Understanding Your Hearing Aid Options
If you have recently been diagnosed with hearing loss and are considering hearing aids for the first time, the wide variety of options and functions available can be overwhelming. This is entirely natural; after all, you have to learn about how highly advanced devices work – there’s a huge amount of new terminology to understand in a very short space of time.
Your hearing instrument specialist will always be able to guide you best when it comes to hearing aids, but if you’d like to read up for yourself to help you make your eventual decision, here’s an overview of the most common options available.
Hearing aid styles
There are now several different hearing aid styles available, with behind-the-ear (BTE), in-the-ear (ITE) and in-the-canal (ITC) the most common. Here’s what you can expect from each of these styles:
- BTE hearing aids are suitable for those with mild-to-profound hearing loss. The receiver sits behind the ear and then connects to a microphone, which sits on the front of the ear near the canal, via a plastic tube. BTE devices are the most conspicuous style, but they are also arguably the most powerful and long-lasting: their larger size means that larger batteries can be used.
- ITE hearing aids are suitable for mild-to-severe hearing loss. Unlike BTE hearing aids, ITE options are a single unit that sits outside the ear canal and extends over a section of the ear called the outer bowl. These devices are available in both half-shell and full-shell options, with full-shell devices covering more of the outer bowl than half-shell – though both are relatively inconspicuous.
- ITC hearing aids are smaller still and are therefore considered to be the most discreet of the most popular styles of hearing aids. As with ITE devices, the receiver and microphone (or microphones) are placed in a single casing, but unlike ITE devices, this casing covers relatively little of the ear – instead, they sit in the ear canal. ITC devices can be suitable for those experiencing mild-to-moderate hearing loss.
There are many factors that need to be considered when deciding which of the options above is most suitable for you, including your degree of hearing loss, your personal preferences in terms of how discreet the device should be, and various lifestyle factors. Your hearing instrument specialist will be able to advise you further in deciding which style will work best for your specific circumstances; there are no universal hearing aids that suit everyone, so finding your own perfect match will be the priority.
Hearing aid features
The primary function of a hearing aid is to provide amplification, but many modern hearing aids now offer a range of features that can improve the user experience and add other benefits. Here are a few popular choices you may want to consider:
- Noise reduction. Background noise can be potentially problematic for hearing aid users, a problem that noise reduction can address to great success. This feature analyzes the signal and determines the difference between unimportant background noise and speech and then make adjustments as necessary. Users find that noise reduction helps to eliminate unwanted sounds, which subsequently increases hearing comfort while wearing their device.
- Tinnitus masking. Many people with hearing loss also experience tinnitus; a condition that causes people to hear sounds that are not actually there. Hearing aids can be equipped with tinnitus-masking features that treat tinnitus by playing a consistent sound, which is intended to distract the brain and make tinnitus sounds seem less noticeable. This feature works in conjunction with amplification to treat both conditions with the same device.
- Directional microphones. Directional microphones can be used to increase the sound that is in front of the user, while simultaneously reducing the amount of noise that originates behind them. Many users find that this is particularly useful when talking with others, as their directional microphones focus on the person they are facing and reduce extraneous background noise that may otherwise distract them from their conversation.
The above are the most common, but there are many other hearing aid features available, all of which can greatly improve your experience using hearing aids. Your hearing instrument specialist will be able to advise you further on which features you may find most beneficial.
Deciding the right hearing aid for you
Reading through the above should help to give you an idea of the hearing aid options that are available, so you can discuss these with your hearing instrument specialist and choose the device that is most suited to your needs.