For Your Ears Only – Types of hearing aids

Most modern day hearing aids can be programmed to fit the patient’s audiogram following an accurate audiometry test. In other words, an audiogram contains different amplification requirements based on the hearing frequency. Modern hearing aids can be programmed to provide different amplifications at different hearing frequencies as per the audiogram. This process is known as hearing aid “fitting”. The benefits a hearing aid delivers depends largely on the quality of its fitting as well as the accuracy of the audiometry test. The level of technology within the hearing aid also plays a role in the level of comfort that it can offer.

I. Behind the ear HAs

All BTE hearing aids hook over the top of your ear and rest behind the ear.  It is appropriate for people of all ages and with almost any type of hearing loss. BTE hearing aids are known to be the more comfortable option of the two types of hearing aids. They are also easy to maintain and not prone to wear and tear. However, the size of the hearing aid will depend on the specific style selected for your hearing loss.


1. Standard BTE

The Standard BTEs are fit with regular size tubing and a custom ear mould which fits in your ear canal. This form of BTE is most suitable for severe and profound hearing losses. They are usually larger when compared to open fit BTEs and RICs.


2. Open Fit BTE

Open fit BTEs consist of a thin tube along with a ear tip that goes into your ear canal. These BTEs are moderately sized and are more popularly adopted than standard fit BTEs . This is because the slim tube gives a more concealed look whereas the ear tip avoids the need for custom ear moulds. Open fit BTEs can therefore be fit in the first sitting with a thin tube and a suitable tip.


3. Receiver in Canal (RIC) 

As the name suggest RICs are a type of hearing aid in which the receiver sits outside the hearing aid and in your ear canal. Since the receiver is the largest component within a hearing aid, RICs are the smallest of all BTEs as the receiver is outside the housing and connects to the hearing aid using a thin wire. RIC’s are the most popular of all hearing aids as they are small in size, can be customized with different ear tips and fits nearly any type of hearing loss by changing the receiver to what is most suitable.


The same RIC hearing aid can be used whether you have mild , moderate, severe or profound hearing loss. The only thing that changes is the type of receiver that your hearing care professional will use. Of course, a higher power receiver will have more battery consumption than a receiver with lower power for mild and moderate hearing losses. 


II. In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids 

In-the-Ear hearing aids are custom-moulded to your ear canal and are therefore much easier to insert into your ear than BTEs. Therefore, In-the-Ear hearing aids are often referred to as “Custom fit” hearing aids. These hearing aids are a good choice for spectacle wearers and also for individuals that require headgear. 


In-the-Ear hearing aids come in different mould types – Full Shell, Half Shell, In the Canal, Completely in the Canal, Invisible in the Canal hearing aids. Full Shell and Half Shell are losing popularity as they cover your entire concha of the ear and therefore are more visible. Most hearing manufacturers have solutions now that can fit most hearing losses with the ITC and CIC variants and so Full Shell and Half shell hearing aids are very rarely used. 


1. In-the-canal hearing aids

ITC hearing aids have the whole hearing aid fitted completely inside the ear canal. ITCs  only cover your ear canal and not the entire concha. If you have severe hearing loss, very small ear canals or frequent ear infections, ITC hearing aids probably won’t be suitable for you. If you have trouble using small controls, these aids may be the best option for you unless they come with a remote control.


2. Completely-in-the-canal hearing aids

Completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids fit further into your ear canal than ITC aids. They are less visible unless someone looks closely at your ear. As these hearing aids are very small, there is a trade off between the size and the number of features that can be packed in. So CIC’s are generally not compatible with many wireless features such as streaming from smart phones. But hearing aid companies are getting better and better at packing in more features in smaller form factors and it’s only a matter of time before all CIC’s will offer wireless functions as well. Also, CIC’s can now be fit to severe hearing losses as receivers can now deliver more power at a smaller size.


3. Invisible-in-the-canal (IIC) hearing aids 

IIC aids are fitted very deep in the hearing canal and are only suitable if you have mild to moderate hearing loss.These hearing aid models stay in your ear for a few months at a time and can only be removed by your audiologist, who will maintain and clean the aid for you. Selection of the hearing aid will depend on your hearing loss, the size of your ear canals, your lifestyle etc. 


4. Instant fit (CIC & ITC)

The newest additions to the In-the-Ear hearing aid styles are the Instant Fit CICs and ITCs. These hearing aids are well suited at least 70% of people affected by hearing loss by just fitting a small, medium or large sleeve. The advantage of Instant Fit over traditional Custom fit products is that you can choose over-vented sleeves or closed sleeves based on the type of hearing loss. However, as only approximately 70% – 80% of people are comfortable with instant fits, a custom hearing fit is always considered to be more comfortable.

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