Hearing Aid Types
Determining the Best Hearing Aids for Your Level of Hearing Loss
Stay connected to the ones you love with a hearing aid that fits your lifestyle. Hearing aids come in a variety of types and styles. Every hearing aid is slightly different in what they can do for you, so “the best” hearing aid for you will depend on the results of your hearing test and your lifestyle. If a hearing aid isn’t strong enough or doesn’t treat the type of hearing loss you have, it just won’t work the way you expect it to. This is why we start your consultation with a hearing test.
Which Types of Hearing Aids Are Best for Me?
The severity of your hearing loss, the shape of your ear, as well as your listening needs are important factors to consider when choosing hearing aids. Depending on the results of your test we may suggest one of the following hearing aid types.
BTE Hearing Aids
A behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid goes over the top of your ear and has a piece that sits behind it. The aids’ tubes connect to an individually-designed earpiece that fits your ear canal and amplifies sound. A BTE hearing aid can be used by individuals of all ages who suffer from moderate to severe hearing loss. It is easy for most individuals to insert and remove a BTE hearing aid without assistance. A majority of BTE models include wireless capability, so wearers can connect to smartphones and tablets.
ITE Hearing Aids
In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids come in two styles – half shell, which fits into the lower part of the ear, and full shell, which covers most of the outer ear. Both styles are worn by individuals who suffer from mild to severe hearing loss. The benefits of an ITE hearing aid include volume control and longer battery life than smaller hearing aids.
ITC Hearing Aids
In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids are custom-made based on the shape of your ear. They are largely inconspicuous, but a portion of the aid is visible. Benefits include wireless capability, which allows the aids to connect with smartphones and music streaming devices. Styles include completely-in-canal (CIC) hearing aids, as well as invisible-in-canal (IIC) hearing aids. CIC hearing aids can be customized, although they often forego wireless capability to remain small and discreet. IIC hearing aids are placed deep inside your ear canals and are practically invisible. ITC, CIC and IIC hearing aids work well for individuals with mild to moderate hearing loss.
RIC Hearing Aids
With receiver-in-canal (RIC) hearing aids, sometimes referred to as receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) hearing aids, the speaker section is inserted in the ear canal, while the amplifier and microphone section rests behind the ear. This separation allows the components to remain small in size and easy to hide from view. RIC hearing aids have wireless capability and are often recommended for individuals with moderate to severe hearing loss.
Middle Ear Implants
An alternative for those who cannot wear conventional hearing aids is a middle ear implant. In this procedure, a microphone is positioned behind the ear and held in place with a magnet surgically-implanted beneath the skin. The microphone converts sound into vibrations, which are sent to a separate device surgically-implanted in the middle ear. This augments the wearer’s ability to hear without the need for a speaker. Middle ear implants are recommended for individuals who suffer from mild to moderate hearing loss, but also can be helpful for those who have severe allergies, frequent ear infections or very narrow ear canals.
Extended-Wear Hearing Aids
Another option to consider is extended-wear hearing aids, which are inserted deep in the ear canal. Extended-wear hearing aids can be worn for weeks or months at a time without being removed. Extended-wear hearing aids are best suited for adults with moderate to severe sensorineural hearing loss. By placing the aid deep in the ear canal, distortion, feedback, wind noise and occlusion are all reduced when compared to hearing aids worn on the ear.
Why Should I Consider Digital Hearing Aids?
An analog hearing aid amplifies sound so your ear receives it at a louder volume. A digital hearing aid digitizes the sounds you hear. That means it goes the extra step of eliminating background noises and frequencies that interfere with the sounds you’re trying to focus on. An analog hearing aid acts as a microphone and speaker, but digital hearing aids can perform more complex functions – such as separating speech from background noise, and changing the frequency of sounds to make them more easily discernible and pleasing to the ear.
Digital hearing aids have many benefits over analog hearing aids including:
- Digital hearing aids enhance the sound of speech, and greatly reduce bothersome background noise, to ensure you hear the person talking to you.
- Digital hearing aids are better able to eliminate feedback – the loud ringing sound that sometimes emanates from an analog hearing aid.
- The volume level of a digital hearing aid automatically adjusts to changes in the environment so you don’t have to make manual adjustments.
Do I Need Bluetooth Hearing Aids?
Most hearing aid manufacturers produce hearing aids that utilize Bluetooth technology to connect with smartphones, tablets and music-streaming devices. Bluetooth technology provides these capabilities without overly draining battery life, which can be important if this is a feature you anticipate using a lot. Other hearing aids allow you to connect to Bluetooth using an additional device called a streamer.
Aren’t All Hearing Aids Wireless?
Most modern hearing aids don’t feature any visible wires, cables or cords. The term “wireless” indicates that the hearing aid can communicate with other electronic devices – including smartphones, computer tablets, smart TVs and streaming devices. If you have two hearing aids they are also able to communicate with each other. Non-wireless hearing aids are unable to communicate with other electronic devices or receive streaming audio.
Wireless hearing aids allow you to:
- Hear speech, music or sounds in both ears simultaneously, even if the sound was initially picked up by only one of the hearing aids.
- Change the volume in both hearing aids by simply pressing a button.
- Exclude any unwanted ambient noise in the room that may interfere with comfortable listening.
- Create custom settings for unique sound environments – such as a noisy restaurant or busy shopping mall.
- Stream television shows, movies, internet radio stations and podcasts directly to the hearing aids without static or distortion.
- Adjust the volume of a television without increasing the volume for other listeners (though you may need a streaming accessory).
- Increase the clarity of speech or music over unwanted background noise.
- Add a remote control to adjust the hearing aid volume, or switch between electronic devices that provide streaming music or sound.
Are Hearing Aids Covered by Insurance?
The answer to this question is complicated because coverage varies by state, as well as by each individual’s insurance plan. The only way to know for sure what your coverage allows is to check with your health insurance provider to determine whether the purchase of hearing aids is covered under your specific insurance plan. We work with many insurance providers and can help you navigate these waters: Give us a call and we can check insurance coverage for you.