People experiencing hearing loss have more resources available to them than ever before. Hearing aid technology has become very advanced, so it helps to be familiar with the different types of hearing aids available and to understand the basics of how they work.
How Hearing Aids Work
Hearing aids work by taking sound in the natural environment and making it louder or stronger so it’s easier for people with hearing loss to detect. Most hearing aids will have a microphone that helps detect sound in the environment, some sort of circuitry that makes this sound louder, a speaker that transmits this sound to the ear canal, and an energy source (like a battery).
Hearing aids have varying levels of sophistication. Some are more well-suited to particular forms of hearing loss, while others might be beneficial in different scenarios. This is why working with a professional audiologist to select a hearing aid device is key.
Hearing Aid Styles
Hearing aids have many common features, but they do differ in appearance and style. Here’s a breakdown of four of the most common styles.
Behind-the-ear (BTE) aids. These hearing aids house the majority of their parts behind the ear. A small piece of tubing connects the behind-the-ear component to an earmold piece that sits at the opening of the ear canal.
- Positives: According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), these are simple to keep clean and manage, and they are sturdy, which makes them popular with children.
“Mini” BTE, or receiver in canal (RIC), aids. These hearing aids also fit behind the ear. However, they are usually smaller than the classic BTE. Similar to a BTE, a small piece of tubing connects the back parts to the piece that sits at the entrance of the ear canal.
- Positives: Because the piece that sits in the ear canal is smaller, people who use this device feel less “plugged up” compared to the BTE. It also may have less feedback and echo and may be less noticeable.
In-the-canal (ITC) aids and completely-in-the-canal (CIC) aids. These are very small devices that house all of their parts in a case that either fits partly (ITC) or fully (CIC) into the ear canal.
- Positives: These are less noticeable, and they may offer improved sound. Because they are so small, they may be better for people with more dexterity who can adjust small pieces.
In-the-ear (ITE) aids. These hearing aids contain all of their parts in a shell that sits in the outer part of the ear. These are similar to ITC and CIC aids. However, they’re a bit larger and sit in the outer part of the ear.
- Positives: These may be easier to manage than ITC or CTC aids, and they’re still less visible than BTE hearing aids.
The Difference Between Analog and Digital Hearing Aids
Aside from style, another factor differentiates hearing aids. This is whether they use analog or digital technology.
An analog hearing aid makes all sounds louder, regardless of where they are coming from. Digital hearing aids convert sound waves into digital signals using microchips. These allow for a more sophisticated sound processing experience, which may reduce background noise. Digital aids are also more programmable than analog hearing aids, and they are more common.
Hearing Aid Features
Hearing aids have several other helpful features, including the following:
- Directional microphone
- Noise reduction
- Feedback suppression
- T-coil (Telephone switch)
- Wireless connectivity
- Direct audio input
It’s important to choose a hearing aid that’s best suited for one’s particular type of hearing loss and hearing assistance goals.
How to Learn More About Hearing Aids
Being able to hear is fundamental to experiencing a high quality of life. At Sonora Hearing, experienced audiologists work closely with patients experiencing hearing loss to help them determine what type of hearing aids may best suit their preferences and lifestyle.For information about how hearing aids may help you or a loved one, contact Sonora Hearing to request an appointment today.