As the name suggests, hearing aids help people who have difficulty hearing. All hearing aids are not the same, but they all have some of the same type of electronic components. These include:
• A microphone that receives the sound
• An amplifier that adds volume to the sound
• A tiny receiver that delivers the sound to the ear
• The batteries that give the power to the electronic parts
The main differences in hearing aids are their design, their amplification technology and certain special features. These may be earpieces or ear molds that direct the sound or enhance the sound quality by directing it into the ear. The type of hearing aid a person needs depends on the severity of hearing loss, their lifestyle and their listening needs. The different types are:
• Behind-the-ear (BTE)
• In-the-ear (ITE)
• Mini BTE or on-the-ear
• In-the-canal (ITC)
• Completely-in-the-canal (CIC)
The parts in a BTE aid are inside a small plastic case that sits behind the ear. A piece of clear plastic tubing connects the case to the earpiece. This type is suitable for several earmold types, which is one reason it is often selected for children. As the child grows, the earpiece can be changed. It is very sturdy and easily cleaned, which also makes it a good choice for children. The BTE is often recommended for moderate to severe hearing loss.
In-the-ear aids contain all the components of the hearing aid in a shell that fills the outer part of the ear. It is larger than the in-the-canal and completely-in-the-canal aids, but some people prefer it because it is very easy to handle.
Mini BTE or On-the-Ear
The mini BTE is relatively new. It is called on-the-ear because while it sits behind the ear, it sits higher, hence on the ear. The clear plastic tube that connects the components to the earpiece is very thin and virtually invisible. The earpiece is comfortable when inserted into the ear, but it can also be used with a traditional earpiece. Mini BTEs have an open fit that increases comfort and reduces feedback. Many people prefer the mini BTE for cosmetic reasons.
Also called an open fit hearing aid, this type is commonly recommended for people with high-frequency hearing loss. The hearing aid does not completely block the ear canal. It allows low and mid-frequency sounds normally into the ear, making only the high-frequency sounds amplified.
All of the components of this aid are contained in the case that fits partly in the ear canal. This type along with the completely-in-the-canal is the smallest hearing aid available. It is considered suitable for mild to moderate hearing loss. As the name suggests, the completely-in-the-canal fits into the ear canal.
The speaker may be susceptible to becoming clogged by earwax, but since it is inside the canal, it doesn’t pick up wind noise. These types are great for cosmetic purposes because they are invisible, but they are hard to handle for some people, especially older people. The invisibility may depend on your ear’s anatomy. They may be harder to see on some people than others. Both of these types are custom-made for the individual.
What are Analog and Digital Hearing Aids?
Analog hearing aids increase the volume of the sound waves. They amplify all sounds including noise and speech. With the advent of digital hearing aids, analog hearing aids are in less demand.
In addition to all the programmable aspects of an analog aid, digital aids can reproduce the sound exactly. The computer chips are very sophisticated and analyze speech and other sounds. They have a more complex process for amplification, which may reduce background noise and whistle feedback.
Digital aids can be programmed in many ways. They can be changed for different hearing loss patterns and have program memories. These are the most popular hearing aids and are the most commonly offered.
Different types of hearing aids have optional features to consider. The wearer can choose the features that best fit the type or severity of the hearing loss. Some of the features that may be available are:
• A directional microphone will help you have a conversation in a noisy place. It amplifies sounds coming from a certain direction more than sounds from other directions.
• A telephone switch (T-coil) lets you change from your normal microphone setting to a T-coil setting to hear telephone conversations better. The wired telephones manufactured today must by law be compatible with hearing aids.
• The best use for the T-coil feature is in auditoriums, theaters, houses of worship and other places where there is an FM installation or induction loop. Even if the speaker is some distance away, the voice is significantly louder than the background noise. Some hearing aids have both a T-coil switch and a microphone switch so you can still hear nearby conversations while listening to an induction loop.
• Feedback suppression is a feature that blocks the squeals that may occur when the hearing aid has a loose-fitting earpiece or gets too close to a phone.
• Direct audio input lets you plug into an FM assistive listening system or remote microphone and connect directly to a computer, TV, radio or CD player.
• Many hearing aids today have wireless connectivity.
• Remote controls are available on some hearing aids. You can adjust the features without putting your hand up to your ear.
• Synchronization is useful if you have two hearing aids. They can be programmed to function together so if you make adjustments on one, it will automatically adjust the other.
How to Choose Your Best Hearing Option
You can talk to our audiologist to have a checkup for your hearing and discuss the options that will work best for you and your lifestyle. It may take time to get used to wearing a hearing aid. The sound will be different, and you will hear much more than you usually do. As you learn how to use the programs and features, you will become accustomed to the amplification. When you wear a hearing aid, your own voice may sound different. Again, this is something you will get used to.
It is important to consider certain things when you first start wearing any type of hearing aid. We will help you every step of the way. Some of the things we will discuss with you are:
• Do you have a correctable type of hearing loss such as an ear infection or excess earwax? We will examine your ears and test your hearing to find out for sure.
• A trial period for you to see if you like the model you have selected.
• Adjustable power if you want the power to increase if or when your hearing gets worse.
• How to use your hearing aid in different environments as the amplification will sound different in different places.
• Educating your family to support you during your adjustment time.
• We will keep you updated about new technology or features that may improve your experience even more.
• Follow-up visits so we can make any adjustments necessary and help you have the best experience you possibly can.
Who is a Good Candidate for a Hearing Aid?
You may think that it is obvious that when someone can’t hear, they need a hearing aid. For some, the hearing loss starts so gradually that the person doesn’t notice it. Some signs a hearing aid may improve your quality of life are:
Family members and friends complain you keep the TV, music, radio or telephone volume too high. It seems fine to you because you can hear the program, but it is not normal for others. At first, you may think someone is being too picky, but when multiple people tell you to turn down the volume, you need to take notice. This is also true when you speak. You may be shouting and not even realize it. If others tell you to tone it down, you may want to consider a hearing test.
It is difficult for you to hold a private conversation in a crowd. If you can’t tell who is speaking in a noisy room, you may be beginning to lose your hearing.
Even when you are having a quiet conversation, if you have regular misunderstandings or often have to ask people to repeat themselves, hearing loss may be to blame. You may get tired of saying “what” all the time and just nod and smile when you really haven’t understood.
If you have tinnitus, it may not be due to hearing loss, but it could be. This is especially true if your hearing loss is because of being in the vicinity of loud noises for years. Members of rock bands are famous for having this problem.
Learn More During a Consultation with Our Professionals
While no hearing aid restores normal hearing, each type goes a long way to help the individual hear again. Technology has improved hearing aid design to the point that you can adjust what you hear whether it’s for a quiet moment with nature to a football game.
To learn more about how your hearing can be improved, simply book an appointment at Regional ENT Associates, located in Gallatin and Lebanon. We would be more than happy to meet with you and assess your case. From there, we can discuss your options with you and answer any questions you may have. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation and get started. We look forward to hearing from you!