Types and Styles of Hearing Aids
Work with an audiologist to figure out which type and style will work best, as well as any special features you need. This depends on factors such as:
- The type and severity of your hearing loss
- Your age
- Your dexterity
- Your lifestyle
- Your financial resources: hearing aids 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 that are then amplified. The manufacturer can program analog hearing aids so they can work well in variety of settings. You change programs depending upon whether you are in a restaurant, quiet room, or outside stadium, for example.
- 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 even more flexibility in adjusting to a user's 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 superior to analog models. They are also smaller and more powerful.
At this time, there are three main styles of hearing aids, which differ in:
- Placement in or on the ear
- Ability to amplify sound
These are the three main styles of hearing aids:
- Canal hearing aids fit into the 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 the 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 for those with dexterity or visual issues.
- In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids fit completely inside the 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 the 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 the ear, with a narrow tube reaching into the 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 severity of hearing loss.
Be sure to ask about any special features you desire. Not all hearing aids have the same ones.
- Directional microphones help you better respond to sound coming from a specific direction.
- A telephone switch minimizes background noise and better picks up sounds from the phone. This setting also improves 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 complement your hearing aids in certain settings.