There are at least 10 million people in the UK living with hearing loss who could benefit from hearing aids. But despite the devastating impact that untreated hearing loss can have on a person’s life, many people who could benefit from using hearing aids don’t wear them.

This seems remarkable given the dramatic improvements there have been in hearing aid technology in the last century, not to mention during the past few decades. Until the end of the 19th century, anyone that was able to access hearing devices would have had to use cumbersome and bulky ear trumpets and long speaking tubes.

Fortunately, the advancements of hearing-aid technology have transformed hearing aids both in terms of style and performance. Some of today’s more advanced hearing aids offer a variety of personalisation options and the ability to connect wirelessly to your devices, such as your smartphone.

Hearing aids FAQs

What are hearing aids?

Hearing aids are small electronic devices that can be worn behind your ear or in your ear canal. Their basic purpose is to amplify sounds to enable a person with hearing loss to hear these sounds better. However, with increasing advances in technology, hearing aids can now offer much more. Wireless technology has seen Bluetooth connectivity become standard across most hearing aids on the market. Other features including noise reduction, telecoil technology, multiple channels and memories and speech mapping.

Hearing aids comprise of three main components: a microphone, amplifier and speaker. Sound travels through the microphone which is then converted into an electrical signal that is passed to the amplifier. The amplifier’s job is to increase the signal power and send this to your ear using the speaker.

What batteries do hearing aids need?

Disposable zinc-air button batteries are the most common type of hearing aid batteries. These batteries have small holes across the surface which allows air to penetrate through and react with the zinc inside. This produces zinc oxide which produces the energy used to power the battery and operate the hearing aid. They come in four different sizes which can be identified by a number and a colour. How long these batteries will last greatly depend on the size and type of hearing aid, the features you use and how often you wear your hearing aid.

Rechargeable hearing aids are becoming increasingly common for their convenience. Instead of having to replace the tiny batteries, you can simply put the hearing aid on a charging dock. Some hearing aids will only need to charge for three hours to give you a full day’s worth of use.

Are hearing aids suitable for everyone?

Hearing aids largely help those people with hearing loss that affects the inner ear (cochlea) or auditory nerve, known as sensorineural hearing loss. This is the most common type of hearing loss, making up around 90% of cases of hearing loss. This means that most people with a diagnosed hearing loss could benefit from using hearing aids.

Hearing aids can also be helpful to people with a hearing loss that affects their eardrum, ear canal or middle ear, known as conductive hearing loss. However, for some people with conductive hearing loss, the best solution could be surgically implanted bone-anchored hearing aids or certain medication.

How can you find out if you need hearing aids?

A comprehensive hearing assessment will be able to establish whether you have hearing loss, its type and severity and if you would benefit from wearing hearing aids. You can expect a hearing assessment to consist of:


  • Review of your case history
  • Thorough ear exam
  • Audiologic testing
  • Cognitive screening
  • Speech in noise testing
  • Assessment of your needs

The type of hearing aid and features that you will most benefit from will be decided based on this assessment and the treatment plan you create with your hearing care professional. Things like the shape and size of your ear canal, how easy the hearing aid is for you to use and adjust, whether you have any skin sensitivities, your comfort and if you have any specific cosmetic preferences will all need to be taken into account.

What are open and closed domes?

The hearing aid dome is the small bell-shaped piece at the end of the tube that’s made of hard plastic and inserted inside the ear. An open dome has small openings that let the sound from outside the hearing aid to pass through your ear canal. This can help mitigate the effects of occlusion. Meanwhile, a closed dome (also referred to as vented or tulip) blocks a larger part of the ear canal and reduces sounds from outside the hearing aid. For someone with severe hearing loss, this can help to increase the sound levels for them.

What is a RIC hearing aid and how does it work?

Receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) hearing aids have a virtually invisible tube that is used to connect the casing to a receiver (speaker) that sits in your ear canal. RIC hearing aids are small, lightweight and discreet and provide a superior sound and natural listening experience compared to traditional in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aid models.

With the speaker sitting in your ear canal, the sound has a much shorter distance to travel. This creates a much clearer sound while the bigger distance between the microphone and receiver means you will experience less feedback.

When fitted with an open dome, a RIC hearing can also reduce the possibility of occlusion or blockage, providing enough venting to eliminate low frequencies. These hearing aids are suitable for people with a mild to severe hearing loss and also provide:

  • A speaker that can be replaced separately
  • Telecoil
  • Rechargeable batteries
  • Layered noise reduction for when you are in noisy surroundings
  • Wireless Bluetooth connectivity

What are the other types of hearing aids available?

Behind-the-ear (BTE)

This is the most traditional and recognisable type of hearing aid and is made up of a plastic case that you wear behind your ear. The case is connected to a plastic ear mould that’s been customised to your ear shape which sits inside your outer ear. The case houses the key components of the hearing aid, including the speaker (receiver). The ear mould carries the sounds from the speaker to your ear. This type of hearing aid is one of the easiest to clean and maintain and offers maximum amplification. A BTE hearing aid is a good option if you have been diagnosed with a severe hearing loss.

Completely-in-the-canal (CIC)

As the name suggests, these very small and extremely discreet hearing aids sit in your ear canal. They can hardly be seen and suitable if you have a hearing loss that is mild to moderately severe. A CIC device has a very small handle or cord on for when you want to remove it. However, some people can find these difficult to use, particularly if they have vision or dexterity issues. Meanwhile, their very small size restricts the number of features the hearing aid has and can get clogged with earwax.

Bone-anchored hearing aid (BAHA)

The BAHA hearing aid is a surgically implanted device that sends sound vibrations straight to your inner ear via your skull bone. This type of hearing aid is generally recommended for people who experience issues with their outer ear, have a chronic middle ear condition or have a congenital defect of the ear. To qualify for a BAHA, you will need to have at least a moderate or better level of hearing in one of your inner ears or have been diagnosed with single-sided deafness.

Latest innovations in hearing aid technology

Hearing aid technology is constantly advancing with innovations being developed all the time. Some of the more recent examples of hearing aid technology include:

Smartphone connectivity

Wireless Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids enable you to connect your hearing aids to your smartphone and other devices. While people with hearing loss may experience difficulty with hearing on the phone, smartphone connectivity greatly improves clarity. You can also adjust your hearing aid settings from your phone and stream music or audio from your favourite TV programmes directly to your ears. There are even smartphone apps that help you find where you’ve put your hearing aids if you’ve lost them.

The Own Voice Processing (OVP)

OVP is designed to detect your voice and process it separately from the sounds around you. This helps to tackle the problem of occlusion which is when your voice becomes louder because your ear canal is blocked by your hearing aids.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

When your hearing aids have AI, you can monitor your wellness. The technology can track how many steps you take each day, your social interactions and active listening to give you an overall wellness score. The technology also can detect if you fall and will send an automatic alert to your emergency contacts to tell them.
Hearing Aids

Smartphone connectivity improves clarity when you talk on the phone and the ability to download apps, to adjust your hearing aids based on environment (e.g. to block out background noise). This is possible due to wireless Bluetooth-enabled devices.

Hearing Aids

A smartphone app can help you locate misplaced hearing aids in the same way as missing keys. The app uses a map to detect and show you the last location of your hearing aids or a search signal to help you recover them when you believe they’re nearby.

Hearing Aids

The Own Voice Processing (OVP) detects the user's voice and processes it separately from external sounds. This resolves occlusion, an increase in the loudness of your own voice when the ear canal is blocked by a hearing aid.

Hearing Aids

Thank to Artificial Intelligence (AI) in hearing aids, users can track their daily steps, social engagement and active listening to generate an overall wellness score. They can detect falls and send an automatic alert to a list of emergency contacts.

Hearing Aids

An FDA-authorized hearing aid sold by licensed hearing aid dispensers enables consumers to fit, program, and control devices without the assistance of a hearing care provider    

The content of this page or of an article contained therein may refer and – therefore - be applicable to a specific territory different from your country of residence.

If you are worried that your hearing has changed or your loved ones have been complaining that you have the TV on too loud, it’s time to get it checked out. Untreated hearing loss can lead to a variety of serious problems that can impact your relationships, career and even your mental health.

Schedule a consultation with a hearing care professional as soon as possible and you can look forward to rediscovering all your favourite sounds while also protecting your health and wellbeing.

With you on your journey to better hearing.

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