Types of hearing aids
There are many types of hearing aids. When purchasing a hearing aid you need to consider a number of factors including brand, style and cost. It’s important to know what’s compatible with your hearing levels, ear shape, lifestyle and finances. Some Hearing Clinics only fit one or two brands of hearing aids so if you have a particular brand in mind, check with the clinic beforehand they offer what you’re after. You can rely on your Audiologist or Audiometrist to make a recommendation for you, however to ensure you are fitted with a device you’re comfortable with, do your research to give yourself a bit of knowledge. Let’s first look at the different styles of hearing aids available.
Many people still think hearing aids are big cumbersome devices. We certainly have moved past the old ear trumpets and it’s rare these days to see a body aid (but they are still available if requested). And yes, the hearing aids that sit behind the ear are much smaller now, even the more powerful ones. There are many categories of styles to take into consideration when investigating hearing aids.
- Behind-the-Ear (BTE) hearing aid – the main part of the hearing aid sits behind the ear. BTEs are the most familiar style of hearing device with all components cased in a piece that sits behind the ear and an ear mould (custom or dome piece), which carries the sound into your ear canal. BTEs are the most powerful hearing aids and are appropriate for all levels of hearing. Some companies will also offer a mini-BTE.
- Receiver-in-the-Ear (RITE) / Receiver-in-the-Canal (RIC) hearing aid – this style has a small device behind the ear with an ultra-thin tube carrying a wire to a small plug (dome or mould) in your ear, which is where the receiver is situated. A custom mould tip can be made if required. Some companies offer a Micro of Mini version of this style of hearing aid.
- In-the-Ear (ITE) hearing aids – a custom made hearing aid, where a hearing professional takes an impression of your ear. Being the largest inside the ear style it will accommodate hearing losses up to the severe range. The ITE is easier to handle for those with dexterity issues.
- In-the-Canal (ITC) hearing aids – a smaller version of the ITE, offering a more discreet hearing aid style, with a smaller portion of the hearing aid visible in the outer part of your ear. Some companies offer this a ‘half-shell’.
- Completely-in-the-Canal (CIC) hearing aids – hidden completely in the canal, this tiny device is barely visible. Each CIC has a tiny removal handle made from thin fishing wire to allow for easy removal
- Invisible-in-the-Canal (IIC) are hidden deep in the ear canal. These are custom made hearing devices, and for most, this means a very deep impression of your ear is required. Like the CIC, they too have an invisible wire for ease of removal.
- Extended wear IIC – an extended wear invisible hearing aid that does not require an impression. A thorough inspection of the ear canal with a high magnification device is required to determine where the hearing aid should sit deep and comfortably in your ear canal. As no impression is required of the ear canal, it can be fitted once your ear has been determined as acceptable for this style of aid (at present only Phonak has these types of devices). Once the extended wear IIC has been inserted, it will be programmed for your hearing levels. This IIC can be worn for many months before it needs to be changed for a new one.
When choosing the right hearing aid you need to consider how much you want to pay. You may have complex listening needs but limited finances. You may be a first time hearing aid user and unsure of your requirements. Or you may have been wearing hearing aids for many years, know what you need and don’t require a lot of follow-up service from your Audiologist or Audiometrist.
All of these factors will impact on the technology required in your hearing aid and your budget. The style of your hearing aid can also effect the cost. The most advanced technology is generally found in the hearing aid styles that fit behind the ear – either a BTE or RIC. This is because there is more room to fit extra features in these hearing aids. Smaller, more invisible hearing aids, may offer alternative technology features and costs.
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