Did you know that only 1 in 5 people who could benefit from hearing aids have them? For many people, they don’t recognize that they’ve lost a significant portion of their hearing until it’s very pronounced. Hearing loss can happen gradually, and even if family members are prompting you to see an audiologist, you might be skeptical that hearing aids can help.
Whether you’ve tried hearing aids in the past and had a poor experience, or you’re concerned about their cost, styles, and effectiveness, we’ve got some helpful information that will help you see hearing aids and their features in a new light.
Different Styles of Hearing Aids
Hearing aids have come a long way since the basic models that fit behind the ear. Today, there are several varieties to choose from in multiple sizes and styles.
Completely in the Canal (CIC) or Mini (CIC)
This style of hearing aid is the smallest and most discreet. It fits entirely inside the ear canal is virtually invisible. Because of its small size, it can lack features, and the batteries aren’t known to last as long. However, if your hearing loss is mild to moderate and you want a subtle solution, you might prefer a CIC or Mini CIC model.
In the Canal
Also called an ITC hearing aid, an in-the-canal device is custom-made to fit partially in the ear canal. However, it’s larger than a CIC hearing aid, so it’s partially visible in the ear. The bigger size also allows it to have more features than the mini models, so it’s a perfect choice for people who want a subtle hearing aid but don’t want to give up functionality.
In the Ear
If you want maximum functionality and an extended battery, then you might prefer an ITE or in-the-ear style. These are custom made to fit the wearer’s ear, and it comes in two sizes:
- Full shell: It fits in and fills up the outer ear cavity
- Half shell: A smaller version that fits in the lower part of your outer ear
Unlike the smaller models, these often come with volume control and other advanced features. They’re also easier to handle because they’re larger.
Behind the Ear
This style of hearing aid is the most well-known and recognizable. It sits behind the ear and is held in place with a hooking mechanism. The device has a tube that connects to a mold that sits inside your ear canal. As technology has improved, these models have become less bulky and more discreet.
Receiver in Canal or Receiver in the Ear
Referred to as RIC and RITE for short, these hearing aids are similar to the behind the ear models, but instead of a tube connecting the components, there’s a wire. Overall, this style is less visible than the BTE hearing aids.
An open-fit hearing aid is popular among people who don’t like the feeling of having their ear canals clogged with a hearing aid. Unlike the other devices, these models keep the canal open, so the sound of your own voice sounds more natural. The rest of the structure is similar to behind-the-ear models, complete with a tube connecting the device to the mold.
Features Available with Hearing Aids
- Noise reduction – Hearing aids are known to reduce background noises, allowing the wearer to better hear conversations without the din of distracting sounds. Depending on the quality of the hearing aid, noise reduction functionality varies.
- Directional microphones – A directional microphone helps the wearer hear sounds in front of them instead of behind them or to the side. This feature is important because you’ll want to hear what people are saying directly to you in conversation, and not have sounds coming from other areas amplified.
- Rechargeable batteries – Older models of hearing aids are known for needing to have the batteries replaced on a regular basis. Newer, more modern versions now come with rechargeable batteries, so you won’t need to change them as often.
- Telecoils – A telecoil works like an antenna, allowing you to receive sound through a magnetic coil, not the hearing aid’s microphone. For telecoils to work, you need to be using a telecoil compatible device (like a telephone) or be in a place that has a public loop induction system that allows the telecoil feature to work.
- Movie theaters, concert halls, churches, universities, museums, airports, and other places are often equipped with these systems, allowing people with hearing aids to more fully enjoy their experiences.
- Wireless connectivity – Some hearing aids are Bluetooth-enabled, which allows them to communicate with other Bluetooth devices like smartphones, televisions, music players, and other electronics.
- Remote controls – Another convenient feature available in some models is the ability to adjust controls like volume remotely without having to physically handle the device.
- Direct audio input – To use your hearing aid with a specific device, you can get one that’s enabled with direct audio input. With this feature, you can plug the hearing aid directly into electronic equipment, like a television, computer, etc.
- Variable programming – Depending on your surroundings, you might want different settings on your hearing aid. With this feature, you can have multiple pre-programmed settings that you can choose based on your situation.
- Environmental noise control – This feature goes beyond basic noise control to cancel sounds, particularly background noise and wind.
- Synchronization – If you wear two hearing aids, this feature synchronizes the settings between the devices. So, if you adjust the setting on one hearing aid, the same adjustments will be made to the other one automatically.
What You Should Know Before You Buy Hearing Aids
At the first sign of hearing loss, you should visit an audiologist, not an ENT (ear, nose, and throat doctor). The reason is that 90% of the time, your hearing loss is not due to a medical condition. Unlike an ENT, an audiologist has all the tools and equipment to diagnose hearing issues in people of all ages.
Once you receive a recommendation from an audiologist, avoid the temptation to cut corners and buy your hearing aids online. Though they may be cheaper, they’re not going to be custom-fitted to your unique needs.
We often get asked how long it takes for hearing aids to work, and we’ve got great news! They’ll work immediately, but they can take some time to get used to. For this reason, ask about trial periods before you make a long-term commitment. If you can secure a trial period, then you’ll be able to switch models if the original wasn’t a perfect fit.
When you get your first hearing aid, your audiologist will give you detailed instructions on how to care for it. Make sure you follow those instructions closely to extend the life of your hearing aid.
How Do Hearing Aids Improve Your Life?
Even though hearing aids can’t restore your natural hearing, they can improve your hearing ability by amplifying sounds. If you have trouble hearing soft sounds or hearing conversations in a noisy room, then a hearing aid can help.
Hearing aids not only help you hear better, but they can also improve your life. Studies show that isolation, depression, and even cognitive decline can all result from a decline in hearing ability. By wearing hearing aids, you can rejoin the conversation and enjoy social settings again.
If you’re employed or in a relationship, then being able to hear those you interact with is also vital to your success in the workplace and at home. And, let’s not forget safety. If you spend time outdoors and in busy areas, then being able to hear your surroundings is vital for your protection.
How Do Hearing Aids Work?
Hearing aids are battery-operated minicomputers that work to amplify sound in your ear. First, a microphone detects sound. The audio is then sent to a computer chip, which processes and amplifies the sound through a speaker.
How Does Hearing Aid Technology Help with Health?
Did you know that hearing loss is the third most common health condition in adults? It’s only trumped by heart disease and arthritis. Further, one-third of people over 65 have significant hearing loss, and that number jumps to fifty percent in those 75 years of age and older.
Hearing aid technology is more advanced than ever before, helping people of any age lead a healthy and fulfilling life. With the ubiquity of Bluetooth, people with compromised hearing can experience better conversations on smartphones and in public places. This technology has also resulted in price drops in some models and more precise amplification.