When it comes to shopping for hearing aids, it can be difficult to know where to start. The quality and functions of hearing aids vary depending on the style and brand you are using. Additionally, as with many things in life, the more you focus on style, the more you may sacrifice on function. So how can you know what is best? Here is a small guide to the pros and cons of different hearing aid styles and their respective functions:
Behind-the-ear (BTE) aids are some of the most popular hearing aid styles due to their comfort and function. BTE hearing aids come in either open-fit or ear mold styles. The open fit aids are barely visible, fitting snugly behind the ear with a thin plastic tube that curves around to the ear canal to carry sound to the ear. Because it doesn’t use a mold, this style has a less “plugged up” sensation for the hearer.
In contrast, the BTE with an ear mold is the most versatile and reliable. Like the open-fit BTE hearing aid, it fits comfortably behind the ear with a transparent tube that connects to an ear mold in the ear canal. It fits the widest range of hearing loss and is a good option for children.
Although BTEs are extremely effective hearing aids, they are still vulnerable to damage and malfunction due to moisture (e.g. sweat) and earwax. Moreover, the open-fit BTE, while less visible, also has fewer manual controls, limiting your personal control and flexibility. And finally, the BTE with an ear mold is the most visible hearing aid and contributes to the irritating “plugged up” feeling we mentioned earlier if you do not purchase one that has a vented ear mold.
In-the-ear (ITE) devices fill the outer ear. Their large size, while more visible, also accommodates more controls and add ons like directional microphones and volume control, and a larger battery that can power a bigger receiver for more acute hearing loss. It is also easy to use with the telephone.
In spite of their wider range of controls and compatibility, in-the-ear devices are more conspicuous and visible hearing aids that are vulnerable to damage from earwax and moisture.
The receiver-in-canal (RIC) has the microphone and amplifier situated in a small case behind the ear with a thin tube that wraps around to connect them to a receiver in an ear bud in the canal. It is unobtrusive and less noticeable than many other devices while still providing high quality sound.
The main disadvantages to RICs are a difficulty hearing through the telephone (without a streamer) and a vulnerability to earwax/moisture.
In-the-canal (ITC) devices are worn in the lower portion of the outer ear, making them relatively discreet. Moreover, their size, which is larger than completely-in-canal hearing aids, gives them longer battery life and a secure fit with ease of insertion and removal. They are also large enough to accommodate directional microphones and volume control.
ITC hearing aids tend to have more feedback than other devices and are more visible than completely-in-canal aids. They may also contribute to the “plugged up” sensation and can be damaged by wax or moisture.
Unlike ITC devices, completely-in-canal (CIC) hearing aids fit completely inside the canal of the ear, making them some of the least noticeable styles available. Due to their placement within the ear, they are less prone to pick up irritating wind noise and they use the natural design of your ears to direct sound more naturally for improved hearing and sound location. They are also typically easy to use with telephones.
Because of their smaller size, CICs have shorter battery lives and cannot accommodate add ons such as directional microphones or volume control. Moreover, they are among the most expensive hearing aid styles and can be prone to feedback.
In the end, the best option for you really depends on your hearing loss, lifestyle and preferences. If you splurge on style, you may have to sacrifice in some areas of function. Similarly, if you prioritize function, you may do so at the cost of your vanity. The best thing you can do, however, is compare your options against your needs. A simple internet search can help you here. Looking for devices in your area is as easy as searching “hearing aids Markham” to pull up local results. Simply compare your options, look for available distributors, and test them out. Which devices fit your hearing loss needs and offer you the best in comfort, design, and fit? When you can answer that question, you have your hearing aid.
Drew Kobb, in addition to studying civil law, loves long distance running and considers himself a health and fitness enthusiast. His interests range all over the medical field, and Drew highlights that range on his blog, Dr. Ouch. http://www.theseniorcareblog.com/post/style-vs-function-finding-your-perfect-hearing-aid