely inside the ear. Pros: almost invisible, less phone feedback, and less wind noise. Cons: hard to adjust, fewer features, and short battery life.
RIC, or receiver-in-canal hearing aid. Also referred to as receiver-in-the-ear or canal receiver technology, these are smaller than BTE models, but are easy to maneuver and offer a wide variety of high-tech features. They sit comfortably behind the ear while – unlike with a BTE – the RIC’s loudspeaker or “receiver” is located at the end of a thin earwire, producing a superior listening experience with less energy consumption.
SLIM-RIC, or slim lithium-ion module RIC. These are a unique new design pioneered by Signia. They work just like a normal RIC but offer a stylish slim-line form that redefines how a hearing aid can look and feel.
CROS or BiCROS devices enable people with unaidable hearing loss in one ear to hear what’s going on around them by receiving sound on that side and transmitting it to a hearing aid in the other ear.