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A full introduction to hearing aid styles and technology

By Paul Harrison

Hearing aids come in many different shapes and sizes, not to mention levels of technology, so how do you know which one is going to be the best for you. There are several things to take into account, some of which depend on your type of hearing loss and some which are simply personal preference.

To help you understand the different hearing aids available we have put together this simple guide.

Styles

When looking into the different hearing aids available, you will probably hear a lot of abbreviations which can be confusing, especially if it is your first experience with hearing technology. These are the most common abbreviations you are likely to come across and what they actually mean.

BTE

This is a very common abbreviation and stands for Behind the Ear. It is probably the most recognisable style of hearing aid with a behind the ear casing attached to an ear mould by a tube. They are suitable for most types of hearing loss but are quite visible when worn as they tend to be the largest of the hearing aid styles.

RIC

This style has been increasing in popularity recently due to its comfortable and discreet design. It stands for Receiver In Canal and refers to the fact that the microphone sits inside the ear canal instead of in a casing behind the ear. The small behind the ear casing is attached to a very thin tube which has a soft dome fitting on the end. This dome does not cover the shell of the ear like a BTE and is also vented to allow air to pass through, giving a more natural sound and reducing occlusion. Because the speaker is in the dome, sound does not have to travel down a tube before it reaches your ear and many wearers report this gives a clearer sound. Just to make things a little more confusing, you may also see this aid referred to as RITE (Receiver in the Ear), RIE (Receiver in Ear) or CRT (Canal Receiver Tube).

ITE (FS)

The ITE stands for In the Ear and is the largest of the custom made hearing aids. The FS means Full shell and refers to the fact that the device covers the full concha of the ear. Although they are considered more discreet than BTE aids, they are still quite visible due to their size. These larger in the ear models are suitable for most types of hearing loss.

ITE (HS)

This is a slightly smaller version of the In the Ear aids as HS stands for half shell. As the name suggests, this covers only half the concha of the ear and is therefore, a little more discreet than the full shell. Again, these hearing aids are suitable for most hearing losses.

ITC

ITC stands for In the Canal and is a slightly smaller custom hearing aid. Rather than covering the ear canal, it sits just inside for a more discreet and comfortable fit. These hearing aids can manage many levels but may not be suitable for a more profound hearing loss.

CIC

These are very small custom hearing instruments that are designed for people who want a very discreet hearing solution. CIC means Completely in Canal and they sit further inside the ear than the ITC aids. Due to their size, they are not suitable for all hearing losses and the number of available features can start to become limited.

IIC

These are the smallest hearing aids currently available on the market. IIC stands for Invisible in Canal and thatís just what these hearing aids are. They sit deep in the ear canal making them almost completely unnoticeable unless you look directly into the ear. Again, you may lose out on some technology and they are not suitable for all types of hearing loss. Other things that can be a factor with these hearing aids is the shape of your ear canal and the amount of wax production as these things make some people unsuitable for this style.

Technology

If you have done any research at all on hearing aids, you will probably have seen that they all claim to be able to do amazing things. Often, manufacturers use very technical language to explain their technology and it can be confusing. Below are examples of some of the most common technology found in hearing aids and what it means to you.

Feedback Suppression

Have you ever heard that awful squealing noise that is produced when a microphone gets too close to a speaker? Well, older hearing aids often used to create this noise which was extremely uncomfortable for the wearer. Newer hearing aids have been designed to prevent feedback so you donít experience this irritating noise.

Noise Reduction

Surely the whole point of hearing aids is to make sounds louder, not reduce them. What this actually means is that the hearing aids will suppress the background noise, so you can hear speech clearly without it getting lost under a blanket of unwanted sounds.

Fixed/Directional Microphones

The microphone picks up the various sounds. With a fixed microphone, it will pick up the sounds from one direction which can leave you missing out on sounds from other directions until you turn your head. Directional microphones are designed to work together and pick up sounds from all around you which makes hearing more natural.

Channels

Something hearing aid manufacturers will always advertise is the number of Ďchannelsí their product has. Todayís digital hearing aids donít just make all sounds louder, they bring the frequencies you canít hear into your audibility range using Ďcompressioní. These compression channels each process a different number of frequencies so everything you hear is clear and natural. The greater number of channels a hearing aid has, the more precisely the frequencies can be managed.

Binaural

This is wireless technology that is found in most of the latest hearing aids. It means that the two devices you wear actually have the ability to communicate wirelessly with each other to give you the best sound possible.

Wireless

This does refer to the binaural technology that we mentioned but this term is usually used when talking about accessories. Many of todayís hearing aids have the ability to connect to a number of accessories which in turn, connect you to your own devices. Hearing aids can now be paired with things like your television, mobile phone, music player and a variety of remote controls to make your hearing experience clearer and more convenient. According to the team at Your hearing this is not an exclusive list of everything that hearing aids can do these days but we hope it has helped you to understand a little more about the basic technology and what it can do for you as a hearing aid user.

  



Author Bio: Paul Harrison has been in the Hearing aid industry for 20 years and in that time has worked at both manufacturer and retailer level before managing his own online hearing aid business www.yourhearing.co.uk which is a national network of local hearing aid audiologists who offer the main hearing aid brands at less than the high street but with the same quality aftercare and warranty.



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