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50+: Live Better, Longer

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All About Hearing Aids

How You’ll Get One

If you don’t already know an ear, nose, and throat doctor, ask your primary care doctor to send you to one. This specialist can evaluate and treat your hearing loss.

In the office, the doctor will do an exam to find out what’s causing your trouble. You also will see an audiologist who will do tests to find out the type of hearing loss you have and how bad it is.

These specialists can give you a hearing aid if you need one. Avoid mail-order hearing aids, which often don't fit well and don't improve hearing enough.

If you have hearing loss in both ears, it’s probably best to wear two hearing aids.

Types and Styles of Hearing Aids

Work with an audiologist to figure out which type and style will work best for you, as well as any special features you need. The right device for you depends on:

  • The type of hearing loss you have and how severe it is
  • Your age
  • How well your hands can manage small devices
  • Your lifestyle
  • Cost. The devices vary greatly in price, from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

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

  • Analog hearing aids convert sound waves into electrical signals and then make them louder. They’re usually less expensive and 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 the direction of a sound and its pitch or volume. That makes it easier to adjust the sound to what you need, whether you’re in a restaurant, a quiet room, or a stadium. Most will adjust automatically. Although this type costs more than an analog hearing aid, the results are much better. They are also smaller and more powerful.

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

  • Canal hearing aids fit inside your ear 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. Either type can help mild to moderately severe hearing loss. 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 very small devices. An invisible-in-canal (IIC) aid is nearly impossible for others to see. You may put it in every day, or it may be a device you wear for several months at a time.
  • In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids fit completely inside your outer ear with a hard plastic case that holds the electronics. They’re best for people with mild to severe hearing loss, but they don’t work as 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, called a Mini BTE, fits entirely behind your ear, with a narrow tube that reaches into your ear canal. This helps keep earwax from building up and prevents any muffling of your own voice. You can use the BTE type no matter your age or amount of hearing loss.

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