How to Find The Perfect Hearing Aid For Your Lifestyle

 

Perfect Hearing Aid

Most people don’t think about hearing aids until they need them. As a result, they often know very little about different hearing aid styles and don’t know what they need to consider to find the perfect match. 

Consequently, people sometimes end up with a hearing aid that doesn’t 100 per cent match their lifestyle. To help you make the right decision, we’ll discuss what types of hearing aids and features you should consider when selecting a hearing aid to suit your lifestyle.  

What are hearing aids? 

Hearing aids are electronic devices worn in or behind the ear to amplify selected sounds so that a person with hearing loss can listen, communicate, and participate in everyday life. 

Hearing aids have three basic parts: a microphone, amplifier, and speaker. Different hearing aid styles are defined by the position of these parts in or outside the ear.

For each hearing aid style, there are a range of important considerations to make. 

For example: How easy is it to insert the device, adjust controls, clean the hearing aids and manage batteries? How important is the hearing aid’s visual appearance, and do you care for features such as telephone connectivity and tinnitus masking? 

Part of choosing the perfect hearing aid style is to understand what you are trying to achieve by opting for a hearing aid.

For instance, you may enjoy riding your motorbike or bicycle, which means you’ll often wear a helmet over your hearing aids. In that case, you might like your hearing devices to connect to your phone, so you can take calls or listen to music while you travel.   

But let’s start with the basics. The first decision you have to make is: What hearing aid type is best for you? 

Let’s look at what styles of hearing aids are currently available and what they look like.  

Analog Versus Digital Hearing Aids

Image source: Oticon – Different Types of Hearing Aids

While most hearing aids sold in Australia are now digital, it can quite literally pay off to understand the difference between analog and digital hearing aids – since the former is often much cheaper. 

Analog hearing aids Digital hearing aids
Traditionally, all hearing aids have been analog. These devices convert sound waves into electrical signals to help the hearing aid wearer understand speech and perceive sounds.

Hearing aid manufacturers program these devices according to the recommendations made by your audiologist. Your audiologist can adjust programs for different listening environments using a computer.

All types of hearing aids can come in an analog version. These devices are usually much less expensive than digital aids.

Digital aids are now the norm. These devices convert sound waves into numerical codes before amplifying them. 

These hearing aids can be programmed to amplify selected frequencies more than others and give you and your audiologist more flexibility in adjusting the devices to your listening environment and needs. 

This is now often done via smartphone applications from the comfort of your home. Digital circuitry can also be used in all types of hearing aids.

Choosing the Right Type of Hearing Aid 

There are three main styles of hearing aids: Behind-the-ear (BTE) and Receiver-in-the-canal (RIC), and In-the-ear (ITE) devices. 

  • Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids

Behind-the-ear

Image source: Starkey Hearing Aid Styles

A BTE device sits behind your ear and is coupled with a plastic tube and a custom ear mould or dome that sits in the ear canal. 

The hearing aid unit houses all the mechanics that receive and process sound. The tube transfers sound from the hearing aid through the mould or dome and into your ear canal. 

The tube size and mould or dome will be based on the severity of your hearing loss and your ability to manage the hearing aids.  

This style is generally considered more durable and powerful and can fit people with mild to profound hearing loss. 

As always, there are benefits and limitations to all devices. With the BTE and RIC styles, many of the benefits and limitations are the same, so we will address them together. 

Benefits Disadvantages 
  • Suitable for people with severe to profound hearing loss. 
  • Larger aids might be easier for some people to manage insertion, adjust or clean, e.g. people with large hands or vision or dexterity problems. 
  • It has no mechanical parts in the ear canal to get damaged, making it more reliable.       
  • Less likely to take damage from wax or debris, as a thick tube and mould are the easiest of all the aid styles to clean at home.
  • Allows for more powerful aids to be fitted whilst reducing the risk of feedback.   
  • Rechargeable option available.  Useful for someone with problems changing batteries, e.g. loss of sensitivity in fingers, vision impairment and hand tremors. Also good for the environment
  • The telecoil option allows you to connect up to a PA system called a hearing loop. Useful in theatres, trains and education. 
  • The Bluetooth capability provides hands-free connectivity to technology, e.g. phones and computers.  
  • The largest size of all the devices makes it the least discrete for those who value appearance highly. 
  • The device sitting behind the ear could be considered less discrete. 
  • The size and location behind the ear may not be suitable so some people. For example, if you:
  • wear a helmet; it may cause discomfort and cause feedback (a high-frequency sound emitted by the device); 
  • use an oxygen tube or wear large glasses the reduced space behind the ear can cause discomfort or dislodge the aids risking loss; 
  • have poor mobility of hands, shoulders, or arms may make it difficult to insert the aids.  
  • Receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) hearing aids

Receiver-in-the-canal

Source: Starkey Hearing Aid Styles

RIC devices also sit behind the ear and have a very thin wire and dome or mould-covered receiver inside the ear canal.  RIC hearing aids are currently the most popular style because they are fully featured, discreet in appearance and feel. 

  • Benefits and disadvantages of RIC hearing aids

Benefits Disadvantages 
  • Small size fully-featured aids provide a discreet appearance without compromising performance. 
  • The design has flexible power options. The fitting range of the aid can be easily and affordably increased if your hearing changes significantly over time and requires more power than your current device. This results in a much more affordable update to the aids than a complete replacement. 
  • The flexible design allows for quick and affordable repairs if the receiver is damaged.    
  • Easy to use controls.
  • It may be considered less discrete than the ITE aid range.  
  • Mechanical parts in the ear canal are prone to be damaged by wax, debris or moisture. 
  • In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids

Starkey Hearing Aid Styles

Source: Starkey Hearing Aid Styles

ITE devices sit entirely in the ear canal with nothing behind the ear. 

The ITE style is made up of three sizes of hearing aids, which are, in order of size, largest to smallest:  

  • The ITE; In-the-canal (ITC) 
  • Completely-in-the-canal (CIC) 
  • And Invisible-in-the-canal (IIC). 

These devices are customised to your ear by taking an impression or cast of the ear. 

  • Benefits and disadvantages of ITE hearing aids

Benefits Disadvantages 
  • Depending on the size, these aids can offer the highest level of discretion.
  • The ITE range (ITC, CIC and IIC) is customised to your ear shape for greater fit and comfort. 
  • Avoids possible issues with other objects that might sit behind the ear (glasses, face masks and helmets). 
  • Disposable battery option for people who may not always have access to reliable power, e.g. someone who travels a lot or spends a lot of time camping or on a boat.  
  • Some styles have a telecoil option that allows you to connect to a public support system called a hearing loop. This can be useful in lecture halls, theatres and train stations. 
  • Some of the larger styles (ITE, ITC) are Bluetooth capable to allow hands-free connectivity to technology such as phones and computers.
  • Risk of occlusion, that is, some users will experience their own voice echoing when they speak. This is more likely if you have good hearing in the low frequencies.
  • Limited power levels.  
  • The size of your ear canal can limit the device’s size, possibly resulting in a larger, less discreet aid.  
  • The size of your ear canal as well as your choice of device may limit the ability to include key technology and therefore impact performance. 
  • Higher risk of damage due to exposure of mechanical components to wax and moisture. Repairs could be costly and leave you without a hearing aid for some time.     
  • Batteries can be harder to insert and remove.
  • Controls can be harder to use. 
  • Minimal availability of rechargeable options. 

Which Type of Hearing Aid Works Best for You?

Type of Hearing Aid

The answer to this question heavily depends on the kind and severity of your hearing loss. Therefore, you should listen to the advice from your Audiologist and select a hearing aid that best suits your needs and lifestyle. 

Another critical consideration is cost. Hearing aids can have steep price tags – they may set you back anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Like it is the case with any other purchase, style and features affect cost. 

Other features to consider include additional services such as hearing tests and hearing aid maintenance, warranty, estimated schedule and costs for maintenance and repair, upgrade opportunities, as well as the hearing aid manufacturer’s reputation for quality and customer service.

Questions You Should Ask Before Buying a Hearing Aid

As you can see, there are many considerations when choosing a hearing aid. It is therefore essential that you have a thorough discussion with your audiologist

Before committing to a hearing aid, ask your audiologist the following questions:

  • What hearing aid features would be most beneficial to me?
  • What is the total cost of the hearing aid? What does the price cover?
  • Is there a trial period to test the hearing aids?
  • What fees are nonrefundable if the aids are returned after the trial period?
  • How long is the warranty, and can it be extended? 
  • Does the warranty cover maintenance and repairs?
  • Can the audiologist make adjustments and provide servicing and minor repairs? 
  • Will loaner aids be provided when repairs are needed?

Do you have any questions or concerns about hearing aid styles and finding the perfect match for you? Are you looking for a trusted hearing service provider? Get in touch with the friendly team here at EarDeals. 

We provide some of the highest quality hearing aids at affordable prices. Let us support you on your journey to better hearing: Give us a call at 1300 010 064 or  contact us online!

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