Every digital hearing aid is fitted with a computer chip, a microphone, a speaker and a battery. The computer chip amplifies and processes sound while the microphone picks up sound. The speaker relays sound to the ear and the battery provides power to the hearing aid allowing it to function. It is important to consult with a health care professional when selecting the right hearing aid. As hearing aid experts, they are ready to help you get the best sound with your hearing aids.
There are two main groups of hearing aids available: In-the-ear (ITE) styles and Behind-the-ear (BTE) styles. In each group there are different styles available.
1. In-the-ear (ITE) styles. ITE hearing aids size ranges between those virtually invisible when worn and those that fill the entire bowl of the ear. Four categories are available:
- Invisible-in-the-canal (IIC) and Completely-in-the-canal (CIC): Both IIC and CIC hearing aids are packaged in a tiny design which ensures they fit deeply in the ear canal thus resolving mild or moderate hearing losses. They offer a high cosmetic appeal especially for patients who are looking for a discrete solution thanks to their size and the capability to fit in the ear canal when worn.
- In-the-canal (ITC): The ITC styled hearing aid can be positioned in the lower portion of the outer ear bowl. This ensures it is easy to use and makes for a comfortable wear. The ITC hearing aids has the following advantages over the IIC and CIC in that they are a bit larger, they have a longer battery life, are easier to manage and can resolve a wide range of hearing losses.
- In-the-ear low profile hearing aids: There are half shell designs that fill half and those that fill the entire outer ear bowl. Its size makes the hearing aid to be desirable for people with dexterity issues. This is because they are much easier to manage than those with smaller designs. They are large enough so they can accommodate more useful features; i.e., directional microphones, volume adjustment controls and program setting buttons.
2. Behind-the-ear (BTE) styles. The BTE hearing aids have been in popularity for the past 10 years. This is attributed to innovations leading to development of cosmetically appealing hearing aids with very thin ear tubes and tips. The design allows the hearing aid to fit well in the ear canal while providing enough space to house useful features to counter different hearing losses. Plenty of battery life is available plus they are easier to handle. Examples of BTE styles include:
- Mini BTE with slim tubes and tips: Mini BTE hearing aids are fitted with ultra-thin tubing which routes sound in the ear and can sit perfectly hidden behind the outer ear. The design has become so popular leading to the availability of different platforms to resolve even severe hearing loss.
- Receiver-in-the-ear or Receiver-in-canal: With built-in speakers in the ear tip, the RITE/RIC's design allows the unit to be positioned close to the eardrum. The microphone and processor are fitted in a small case located behind the ear.
- BTE with earmolds: BTE hearing aids are suitable for any type of hearing loss ranging between mild and severe. They have a longer body shape designed to follow the outer ear contour. The longer shape allows the body to house more features, controls and power compared to other hearing aid styles.
New hearing aid technologies and innovations are always emerging and advancing quickly. Hearing aid manufacturers group their products in categories and are sorted depending on the hearing aid features and capabilities.
Modern hearing aids these days are mostly digital. Digital hearing aids offer more flexibility than in past generations. This is attributed to the ability of a professional being able to set and program the unit to amplify precise frequencies according to every patient’s needs. Features are more automatic and dynamic, thus being able to adjust according to any listening situation. Some hearing aids today can even alert users of program changes and low battery life with their user-centered features.
Wireless technology has been engineered into many modern hearing aids, allowing two units to operate simultaneously just like how two functioning human ears work together to process sounds. This is unlike other hearing aids that act independently. The wireless technology also offers hearing aid users the capability to connect with external devices, such as Smart TVs and mobile phones that uses Bluetooth technology.
These are the basics of what you need to know about digital hearing aid styles and technologies. If you need help understanding your hearing aid options and needs so you can enjoy better hearing, please do not hesitate to contact us.