About hearing aids
There is considerable choice in the types and styles of hearing aids available on the market. They come in a variety of colours and designs with a range of features. Many factors are involved in determining the one that is best for you, including the amount of hearing loss you have and the listening situations and environments you are in on a daily basis. Audiologists at CHS can test your hearing, guide you through the process and discuss all the options available to you.
How hearing aids work
Today’s hearing aids are state-of-the-art technologies available in different styles with various features that take into account multiple cosmetic options. They are designed to enhance your daily life and improve communication without hindering your lifestyle.
All hearing aids share basic parts and similarities, which essentially make them miniature amplification systems. The basic components are:
- a microphone
- an amplifier (most use digital signal processing)
- a miniature loudspeaker called a receiver
- an earmold or an individual shell for custom hearing aids
- a battery
At the most basic level, hearing aids are amplifiers that selectively increase volume for the sounds you need to hear. They employ strategies that make soft sounds audible and at the same time, make moderate or loud sounds comfortable. The goal is to help you hear in both noisy and quiet listening environments.
Benefits and limitations of hearing aids
As much as technology has improved over the years, hearing aids are still an imperfect solution to a complicated problem and you need to have a realistic understanding of both their benefits and limitations. Communication environments are dynamic and each person faces their own challenges with unique qualities and circumstances. Hearing aids cannot solve every communication problem or restore normal hearing. However, with proper education and counselling, hearing aids can, and often do, make a big difference in the lives of those who use them.
There are three important factors to being successful in using a hearing aid:
- You have to be motivated and open to addressing your communication challenges.
- The hearing aid has to be the right match with all the appropriate features necessary to address your desired communication outcome.
- The audiologist has be someone you connect with and trust is truly listening to what you want and has the tools to help you.
If these three factors fall into place, your hearing aid experience should run smoothly and set the stage for a positive outcome.
Behind-the-Ear Hearing Aids
Behind-the-ear hearing aids (BTE) are used for all types of hearing loss, from mild to profound. They are sometimes easier to handle since they are larger than custom hearing aids. They come in a variety of styles, from miniature to super power for profound hearing losses.
Traditional BTEs require a custom-fit earmold to couple the hearing aid to the ear and direct the sound into the ear canal. This earmold helps hold the hearing aid in place and can help provide the best acoustics depending on the hearing loss.
The range of styles includes:
Behind-the-Ear (traditional style with custom earmold)
Behind-the-ear hearing aids hook over the top of your ear and rest behind the ear. The hearing aid picks up sound, amplifies it and carries the amplified sound to an earmold that fits inside your ear canal. This type of aid is appropriate for almost all types of hearing loss and for people of all ages. A behind-the-ear hearing aid:
- is thought to be the largest, most visible type of hearing aid, but some new versions are smaller, streamlined and barely visible
- is capable of more amplification than other hearing aid styles
BTE – Open-Fit Hearing Aids
These are usually very small behind-the-ear-style devices, although larger behind-the-ear devices can be modified for a more “open” fit. Sound travels from the instrument through a small tube or wire to a tiny dome in the ear canal. These aids leave the ear canal open, so they're best for mild to moderate high-frequency losses where low-frequency hearing is still normal or near normal.
An open-fit hearing aid:
- is less visible
- doesn’t plug the ear like in-the-canal hearing aids do
- may use very small batteries
- often lacks manual adjustments due to the small size
BTE – Receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) Hearing Aids
RIC hearing aids look similar to Open-Fits but the hearing aid receiver is external to the instrument and is placed into the ear canal. This external placement of the receiver allows the hearing aid to be as small as possible, making it extremely discreet and lightweight.
A RIC hearing aid:
- is the most popular style of hearing aid
- is less visible
- is suitable for mild to severe hearing loss
- reduces perception of hollow or echo-like sounds of your own voice
- enhances natural sound quality
Custom Hearing Aids
Custom hearing aids are appropriate for mild to severe hearing loss. They fit entirely within the ear and are fitted individually based on an impression of your ear.
The range of styles includes:
Completely-in-the-canal hearing aids are custom-moulded to fit inside your ear canal and can improve mild to moderate hearing loss in adults.
A completely-in-the-canal hearing aid:
- is the least noticeable in the ear
- is less likely to pick up wind noise because the ear protects the instrument
- is easy to use with the telephone in most cases
- uses smaller batteries, which typically don't last as long as larger batteries
- doesn't contain extra features, such as volume control (unless by remote) or directional microphones
An in-the-canal hearing aid is custom-moulded and fits partly in the ear canal, but not as deeply as the completely-in-the-canal aid. This hearing aid can improve mild to moderate hearing loss in adults.
An in-the-canal hearing aid:
- is less visible in the ear
- is easy to use with the telephone
- includes features that won't fit on completely-in-the-canal aids, but the small size can make the features difficult to adjust
- may not fit well in smaller ears
Half Shell (HS)
A larger version of the in-the-canal hearing aid, the half-shell is custom-moulded and fills the lower portion of the bowl-shaped area of your outer ear. This style is appropriate for mild to moderately severe hearing loss.
A half-shell hearing aid:
- is bigger than an in-the-canal hearing aid
- is a little easier to handle than smaller hearing aids
- includes additional features, such as directional microphones and volume control
- fits most ears
An in-the-ear (full-shell) hearing aid is custom-moulded and fills most of the bowl-shaped area of your outer ear. This style is helpful for people with mild to severe hearing loss.
An in-the-ear (full-shell) hearing aid:
- is more visible to others
- may pick up wind noise
- contains helpful features that are easier to adjust, such as volume control
- is generally easier to insert into the ear
- uses larger batteries, which typically last longer and are easier to handle