If you have just had a consultation with your audiologist and were prescribed hearing aids to treat your hearing loss, it is important to explore your options. During your hearing test, your audiologist determined your abilities to hear in particular ranges of sound. While the level of amplification you require will have some importance in terms of the options available to you, the range of possibilities can still be overwhelming.
If you were to look for hearing aids on your own, the types and names might appear like a jumble of letters and acronyms. Here, we provide a simple explanation of the main types of hearing aids. Within each type, there is great variety, so it is important to work side-by-side with your audiologist to determine which type is right for your needs and to suit your lifestyle.
The two basic kinds of hearing aids are In The Ear (ITE) or Behind The Ear (BTE). Within these general types, there are many variants, with different pros and cons depending on your needs. If you’re interested in rechargeable hearing aids, most of these options exist in the BTE style. If you want a hearing aid that disappears inside your ear canal, keep in mind that these may only be appropriate for those with mild hearing loss, and will not have Bluetooth functionality or other amenities.
Choosing Hearing Aids
With all these different styles and features of hearing aids, it’s no wonder that choosing a hearing aid is a very personal process. Not only is your hearing ability part of the decision, but you also will want to consider your lifestyle and the environments or activities that will require hearing assistance. Some hearing aids will work better for those who spend more time at home, while others will be more suited to social outings or spending more time in crowded, noisy places.
If you want to hear better in social settings but feel uncomfortable using a visible hearing aid, then an ITE might be the right choice. However, if you struggle with dexterity or want a fully-loaded, rechargeable option, then a larger BTE might be helpful. Furthermore, if you engage in activities that might subject the hearing aids to moisture, then you will need to use that preference in your hearing aid decision.
Beyond the physical style of the hearing aid, manufacturers usually offer three or more software functionality levels, from basic to premier. With basic functionality, you can expect the minimum of what the current state of the art has to offer. This will often include basic noise reduction, but perhaps nothing else. While these hearing aids will certainly work in terms of amplifying the sound around you, some people may benefit from more features.
As you move up the levels, you can find hearing aids that will automatically switch their program as you move through environments; hearing aids that use multiple microphones and speakers, and special software to communicate with each other, to drastically improve your sense of spatial awareness from sound; hearing aids that utilize separate processors for speech and background sound, improving your experience of both; and the list goes on. As a general rule, those with a more active lifestyle will benefit more from premier feature sets than those who tend to spend more time at home.
Because the hearing aid market contains such broad offerings, it’s important to come to your hearing test with a sense of what you want to get out of your hearing aids. Are you more of a homebody? Do you regularly have multiple visitors at once? Do you attend worship services or lectures? Do you work or are you retired? Do you visit museums or enjoy the movies? Do you watch a lot of television? It’s important to work with your audiologist and give them as much information as possible about what’s important to you so they can help you find your way to the right set of hearing aids.
Sometimes people get new hearing aids, try them out, and have such a hard time using them that they don’t wear them regularly. While you should expect to have an adjustment period with a new set of hearing aids, sometimes the problem is that the aid is mismatched to the individual. Let us help you avoid this problem by giving us as much information as you can about your lifestyle and the activities that are important to you.
ITE Hearing Aids
Invisible In the Canal (IIC)
Completely In the Canal (CIC)
In The Canal (ITC)
BTE Hearing Aids
BTE hearing aids are different from ITE, because they have two components connected by a small cord. The speaker sits in the ear canal, just like an ITE, but this piece is connected to a cartridge that sits behind the ear containing the battery, computer, amplifier and microphone. Although these units are visible and a bit bigger, they come with the benefit of being easier to take in and out. They also typically offer greater functionality, as they allow more space for greater computational power and rechargeable batteries. We should also note that there are many BTE models of hearing aid available today that are significantly smaller than models from even a generation ago.
Those who have trouble manipulating tiny objects may prefer a BTE hearing aid, because part of the unit sits behind the ear. For people who experience dexterity issues, BTE hearing aids are the easiest type to maneuver. An earpiece or earmold fits into the outer part of your ear canal. Some people experience occlusion with these models, but responses are mixed. People who wear eyeglasses may have some difficulty with the plastic component that rests on the back of the ear.