What Are The Different Types of Hearing Aids?
Hearing aids are becoming more and more common, but there is still a degree of uncertainty about them in the community. They aren’t on the radar of most, as hearing aids are often thought to be something people need later on in life. When a hearing loss is diagnosed, however, it becomes more important to investigate the different types of help available.
A key option that the audiologists at Attune suggest for most people with hearing loss is the use of hearing aids. There are many different styles and brands available out there that can make it a difficult decision. In many cases, your audiologist can help guide you through the different types of hearing aids out there.
In this article, we’ll discuss the various types of hearing aids as well as two of the most popular brands that sell them.
What Is a Hearing Aid?
A hearing aid is a small piece of technology used to assist people in hearing and communicating. It does so through funnelling sound into the ear. The microphone converts sound into electrical signals and sends it to the amplifier, which amplifies the sound of the signals. Sound is then sent through to the speaker of the hearing aids. Here, the amplified sound is sent through to the remaining hair cells in the inner ear and sound is magnified in the ear.
In some cases, there are practical limitations to the amount of sound a hearing aid can produce, and the sound cannot be amplified to the level needed for the hearing aid wearer. In this case, options beyond hearing aids may need to be considered – such as implantable devices. According to research, one in six people in Australia suffer from hearing loss, a large portion of which could potentially benefit from greater sound in the ear with hearing aids.
Types of Hearing Aids
As well as being uncertain about what a hearing aid is, there is also a level of ambiguity about the styles available. You may see someone wearing a hearing aid behind the ear, in the ear, or sometimes a bit of both. So, how do the styles differ and why would someone pick one over the other?
Behind The Ear
The most common type of hearing aid is Behind the Ear (BTE), where the electronics are housed in a casing behind the ear. This casing is attached to a tube that can differ in diameter, depending on the person’s level of hearing loss and their cosmetic preference. The tubing is attached to either a little piece of rubber that is seated in the ear canal, or a custom mould, which also fits in the ear. Sound is carried from the microphones through the electronics of the hearing aids through the tubing and into the ear. BTE hearing aids are a popular option because they are discreet and can be very powerful. They can also be quite resistant to wax and moisture – two things that can really impact the use of hearing aids.
Receiver In Canal (RIC)
There is another option of a BTE hearing aid where sound is funnelled into the ear via a wire, rather than tubing. This is called a Receiver in Canal (RIC) hearing aid. This type of hearing aid is highly favoured from a cosmetic point of view. It’s extremely discreet and flexible in terms of fitting, with the power of the device easily altered by changing the power of the receiver sending the sound into the ear. Because the ear is not blocked as much, some people do find it to be a comfortable method of channeling sound into the ear. However, it is more susceptible to moisture and wax damage, making it a key factor to think about before choosing this particular device.
In The Ear (ITE)
You may have also seen someone with a hearing device sitting inside their ear. This is an In The Ear (ITE) or In The Canal (ITC) hearing aid – depending on the size and positioning of it. Because the components of the device have to fit in such a small space, this type of hearing aid can be more susceptible to feedback. Sometimes this type of hearing aid can also cause a feeling of being blocked for the wearer and can be off-putting. The housing of the device can be made in such a way to allow for an air vent to prevent this feeling. However, it is a key factor to consider before choosing this device. Again, because the device is in such a small space, the level to which someone produces wax or perspires does need to also be considered for the ease of maintenance and the hearing aid’s longevity. Generally, these types of hearing aids are a popular choice for those who wear glasses or prefer something more hidden.
Hearing Aid Brands
Most brands offer these different types of hearing aids. If we look at two popular brands of hearing aids, Phonak and Signia (formerly Siemens), they both have a wide range of styles to choose from. Phonak and Signia are owned by two different companies, and as such, offer different approaches to feedback management, manufacturing moulds, noise reduction processes, and speech understanding techniques.
Phonak has been developing hearing aids for 70 years and offers a wide range of different styles, such as BTE, ITE, RIC, and CIC. Some Phonak hearing aids are rechargeable and some use traditional batteries. Some of their hearing aids are basic while others are more advanced. Phonak, like most hearing aid companies, focuses on research and development to ensure that the technologies they are producing are helpful for the wearer and the hearing aids do what they are supposed to do – help with hearing and communication.
Signia also provides BTE, ITE, and RIC hearing aids. They have a broad market share in Australia, particularly with them being fitted within the country’s program for those with a pension card. Signia has been developing hearing aids for a number of years, and as a result, has a broad history of assisting those with hearing loss.
Plan of Action
Phonak and Signia hearing aids can be set up to capture it all, or be a bit more selective in what gets turned up in the wearer’s listening environment. Phonak and Signia hearing aids are also specifically adjusted for the wearer, so they are suitable and comfortable for their hearing loss and needs, making a test important to determine which sounds aren’t being heard so well.
For many people, hearing aids are hearing aids, no matter the brand. However, Phonak and Signia both offer a range of quality hearing aids to help those with hearing loss. If you think you may suffer from hearing loss, book an appointment with one of our audiologists to have a hearing test. Our audiologists can help instruct on the use of hearing aids, whether they be Phonak, Signia, or any other brand available.