Hearing Aids – Are They All The Same?

Anyone who has looked at the hearing aid market recently will probably be overwhelmed with the choice on offer. Mild cases of hearing loss can be helped using the traditional behind-the-ear hearing aid. This is made up of a small tube which connects a molded ear piece to a plastic case containing the battery and […]

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Anyone who has looked at the hearing aid market recently will probably be overwhelmed with the choice on offer. Mild cases of hearing loss can be helped using the traditional behind-the-ear hearing aid. This is made up of a small tube which connects a molded ear piece to a plastic case containing the battery and amplifier. The ear piece sits inside the ear canal and the sound is taken in through the plastic case, amplified and sent to the ear.

For those people for who behind-the-ear hearing aids are uncomfortable or unsuitable, in-the-ear hearing aids may be used. As the name suggests, this type of hearing aid sits entirely in the ear – within the outer ear bowl, or concha. ITE hearing aids are custom made to fit the ear of the wearer and although also used in mild hearing loss cases, can be used to treat quite severe situations. Patients with very severe hearing loss may experience high levels of feedback which means this type of hearing aid may not be suitable.

While the behind-the-ear style of hearing aid may suit many users, the sound quality can sometimes be poor. The receiver in the canal (RIC) hearing aid, however, solves many of these problems. Rather than the speaker being placed in the plastic casing and the sound traveling through a plastic tube, the speaker is placed directly in the molded ear piece, reducing distortion and sound quality problems. In addition, the plastic box and tubing are far less noticeable, giving cosmetic benefits.

For those users who seek a solution to having to keep visiting a hearing professional to have hearing aids adjusted or who want a more permanent solution, extended wear hearing aids are fitted deep inside the ear canal and are designed to be worn for several months at a time. This allows the user to adjust the settings and tweak the volume without help. Some users report that these hearing aids can be very uncomfortable and fiddly, requiring specialist ear plugs when showering and do not allow the user to swim underwater.

For people with conductive hearing loss or unilateral hearing loss, the bone anchored hearing aid may be a suitable solution. This type of hearing aid is surgically implanted and aids the skull in distinguishing sound through conduction, bypassing the middle ear entirely. A sound processor sits external to the skull and transmits sound vibrations through the skull which are processed in the inner ear, allowing the user to hear. This type of hearing aid will not be necessary for most users and is a specialist piece of equipment.

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