Today’s hearing aids are a far cry from the models used a generation ago. The modern hearing aid offers advanced microphones, high-quality speakers, and a range of options that include wireless connectivity to phones and audio systems. Despite this, 80% of adults aged 55-74 who need hearing aids don’t use them, largely because of cosmetic reasons.
If you’re concerned with how hearing aids will affect your appearance, we’ve got some good news. Modern hearing aids are much smaller and more discreet than they were even 20 years ago. Advances in technology continue to reduce hearing aid size and improve cosmetic appearance, making most types of hearing aids almost undetectable.
For people with severe hearing loss, receiver-in-canal hearing aids remain the best choice. However, if you’re living with mild to moderate hearing loss, in-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids are a discreet option with plenty of cosmetic appeal. ITC hearing aids are small enough most people won’t notice you’re wearing them and provide a range of customizable settings and features.
of adults +55 who need hearing aids don’t use them, mainly for cosmetic reasons
ITC hearing aids are custom-made hearing devices with outer cases made from impressions of your ear canal and the surrounding portion of the external ear. Slightly larger than completely-in-the-ear or “invisible” hearing aids, ITC hearing aids fit in the upper portion of the ear canal, with a portion of the device visible. All working parts of the hearing aid, such as the microphones, speakers, and the battery compartment, are encased in a lightweight plastic shell that has been sculpted to fit in the lower third of the external ear. To camouflage the hearing aid, ITC hearing aids are available in a wide range of skin tones.
ITC hearing aids are well-suited for people with mild to moderate hearing loss who don’t want to wear obvious hearing devices. They are best suited for adult use, as the outer casing is custom-made. Since children -- and their ears – are still growing, ITC hearing aids are not ideal for kids.
ITC hearing aids occupy a middle ground between larger in-the-ear aids and tiny, completely-in-the-canal hearing aids. As such, ITC hearing aids have some of the advantages of both. In addition to their discreet style, ITC hearing aids pack some powerful features into their small casings. Some models include dual microphones to help improve speech understanding in loud environments. Many ITC hearing aids come with wireless or telecoil options (a telecoil is a small magnetic coil that can transmit sound signals from telephones and other audio devices directly through the hearing aid).
Being larger than invisible hearing aids, ITC hearing aids are a better choice for people with limited vision or dexterity problems. While small, ITC devices are large enough to contain control wheels and buttons to adjust the volume, and many can be programmed remotely through apps on mobile phones.
Every hearing aid has its own set of pros and cons, and ITC hearing aids are no exception. While small, they are not as discreet as completely-in-canal and invisible-in-canal hearing aids. However, ITC aids are generally the most powerful and versatile of the three styles.
ITC hearing aids occupy space in the external ear shell, which results in a slight loss in natural sounds caught by the ear. As a result, you may lose some degree of sound directionality (the ability to determine which direction a sound comes from).
Using a phone with an ITC hearing aid can take some getting used to. Over time, this will become normal for you, or you could use Bluetooth or some other wireless connectivity system to send telephone audio signals directly to your hearing aid’s speaker.
If discretion is your primary concern when choosing a hearing aid, you might want to ask licensed hearing professional if completely-in-the-canal or invisible hearing aids are right for you. Smaller than ITC hearing aids, these devices fit entirely into the ear canal with no external parts and may be used to treat mild to moderate hearing loss. Such hearing aids do not, however, offer as many options as ITC hearing aids and lack their processing power.
For those who value extra features and extended battery life, small behind-the-ear hearing aids could be considered. Larger and more noticeable than ITC hearing aids, behind-the-ear hearing aids are capable of housing multiple microphones to improve directional hearing and are more likely to be Bluetooth compatible. Their large size allows them to use larger, longer-lasting batteries, and they may even come with built-in rechargeable batteries. For children and people with severe vision or dexterity issues, behind-the-ear hearing aids are easier to operate and clean.
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