Hearing aids have improved greatly with the advent of digital technology. If you’re picturing big and bulky devices with questionable sound quality, you’ll be pleased to learn today’s instruments are smaller, more comfortable and provide sound that is more natural. They are available in a variety of sizes and styles, so finding one that appeals to your lifestyle needs and cosmetic preferences should be easy. Here are the styles available:
- Completely-in-the-Canal (CIC): This hearing aid is placed in the ear canal, and is the smallest available. It takes advantage of the ear’s natural ability to collect sound, and its discreet size makes the device virtually invisible to others. The trade-off is a shorter battery life, and it may prove difficult to adjust for those with poor manual dexterity. This is a good choice for mild to moderate hearing loss.
- In-the-Canal (ITC): This style is also designed to fit in the ear canal, but not as deeply as a CIC device, resting securely in the lower portion instead. It’s a little larger, making it easier to insert and remove, and extending the battery life. For patients with mild to moderate hearing loss.
- In-the-Ear (ITE): This hearing aid is designed to fill the outer portion of the ear, and is larger than those worn in the ear canals. It is less discreet, but the size allows for more features and makes the unit easier to adjust. A bigger battery translates to longer life, and means those with severe or profound hearing loss can benefit from this style.
- Receiver-in-the-Ear (RITE): A RITE hearing aid consists of a tiny housing, containing all electronics except the receiver, which is positioned behind the ear. A thin tube connects the housing to the receiver, which is worn in the concha (bowl-shaped portion) of the ear. It’s a small and discreet unit, but powerful enough for treating mild to moderately severe hearing loss.
- Behind-the-Ear (BTE): The most popular style of hearing aid (about 60 percent of users choose this type), a BTE device is curved to match the contour of the ear, and rests directly behind the ear. The housing, which contains all the electronics, is encased in plastic and connects to the ear canal with a thin, clear tube or ear mold. Though more visible than other styles, the BTE is simple to use, making it a popular choice for children. It’s powerful enough for all types of hearing loss.
- Open Fit: The Open Fit hearing aid is a smaller version of the BTE. Like that device, it rests behind the ear and includes a transparent tube that delivers sound to the ear canal through a very small earpiece. Because the ear canal is left unobstructed, there is less occlusion with this style, and the smaller size appeals to many adults. Prone to low frequency noise leakage, this style is best for mild to moderate hearing loss in high frequency ranges only.
- Extended Wear Hearing Aids: A recent innovation in hearing aids is the development of extended wear devices. These are placed deep in the ear canal and designed to stay in place for anywhere from 1 to four months at a time without removal. Because they are positioned so close to the eardrum, extended wear hearing aids offer improved sound directionality and reduced feedback, and their design prevents damage from moisture and earwax. These are particularly appealing to those with active lifestyles and can be worn while showering, exercising and sleeping. They are completely invisible to others. Despite these advantages, they may not fit all ears, and cause some discomfort for certain patients. Designed for mild to moderately severe hearing loss.