Prior to contacting a licensed hearing care professional, familiarizing yourself with the different types of hearing aids is helpful, especially if you’re new to the world of hearing devices. 

If you have recently been diagnosed with hearing loss or suspect that your hearing has deteriorated, you may benefit from wearing a hearing aid. Hearing aids are small electronic devices used to amplify sounds to enable you to hear better. There are hearing aids suited to most types of hearing loss and fitting, style, feature and cosmetic preferences.

If you have never used a hearing aid before, the choice can seem somewhat overwhelming. To help you make sense of the complex world of hearing aids, here is a brief guide to the different types of hearing aids on the market and the advantages and disadvantages of each style.

Receiver-in-Canal (RIC)

The RIC hearing aid has a much smaller speaker than previous hearing aid models situated directly in the ear canal. This allows sound to travel a much shorter distance from the speaker thought the ear canal and eardrum. This provides a much more complete and clearer sound. Meanwhile, the longer distance between the receiver and the microphone provides less feedback. This type of hearing aid is suited to mild to severe hearing loss.

Advantages & Disadvantages

Advantages

  • Reasonably discreet
  • Available in several different sizes
  • Relatively easy to adjust
  • Higher quality sound and clarity
  • Open fit stops occlusion (when the outer ear is blocked such as by an unvented hearing aid and causes distortion in how your voice sounds to you)
  • Layered noise reduction

Disadvantages

 

  • More expensive than other types of hearing aid
  • Could be visible (depends on the style of your hair)
  • Prone to damage caused by moisture from the ear canal

Behind-the-Ear (BTE)

Perhaps the most recognisable of hearing aids is the BTE hearing aid with its case made of hard plastic that sits behind the ear. This contains all the components of the hearing aid and is connected to a customised earmold that sits inside your outer ear. This type of hearing aid is suitable for a person with moderate to severe hearing loss.

Advantages & Disadvantages

Advantages:

 

  • Highly durable and hard-wearing
  • Easy-to-use controls
  • Relatively easy to clean and maintain
  • Delivers high amplification
  • Uses longer-life batteries
  • Avoids getting clogged with earwax

 

Disadvantages

  • Large size
  • Likely to be visible (although does depend on how hair is styled)
  • Can be uncomfortable for some people who wear glasses
  • Susceptible to picking up wind noise
  • May need a change of tubing every six months (if ear mould is used)

Completely-in--Canal (CIC)

The CIC hearing aid is an incredibly small and discreet hearing aid that is put inside your ear canal. They have a small cord or handle attached to remove the hearing aid with. This type of hearing aid is suitable for you if your hearing loss is mild to moderately severe.

Advantages & Disadvantages

Advantages

  • Custom made for your ear
  • Very small and discreet
  • Less likely to pick up wind noise

Disadvantages

  • Can be difficult for some people to remove
  • Too small to contain additional features
  • May not be suitable for people with chronic issues in their middle or inner ear
  • Uses smaller, short-life batteries which can be difficult for some people to use
  • Prone to earwax clogging the speaker

In-the-Canal (ITC)

The ITC hearing aid is custom moulded to your inner ear canal for a reliable and comfortable fit. This also enables the sound to pass through the device. This type of hearing aid would benefit people with mild to moderate hearing loss.

Advantages & Disadvantages

  • Custom made to the size and shape of your ear
  • Very small and incredibly discreet
  • Contains features you won’t find in CIC hearing aids

Disadvantages

 

  • The small size could make it difficult for some people to adjust
  • Potential for feedback if you have severe hearing loss
  • Possibility of occlusion depending on your hearing loss type and severity
  • Prone to the speaker becoming clogged with earwax

Invisible in the Canal (IIC)

Lyric from Phonak is the only completely invisible hearing aid available at the moment. It relies on the structure of your ear to amplify and provide you with a complete natural hearing experience. Beneficial to those with mild to moderate hearing loss, an IIC can only be inserted by a hearing care professional as it needs to be placed deep in the ear canal.

Advantages & Disadvantages

Advantages

  • Incredibly small and entirely invisible
  • Doesn’t require batteries
  • Delivers natural, clear sound
  • Secure fit
  • Reduced risk of occlusion
  • Less likely to pick up wind noise
  • Improved localisation
  • Can be worn for months without needing to remove the hearing aid

Disadvantages

  • Requires a monthly subscription which costs more than other hearing aid types
  • Sensitive skin may mean it needs refitting
  • Not waterproof (but it is water-resistant)
  • No additional features included
  • You will require regular follow up appointments

Earlens

This unique hearing aid uses laser light to sends power and data to a small personalised lens that sits on your eardrum to create natural hearing. This hearing aid technology sits between an air-conduction hearing aid (an acoustic receiver that magnifies the sound that vibrates the eardrum) and a middle ear implant (device surgically implanted that vibrates the middle ear bones). Suited to people with a mild to severe sensorineural hearing loss, the output calibration of the hearing aid is personalised for each user using light calibration.

Advantages & Disadvantages

Advantages

 

  • Custom-made personalised lens
  • Extremely high sound quality
  • Improved speech comprehension
  • High-quality streamed audio sound
  • Significantly reduced feedback and occlusion
  • Extended bandwidth to provide improved gain and output
  • Built-in rechargeable battery and charging dock

Disadvantages

 

  • Requires the user to have a ‘normal’ eardrum and middle ear
  • Requires the user to have an appropriately sized ear canal
  • Can take some time to adjust to wearing
  • Requires BTE processor
  • The lens can only be removed by an Earlens-trained doctor

If you are worried about your hearing or think you may benefit from using a hearing aid then schedule a consultation with a hearing care professional and they will be able to guide you through the process.

With you on your journey to better hearing.

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