Types of hearing aid

Types of hearing aid

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 are one of the 10 million people in the UK diagnosed with hearing loss, you may benefit from wearing hearing aids. While they cannot cure your hearing loss or restore it to what it used to be, they can significantly improve your hearing.

As hearing aids have got smaller, they offer more features than ever before. There are now hearing aids for most types of hearing loss and style, fitting and functionality requirements. But with all the choice available, choosing the right set of hearing aids can seem a daunting prospect. While your hearing care professional will be able to advise you, it’s also a good idea to do your research, especially if hearing aids are new to you.

Receiver-in-Canal (RIC)

The receiver-in-canal is suitable for people with a mild to severe hearing loss and has mostly replaced the in-the-ear (ITE) model of hearing aid. It has a much smaller speaker that sits in your ear canal to enable sound to travel a much shorter distance from the speaker via your ear canal and eardrum. This provides a clear and more complete sound. The increased distance between the receiver and microphone also provides less feedback.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

 

  • Available in a range of sizes
  • Reasonably discreet
  • Relatively easy to adjust
  • Provides a superior sound quality
  • Natural listening experience
  • Open fit style prevents the outer ear from becoming blocked and distorting sound (occlusion)
  • Layered noise reduction

Cons:

  • More expensive than other models
  • Potentially visible depending on wearer’s hairstyle
  • Prone to moisture damage from the ear canal

Behind-the-Ear (BTE)

The behind-the-ear (BTE) style of hearing aid is suitable for moderate to severe hearing loss and has a small, hard plastic case worn behind the ear. This connects to a custom-made plastic ear mould that fits inside the outer ear.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

 

  • Hard-wearing
  • Easy to use, maintain and clean
  • Uses longer-life batteries
  • Offers high levels of amplification
  • Doesn’t get clogged by earwax

Cons:

 

  • Large size
  • Can be visible depending on your hairstyle
  • Can be uncomfortable to wear with glass
  • Prone to picking up wind noise
  • Could need retubing every six months if using an ear mould
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Completely-in--Canal (CIC)

These are very small and discreet hearing aids that are designed for people with a mild to moderately severe hearing loss. They are inserted into the ear canal, making them almost invisible. They usually have a small cord or handle attached for easy removal.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

 

  • Custom-made to fit your specific ear size and shape
  • Very small and discreet
  • Less likely to pick up wind noise

 

Cons:

 

  • Potentially challenging for people to remove, especially those with dexterity or vision problems
  • The small size reduces the number of features it contains
  • Prone to earwax clogging the speaker
  • Uses smaller batteries that can be difficult to handle and have a short lifespan
  • May not be suitable for those with chronic middle or external ear issues

In-the-Canal (ITC)

The in-the-canal (ITC) hearing aid is suitable for people with a mild to moderate hearing loss. It is custom moulded to fit your inner ear canal to enable sound to travel through the device.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Custom made to fit your ear
  • Small and discreet
  • Offers additional features not available with CIC devices

Cons:

  • Small size can make it difficult to adjust
  • People with severe hearing loss may experience feedback (whistling)
  • You may experience occlusion (blockage) depending on the type and severity of your hearing loss
  • Speaker prone to getting clogged with earwax

Invisible in the Canal (IIC)

An IIC hearing aid is position deep into the ear canal near the eardrum. Lyric from Phonak is the only entirely invisible hearing aid currently available. Suitable for a mild to moderate degree of hearing loss, this device depends on the natural anatomy of the wearer’s ear to amplify and deliver a complete and natural listening experience.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Tiny size and positioning in the ear canal makes them 100% invisible
  • No batteries required
  • Delivers clear and natural sound
  • Reduced occlusion
  • Fits securely in the ear
  • Less likely to pick up wind noise
  • Increase in gain and output especially in high frequencies
  • Can be worn for months without the need to remove it

Cons:

  • Sensitive may require the device to be refitted
  • Monthly subscription costs make it more expensive
  • May require refitting due to sensitive skin
  • Water-resistant but not waterproof
  • Requires frequent follow-up appointments
  • No additional features included

Earlens

This type of hearing aid is suitable for mild to severe sensorineural hearing loss. It uses laser light to transmit data and power to a small customised lens that sits in your eardrum, providing you with the sensation of natural hearing. This device bridges the gap between a middle ear implant and an air-conduction hearing aid. The output is personalised for your specific needs through light calibration.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Custom-made lens
  • Superior natural sound
  • Better speech comprehension in noisy environments
  • Greatly reduced feedback and occlusion
  • Extended bandwidth provides improved gain and output, including low frequencies
  • Internal rechargeable battery and charging dock
  • Fits the unique characteristics of the outer, middle, and inner ear

Cons:

  • Requires normal eardrum and middle ear
  • Requires certain-sized ear canal to accommodate the lens
  • Can take time to adjust to the lens
  • Requires BTE processor
  • The lens can only be removed an Earlens-trained ENT doctor

Hearing aids have the potential of transforming your hearing and quality of life. Schedule a consultation with a hearing care professional to help you find the hearing aid that will work best for you.

With you on your journey to better hearing.

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