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All About Hearing Aids

Types and Styles of Hearing Aids continued...

There are two main types of hearing aids: analog and digital.

  • Analog hearing aids convert sound waves into electrical signals that are then amplified. These are typically less expensive and basically have simple volume controls.
  • Digital hearing aids convert sound waves into numerical codes similar to computer codes, then amplify them. The code includes information about pitch or loudness, providing flexibility in adjusting to your needs or environments, as well as the direction of the sound. Although this type is more expensive than an analog hearing aid, the results are much better. They are also smaller and more powerful.  Digital hearing aids can have programs depending upon whether you are in a restaurant, quiet room, or outside stadium. But they are designed to automatically adjust in various environments.

There are three main styles of hearing aids, which differ in size, placement in or on the ear, and ability to amplify sound:

  • Canal hearing aids fit into your ear canal and are less visible. An in-the-canal (ITC) hearing aid fits your specific ear canal. A completely-in-canal (CIC) aid is smaller and nearly hidden in your ear canal. You can use either type for hearing loss that is mild to moderately severe. But because of their size, they can be harder to adjust and remove. This style of hearing aid is not ideal for children or adults who might have problems with the small size. An invisible-in-canal (IIC) aid is nearly invisible.  You may put it in every day, or it may be a device you wear for several months at a time. This is a great option for people who might have trouble putting it in every day.
  • In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids fit completely inside your outer ear with a hard plastic case holding the electronics. Best for people with mild to severe hearing loss, ITE hearing aids work less well for children whose ears are still growing.
  • Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids house their parts in a hard plastic case behind your ear. A plastic ear mold fits inside the outer ear and directs sound to the ear, improving sound quality. A newer type (Mini BTE) fits entirely behind your ear, with a narrow tube reaching into your ear canal. This helps minimize earwax buildup and any muffling of your own voice. You can use the BTE type no matter your age or amount of hearing loss.

Be sure to ask about any special features you want. Not all hearing aids have the same ones.

  • Directional microphones help you better respond to sound coming from a specific direction and help tune out background noise.
  • A telephone switch minimizes background noise and better picks up sounds from the phone. If you can find this system, it can help with hearing in theaters, auditoriums, and churches.
  • Direct audio input allows you to plug in a remote microphone or FM assistive listening system or to connect directly to a TV or other device.

Other types of special hearing aids are also available for specific types of hearing loss. For example, one type uses a bone vibrator for people without an ear canal or outer ear. Others may be attached to glasses. Also, ask about other devices that may help your hearing aids in certain settings.  

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