Types of Hearing Aids

Technology is advancing all the time and today, hearing aids come in a range of shapes and sizes. There is a great deal of choice, especially if you are willing to pay for a private hearing aid; private clinics tend to offer a wider range of appliances than the NHS; however, this does not always mean that it is the best option to pay for your treatment. Every individual is different and it is always important to go through all the options to make sure you have all the information you need to make a decision about which type of hearing aid to go for.

There are two main types of hearing aid: analogue and digital. Although they look similar, there are major differences in the way these hearing aids work; analogue hearing aids make sounds louder using electric signals, while digital hearing aids use a very small computer to amplify sound. Digital hearing aids are generally considered to be better because they help to filter out background noise and they are less likely to cause crackling or whistling noises; they can also be customised for the individual and set to different programmes for varying environments and locations. Digital hearing aids are becoming much more widely available on the NHS; however, they may not be available to all patients.

Types of hearing aid:

There are various different hearing aids to choose from, including:

  • Behind the ear (BTE): this is the most well-known type of hearing aid; it has an internal earmould, which is connected to the rest of the hearing aid, which sits behind the top of the ear. In some cases, BTE hearing aids have two microphones and it this enables you to concentrate on specific sounds coming from a certain direction, as well as hearing peripheral noise in the environment around you. Nowadays, you can get behind the ear hearing aids in lots of different colours and designs. It is also possible to get open fit hearing aids, where the earmould is replaced by an internal tube; this type of hearing aid may be more suited to those with minor hearing loss and it may also be an option for people who find traditional behind the ear aids uncomfortable.
  • Receiver in the ear (RITE): these hearing aids are very similar to behind the ear models; however, they may be more discreet because the internal loudspeaker, which lies in the inner ear canal, is connected to the rest of the aid by a fine wire.
  • In the ear (ITE) hearing aid: with this type of hearing aid, the entire aid sits inside the ear and there are no parts located behind the ear. The aid looks like an earmould, but it also contains all the components; it sits inside the opening of the ear canal and is a more discreet option than behind the ear hearing aids.
  • Completely in the canal (CIC): these hearing aids are essentially a smaller version of in the ear aids, which makes them less visible. It is generally not recommended to have this type of hearing aid if you tend to suffer from persistent or recurrent ear infections or you have severe hearing loss.
  • CROS and BiCROS hearing aids: CROS hearing aids are often recommended for those who have lost hearing in one ear only; in this case, the vibrations from the side where there is no hearing are transmitted to the other ear, which is able to hear. BiCROS aids are similar, but they also amplify the sounds that are transmitted to the working ear; this makes them a good option for people who have significant hearing loss in one ear and limited hearing in the other.
  • Invisible in the canal hearing aids (IIC): this is one of the most discreet options on the market, as it fits almost entirely into the ear canal, making it virtually impossible for others to spot. This type of hearing aid is custom-fit to ensure a perfect fit in the ear canal, so you shouldn’t experience any discomfort at all.
  • Bone conduction hearing aid: bone conduction hearing aids may be recommended for people who suffer from conductive hearing loss and those who have problems with other types of hearing aid. These aids can be very effective, but they may become uncomfortable when worn for a prolonged period of time; they work by vibrating in response to sound. The vibrating part is located against the mastoid bone (this is the bone behind the ear); the vibrations pass through the bone and onto the cochlea, where they are converted into signals, which are then sent to the brain in the normal way via the auditory nerve.
  • Body worn hearing aids (BW): body worn hearing aids consist of a microphone, which is contained in a small box, which can be clipped quickly and easily onto your clothing; the microphone is attached to an earphone via a wire and this sends sounds to your ear. This type of hearing aid is much less fiddly than a smaller aid and it can be beneficial for those who have issues with manual dexterity and find other types of hearing aid hard to use.

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