Hearing Aids Explained
If you have recently decided to finally do something about your hearing loss, congratulations! Hearing loss can lead to many other problems if left unchecked, and taking the step to get a hearing aid can help your quality of life. If you have started looking into what hearing aid would be best for you, you may be getting confused by the sheer number of options you have. In this blog we will seek to explain each type of hearing aid, who they are best for, and how they differ from each other.
There are two main types of hearing aids: in the ear (ITE) and behind the ear (BTE) styles. The ITE hearing aids fit inside the ear and offer discreet hearing help and are designed to blend into the outer ear. BTE styles sit either on top of the ear or behind the ear and have tubes that bring sounds into the ear canal. BTE styles can also be customized with different colors to blend in with the ear. While each of the hearing aid styles are designed to offer hearing support, your individual lifestyle, needs, and aesthetic preferences will play a role in which hearing aid is best for you.
IIC and CIC Hearing Aids
We are starting with the smallest hearing aids that are on the market today. IIC, or invisible in the canal, and CIC, completely in the canal, hearing aids both fit deeper into the ear canal than other styles. People love that these hearing aids are so small they are almost undetectable, and are aesthetically unobtrusive. They don’t have the buttons and controls of larger hearing aids, but newer models have great functionality that can be controlled remotely, even with your smartphone. These hearing aids are often good for eliminating wind noise because they are recessed in the ear. Because they sit so deep in the ear, IIC and CIC hearing aids can be more susceptible to damage from earwax and moisture, and the tiny batteries can be prone to needing replacement frequently. While these hearing aids are great for their ability to disappear in the ear, they are not the best for individuals who have trouble with dexterity. They are so small that they can be difficult to place into the ear canal, and if dropped they can be difficult to find. Consider whether the size of these hearing aids would be an issue for you, and if you have a loved one who depends on a caretaker you may want to choose a larger model.
Low Profile Hearing Aids
Very similar to IIC and CIC hearing aids, low profile hearing aids are small and fit inside the ear canal. They are slightly larger than the IIC and CIC hearing aids, and fill almost the entire ear canal opening. Some low profile hearing aids have buttons and manual controls, and the larger size allows for easier handling for people with impaired dexterity. These in the ear hearing aids could be more susceptible to wind noise, but still offer many of the benefits of IIC and CIC styles.
Mini BTE Hearing Aids
Behind the ear hearing aids differ from in-canal styles in that they sit behind the earlobe with a tube that brings the sound to the ear canal. The mini BTE hearing aids have a smaller unit that sits behind the ear that is still discreet. The tip that sits inside the ear canal does not completely block it, like the IIC and CIC styles, so there is a more natural feeling and airflow and sound can enter the ear like they naturally would. This “open fitting” style is recommended for individuals with mild to moderate high frequency hearing loss, and while they may pick up more wind noise, they are often able to amplify sounds quite well.
RITE and RIC Hearing Aids
Receiver in the ear (RITE) and receiver in the canal (RIC) hearing aids are BTE style hearing aids that have the speaker in the ear tip instead of in the part behind the ear. So the speaker is inside the canal, but the microphone and processor are in the case behind the ear, and are connected by a thin wire. The visible portion behind the ear on these hearing aids is usually less visible than most BTE styles, but is still somewhat susceptible to clogging and damage from earwax and moisture. Usually the speaker portion can just be replaced if you experience problems.
BTE Hearing Aids With Earmolds
These behind the ear BTE hearing aids can accommodate most types of hearing loss, and while they come with earmolds that fill the ear canal, the controls all rest behind the ear. This makes BTE hearing aids much less susceptible to damage and usually require less frequent repairs. The behind the ear portion is usually larger, but still sits behind the natural curve of the outer ear. The earmolds can come in a variety of styles and colors, and both the earmolds and the tubes that connect them can be replaced independent of the entire unit. BTE units are often the best choice for children, as the earmolds can be changed out to fit growing ears. BTE hearing aids are often easier to handle due to their larger size, but they could conflict with glasses’ arms resting behind the ear. While the wind noise that BTE hearing aids picks up could be a problem, they also are more capable when it comes to sound amplification.
So Which Hearing Aid Should You Choose?
So with all of these choices in hearing aids, what is the best choice for you? If you currently wear a hearing aid that you like, your best bet is to see if there is a newer model of the same unit. Technology is continually improving in the hearing aid industry, and chances are good that modifications will have been made to a hearing aid you have had for several years. If you are just starting the process of getting a hearing aid, consider what is most important to you. If you really want your hearing aid to be discreet and almost invisible, an IIC, CIC, or low-profile hearing aid will be your best choice. These tiny hearing aids are extremely powerful, and able to vastly improve your hearing. They are, however, the styles most prone to damage from continually being exposed to moisture and earwax, so if you want something low-maintenance, they may not be for you. If you have any issues with dexterity, these smaller hearing aids could prove too difficult to handle day-to-day, and a larger style would be better. Consider the size of the batteries as well; changing the tiny IIC and CIC hearing aid batteries is hard if your eyesight or dexterity is compromised. If you have a caretaker that will be assisting you at home, larger BTE models are the easiest to use.
You should also consider your level of hearing loss. If you have mild to moderate hearing loss, the CIC, IIC, or RIC styles are great choices. If you have trouble mainly with high-frequency sounds, the open fit of the RIC styles are great because they still let in the natural lower-frequency sounds and don’t plug the ear. If you suffer from more severe or profound hearing loss, BTE hearing aids or ITE styles provide powerful amplification and are not as easily damaged. You should consider the shape of your ears, how much earwax buildup you experience, and what sounds are the hardest for you to hear.
Hearing Aid Features
It is great that there are so many options to choose from in the hearing aid world today. Being able to filter out background noises to hear speech, reduce wind noise, adapt to different noise environments, and directional noise reduction could all be important features to consider. You might also want wireless connectivity, and be able to interface with Bluetooth-enabled devices such as phones, TVs, or sound systems. Having the ability to use your smartphone to control your hearing aid gives you great flexibility and is a discreet way to adjust your hearing aid settings.
So hopefully you are on your way to choosing a great hearing aid! For the best selection for every style of hearing aid, turn to Factory Direct Hearing! We carry the best brands online, including Siemens/Signia, Widex, Oticon, and ReSound. All you need is to submit a hearing test and you are on your way to new hearing aids that can improve you life. Get started today by checking out our amazing selection!