Hearing Aid Styles
Hearing aids come in a variety of styles. Each
style has its own advantages and limitations. Selecting a style that is right
for you depends on a number of factors, including:
- The severity of your hearing loss
- The size and shape of your ear
- Your personal preferences
- How well you can use your finger and hands (manual dexterity)
- The availability of new hearing aid technologies
Several different styles of hearing aids are described below.
Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids are housed in a curved case that fits neatly
and comfortably behind or over your ear. A custom ear mold is made to the exact shape of your ear.
The custom ear mold is used to direct the sound from the hearing aid into your ear
and to secure the hearing aid in place. See photo to left.
People with a wide range of hearing losses, from mild to severe, can be fitted with
BTE hearing aids. Because the components are housed outside of the ear, they tend to
be the most durable. BTE hearing aids need less repair and have a longer life
expectancy. They can be worn easily, even by people who wear eyeglasses.
Open ear hearing devices
Open ear hearing aids are housed in a miniature case that fits over
or behind your ear. In most cases, there is no custom piece that fits into your ear canal.
The open ear hearing aid consists of a miniature behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing device coupled to
an ultra thin tube with a soft rubber tip that fits in the ear. These instruments are appropriate
for people with normal to near normal hearing in the low pitches, and a mild to moderately severe
hearing loss in the high pitches. This hearing aid helps in reducing complaints related to loudness
of a patient’s own voice, known as the occlusion effect. With the miniature BTE case and thin tubing, this hearing aid is very cosmetically appealing. Because this aid is smaller, sufficient manual dexterity is necessary to ensure proper insertion and placement. See photo to right.
In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids are custom designed and fit directly into your ear, filling
most of the visible portion of your ear. All of the components are housed within a
single plastic shell. They have no external wires or tubes, and are very light in weight.
When properly made, they fit comfortably and securely in the ear. The ITE hearing
aid can be used by people who have mild to moderately severe hearing losses. See
photo to left.
In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids are custom designed, smaller in size, and fit more deeply
into the ear canal than in-the-ear hearing aids. They are typically less visible than in-the-ear
hearing aids. All of the components are housed within a single plastic shell. Because they are smaller
in size, however, they can only be used by people who have mild to moderate hearing loss.
See photo to right.
Completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids are also custom designed. They fit the deepest into
the ear canal so they are the least visible. They may also reduce the problem of wind noise and
feedback on the telephone. See photo to left.
The battery life for this style is rather short because the battery is so small. The aid's size can
also make it difficult to manipulate, particularly for people who have trouble with finger and hand
dexterity (because of arthritis, for example). Additionally, due to exposure to moisture and ear wax,
this style of hearing aid tends to go in for repairs more often and has a shorter overall life
expectancy than the other hearing aid styles.
Fitting CIC hearing aids generally involves additional appointments and remolding the casing to get
the right fit. Some people may not be candidates for CIC hearing aids because of the shape of their
ear canal or the severity of their hearing loss.
CROS/BI-CROS hearing aid
CROS/BI-CROS hearing aid is sometimes used when a person has normal hearing or aidable hearing
loss in one ear, and very little or no hearing left in the other ear. The hearing aid is worn on the
better hearing side and an additional microphone is worn on the unaidable side. This allows the person
to pick up sound on the poor ear side and hear it on the better side.
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