A hearing aid is a small electronic device that you wear in or behind your ear. It is designed to improve your hearing by making some sounds louder so that you can listen, communicate, and participate more fully in daily activities.
A hearing aid is an intelligent device that analyzes the sound environment you find yourself in and dynamically adjust to changes as they happen.
Only about one out of five people who would benefit from a hearing aid actually uses one.
A hearing aid consists of three basic parts: a microphone, amplifier, and speaker. The microphone in the device picks up the sound in the environment and changes it to electrical energy that goes to a set of amplifiers and other modifying and adjusting circuits. The modified electrical signal is then sent to a miniature speaker (called a receiver) and delivered to the ear. The newest aids are smart enough to amplify certain sounds or frequencies that are tailored to each hearing loss.
Hearing aids are available in a wide variety of styles and in a range of sound processing technologies. Selecting a style that is right for you depends on a number of factors, including:
- The severity and configuration of your hearing loss
- The size and shape of your ear
- Your personal preferences
- How well you can use your finger and hands (manual dexterity)
- Selecting the correct new hearing aid technology
What are the Types of Hearing Aids?
Behind the Ear Hearing Aids
Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids are the most recognized hearing aid devices. They are housed in a curved case that fits over the top of your ear and rests behind the ear. This device is appropriate for almost all types of hearing loss and for individuals of all ages. They can be worn easily, even by people who wear glasses, and today they are smaller, more discreet and stylish than ever before.
BTE hearing aids send sound into your ear in one of three different ways:
Through a standard tube (clear and flexible) connected to an ear mold (custom made) that fits inside your ear.
Through a thin sound tube connected to a small soft tip (dome) that sits inside your ear canal. This is known as an open ear fitting (OF). This leaves the ear “open” and reduces problems with occlusion (stuffy or barrel feeling) leading to more natural sounding amplification. The microphone, amplifier/speech processor, and receiver are housed in the hearing aid itself and the sound is delivered into the ear canal via the thin tubing/dome assembly.
Through a thin wire, which runs from the hearing aid to a small receiver (speaker) that fits into the ear canal by a soft tip (dome). This looks almost identical to the OF style except that the speaker is separated from the hearing aid. The terms for this type of aid is RIC (Receiver in the ear) or RITE (Receiver in the canal). The main advantage of this style is that because receivers of different power levels can be used, a greater range of levels of hearing loss can be treated successfully.
In the Ear or Canal Hearing Aids
Invisible-in-the-canal (IIC) hearing aids are new and fit very deeply in the ear canal making them invisible. IIC aids are only suitable if you have a mild to moderate hearing loss and they may have limited features. If you are interested in hearing aids that fit inside your ear, an audiologist will help you to decide which type is best for you. It will depend on your hearing loss, the size of your ear canals, your lifestyle and how much money you wish to spend.
Completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids are custom designed and fit the furthest down into the ear canal making them almost invisible. Any problems of wind noise and feedback on the telephone are reduced. CIC devices are most successful in people with ear canals large enough to accommodate them. This style is suitable to treat mild to moderate hearing loss, although some manufacturers have power CICs to treat more severe losses.
In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids are custom designed, smaller in size, and fit further down into the ear canal. They are less visible than ITE devices but because they are smaller they cannot accommodate a wide variety of features and are therefore generally only suitable to treat mild to moderate hearing loss. All the components are housed within a single plastic shell.
In-the-ear (ITE, half shell or full shell) hearing aids are custom designed and fit directly into your ear, filling some (half shell) or most (full shell) of the visible portion of your ear. All of the components are housed within a single plastic shell. Due to their size it is possible to incorporate larger sound amplifiers and useful features such as a program switch, directional microphones and volume control. An advantage is that they have no external wires or tubes, and are very light in weight. When properly made, they fit comfortably and securely in the ear. ITE hearing aids can successfully treat a wide range of hearing losses.
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