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Hearing Aid Basics


Types of Hearing Aids

People with hearing loss have several hearing aid styles from which to choose. Generally, the smaller the hearing aid, the more it costs and the shorter its battery life.

In the ear (ITE): This large hearing aid works well for people with mild to severe hearing loss. It fits completely in the bowl of the ear. Because it is so large, the ITE hearing aid is among the most visible of styles, but the battery lasts longer than in smaller aids, and it can accommodate directional microphones (more on that later) and other added features.

In the canal (ITC): The ITC hearing aid works only for mild to moderate hearing loss. It is customized to fit the size and shape of the person's ear canal. Although this hearing aid is inconspicuous, its small size makes it difficult to adjust and change the battery. Some ITC hearing aids come with a remote control to make changing the settings easier. Also, users sometimes experience feedback noise with this type of hearing aid because the microphone and receiver sit close together.

Completely in the canal (CIC): This hearing aid is also appropriate for mild to moderate hearing loss, and it's even smaller than the ITC hearing aid. In fact, it's so small that a user must pull on a small wire to remove it from his ear. Because it fits completely in the ear canal, the CIC hearing aid is barely visible. Again, though, its small size makes it difficult to adjust and use added features. It's also more expensive than larger hearing aids.

Behind the ear (BTE): The BTE hearing aid can help with all types of hearing loss, from mild to profound. The electronics are in a case that sits just behind the ear. The case connects by a piece of clear tubing to a plastic piece called an earmold, which sits inside the ear. Sound travels from the earmold into the ear. This powerful and adjustable hearing aid can accommodate progressive hearing loss, as well as growth, which makes it ideal for children. However, its size and the tubing attaching the electronics to the earmold make it very visible. Also, the BTE hearing aid can cause feedback if it's not fitted correctly.

Behind the ear open fit: This newer version of the BTE model solves the problem of visibility. It is so small that it can barely be seen. A tiny device sits behind the ear and is attached by a tube to a miniscule speaker inside the ear canal. This hearing aid doesn't require an impression for fitting, and it provides better sound quality than ITE hearing aids. The downside is that it  works only on people with mild hearing loss who can still hear low- and mid-frequency sounds.