When you have the sense that your hearing may have deteriorated or you are no longer satisfied with your current hearing aids, the time has come to schedule an appointment with an audiologist or other ear specialist.
Upon scheduling your first appointment, you should expect several forms of assessment. The hearing specialist will consult with you about your symptoms, medical history, and sound exposure over time. Then, a visual exam will enable your doctor to observe the contours of the outer ear and features of the inner ear that may be obstructing your hearing ability, particularly if you have conductive hearing loss (which may be due to features of the ear canal or waxy buildup). Finally, a hearing test will identify which frequencies you are able to hear at which volumes.
With this information in hand, your hearing specialist will be able to devise a recommendation to you regarding the right type of hearing aid for you, but you may still have several options to choose from.
Hearing Aid Styles
Most hearing aids today are digital devices composed of three major parts: microphone, amplifier, and receiver. These three elements may be differently arranged depending on which of the four major types is best for you.
Behind the Ear (BTE)
BTE hearing aids place the receiver inside the ear and the other components outside the ear canal. Mini BTEs have a small unit that wraps around the ear itself, housing the microphone and amplifier. They are custom fitted to the shape of the ear. Traditional BTEs have a larger plastic cartridge that sits behind the ear enclosing these components, and sound information is transmitted to the ear canal through a small tube. These units are both appropriate for sufferers of sensorineural hearing loss, which occurs when the tiny hairs in the ear become less sensitive to sound or are damaged over time.
Completely in Canal (CIC)
These hearing aids are placed completely inside the ear canal, making them nearly invisible to the naked eye. One of the benefits of this type of hearing aid is the ability to place the entire unit within the ear for activities, and some people find them more comfortable. Others feel like their ears are plugged or find them cumbersome to handle because they are so tiny. Yet, the technology of a CIC is basically the same as a BTE, including a digital device to filter out noise and to amplify sounds in the necessary range.
Invisible in Canal (IIC)
IIC hearing aids sit far into the ear canal, offering the wearer an invisible hearing aid. Some find that these aids are more comfortable, taking care of the “plugged up” feeling some experience with CIC hearing aids. Although these aids are prone to moisture and waxy buildup, they may feel comfortable depending on the ear shape of the wearer.
In the Ear (ITE)
These units place all three components of the hearing aid in a plastic cartridge that sits in the opening of the ear. These larger units are easier to insert and remove when they are properly fitted into the ear. They are more visible and less appropriate for exercise and active lifestyles. Some say that the telecoils in the microphone component are less sensitive than BTEs, but this depends greatly on the particular hearing aid being used and technology it employs.
Hearing Aid Features
Several features are important to look for in your hearing aid. First, the telecoil is a technology available in some units that can correspond with telephones and public address systems and may make talking on the phone much easier. Similarly, digital noise reduction technology will make hearing clearer. Some sufferers of hearing loss find it difficult to distinguish voices from noise in the surrounding environment, and digital noise reduction is one way to filter out those unnecessary sounds.
Another useful feature is a directional microphone that can pick up the sound directly in front of a listener. Units with this feature help those who find that other hearing aids seem to amplify all the surrounding sound rather than the person directly speaking to you. Finally, an essential feature you will want to confirm is a part of your hearing aid is feedback suppression. Some hearing aids begin to feed back a loud, high pitch when they are exposed to certain sounds or when speaking on the telephone, and feedback protection has become a standard feature to prevent this problem.
If you’re in the market for a new pair of hearing aids, contact our team at Hearing Group today. We have experience in fitting hearing aids and can help you find the best pair to meet your hearing needs.