Where to Start
Knowing where to start searching for hearing aids can be frightening – especially with all the options available and with all the complicated terms. Below is a general guide for choosing your hearing aids. Before making a decision, contact a hearing care professional (HCP). HCPs perform tests and learn about your lifestyle so they can cater to your needs and choose the right hearing aid for you.
How They Look
People often reject hearing aids because they worry about the aesthetic of the devices and their physical appearance. However, hearing aids now come in various sizes, shapes, and styles to provide different options to consumers. There are several low-profile options that are sleek and barely noticeable. Although hearing aids are made of the same basic components, their price range is broad due to the varying quality of the components, the features of the device, and the ways the device sits in your ear. Below are some common hearing aid styles.
Behind the Ear (BTE) — BTE hearing aids are more traditional than the other styles. BTEs hook behind the ear and place a tube inside the canal that transmits the sound. BTEs are suitable for people with almost any degree of hearing loss. Some BTEs may be more susceptible to picking up wind noise than other styles. Although BTEs are larger, they are capable of more amplification.
Open Fit — The open fit style has become one of the most popular styles over the years because it is less visible and has a natural sound. The hearing aid is similar to the BTE – it sits behind the ear and allows the canal to remain very open, allowing low-frequencies to enter naturally and for high frequency sounds to be amplified. However, open fits often lack manual adjustments and may be difficult to handle.
In the Ear (ITE) — ITEs are custom-fitted to your ears in two shapes: full shell (fills most of outer ear) and half shell (fills lower part of outer ear). These are helpful for people with mild to severe hearing loss. ITEs often include volume control and adjustable microphones. They are easy to handle and insert, but may be more visible than other styles.
In the Canal (ITC) — ITCs are custom-fitted to your ears and fits partly in the ear canal, making them less visible than larger styles. However, they are susceptible to earwax clogging and may be difficult to adjust. ITCs are appropriate for people with mild to moderate hearing loss.
Completely in the Canal (CIC) — CICs are the smallest and least visible type. They are unlikely to pick up wind noise, but may be difficult to handle and are susceptible to earwax clogging. Usually, CICs do not have volume control or directional microphones.
Terms and Features Hearing aids are complicated devices, which mean they have some complicated terms that you may be unfamiliar with. Below are some of these terms and other features you may want to learn about before making your decision.
Telecoil — A small wire that enables hearing aids to pick up signals from a telephone, making hearing on a telecoil-compatible telephone easier.
Directional microphone — Microphones that are aligned on the hearing aid to improve the pickup of sounds that are in front of you.
Feedback suppression — A digital enhancement that reduces and/or eliminates loud squeals when inserting a hearing aid or when it moves in your ear.
Digital noise reduction — Uses a programmed computer chip to reduce unwanted noise so you can hear voices and wanted noise better.
Before you buy, contact a hearing care professional and discuss your hearing loss and hearing devices. Their expertise can help provide you with the best hearing aids and hearing care.
Sources: mayoclinic.org, consumerreports.org