With so many hearing aids available today, choosing the right one can be difficult and time-consuming. Understanding the options available can help to make the process easier and help to assure the one you select will best meet your needs.
While most hearing aids perform in basically the same manner, different styles are available to accommodate your budget and your personal preferences. An important point to remember is that the smaller the hearing aid, the shorter its battery life and the more it will cost.
Inside-the-ear. These hearing aids are molded to fit completely inside a patient’s ear. Ideally they can help to improve mild to moderate adult hearing loss. Since they fit inside the ear they are the least noticeable, have less wind noise and are comfortable with telephone use. However, because of their size, they may not have volume control adjustments and other features. Exceptions to this are the new digital units, which in some cases are self-adjusting.
In-the-canal. This type of hearing aid differs from the “Inside the ear” types in that it does not fit as deeply in the ear canal. This enables it to have volume adjustment and other features. Because of the way it fits, it may not be suitable for small ears.
Half-shell. This style hearing aid is a slightly larger version of the “in the canal” type and is appropriate for moderately to severe hearing loss. They will have features like volume adjustments, fit most ears and be easier to handle because of their size.
Full shell (In-the-ear). Full shell, in-the-ear, style occupies the overall bowl-shaped area of a person’s outer ear and helps to address mild to severe hearing loss. It is however more visible, more susceptible to wind noise but, because of its larger batteries, will last longer.
Behind-the-ear. This type of hearing aid hooks over your ear and lies behind the ear. The unit picks up amplified sound and carries it to a molded earpiece that fits within your ear canal. It will accommodate most ages and people and is suitable for all types of hearing loss. Because of its size it is the most visible of the hearing aid types, however, it can provide better sound amplification than the other types.
Open fit. These small behind-the-ear units convey sound through a small tube or wire to a dome or speaker within the ear canal. They are best for persons with mild to moderate high-frequency hearing loss where low-frequency hearing is normal. Since they leave the ear canal open, they do not plug the ear like small in-the-canal types. However, they do use small batteries that do affect the duration of their use.
With digital electronics now encompassing most electrical devices, the same is true for hearing aids. As a result, most of the older analog units are being phased out. With digital technology, incoming sound is converted into digital codes that are analyzed by a computer chip and adjusted according to your specific hearing requirements.
Today’s hearing aids feature options that can improve a patient’s ability to hear under specific conditions. Some key features include:
- directional microphones to improve ones’ ability to hear in an environment with substantial background noise
- telephone adapters to make it easier to hear while on the telephone
- bluetooth compatibility to provide a convenient interface for devices such as cell phones