Types of Hearing Aids

Hearing aids are devices that do exactly as they imply, they are an aid to help you to hear. 

Hearing aids started as rather bulky and noisy devices that provided a lot more amplification than they did clarity.   When I started fitting hearing aids, back in 1989, the hearing aids we were able to purchase had the benefit of being smaller than generations before, but they did not have the technology to help as many people as they do in these current days. The hearing aids had what we called potentiometers which is like a clock wheel and we would turn the wheel about ¾ of a turn for maximum sound difference. The hearing aids, due to the size of the potentiometers, could only be made with a maximum of three changes. Looking back I see how limited we were in fitting hearing aids properly.

In the mid 1990’s, hearing aids started to be what we now call, digitally programmable. This means that the hearing aid could be hooked up to a computer via an external cord and intermediary device for adjustments to the sound. In that time, we thought that was highly revolutionary and the hearing aids were able to fit hearing losses with much more accuracy and acceptance. 

Around 2012, hearing aids started to be compatible with Bluetooth technology and were programmed wirelessly. This created the ability for the hearing aids to be adjusted via an APP on a mobile phone and also allowed “streaming” or the ability to bring phone calls and media sounds directly into the hearing aids. In addition, the hearing aid manufacturers highly specialized adjustments for the provider and for the unique needs of every individual. 

What is the best type of hearing aid for me?

The best hearing aid for you, is quite simply the one that you will wear.

 When you come for an audiological appointment and it is determined that you need a hearing aid, we will talk about different styles of hearing aids. 

These styles are:  
    •  Receiver-in-canal (RIC) hearing aids
    •  Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids,
    •  In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids
    •  IIC - invisible hearing aids

When you are in the office, we will show you the various styles and let them hold them in your hands so you can touch, feel and see the different options. 

We will provide reasons why one style is better for you than another as each individual is unique and what may be appropriate for you may not be appropriate for the next individual. 

The two most common types that people wear are the RIC and the IIC type of hearing aids. 

The RIC works well with Bluetooth technology and is great for having connectivity for phone calls and media such as spotify, youtube, pandora and video’s that your kids send to you via text. How great it is to be able to hear clearly the little personal messages and videos from your children and grandchildren. 

The IIC style of hearing aid is for the individual who wants to be discreet about their hearing loss and does not want anything that would be visible to the public. 

The RIC, BTE and ITE have the unique ability to be rechargeable and offer a great option for the individual that does not want to change their batteries or for the individual that has difficulties with dexterity.

What kind of hearing loss do you have?

There are various kinds of hearing loss that are most common from the vast majority of patients that we see.
The three most common types of hearing loss are:  sensorineural, conductive and mixed hearing loss. 

Sensorineural hearing loss is the most prevalent type of hearing loss. It is signified generally with  a slow progression of hearing loss through the years. One day you feel that you could hear and understand everyone and gradually over time you realize you ask for repetition and you are unable to hear people talking to you from a distance, from individuals who speak softly and within the presence of noise.  The most common complaint we hear with this type of hearing loss is “I can hear, but I can’t understand what people are saying.”

Conductive hearing loss is the second most prevalent type of hearing loss. It is signified with a past history of ear infections, ear surgery, wax build up, allergies and is often associated with ear pressure, ear pain, fullness, and complaints of being unable to hear people when they talk.  The most common complaint we hear with this type of hearing loss is: “I can’t hear people, but when they speak louder, I understand everything they say, they just don’t talk loud enough.”

Mixed hearing loss is the third most common type of hearing loss. It is signified with a past history of ear infections, ear surgery and aging and often with fluctuating hearing levels. It is when the auditory nerve has hearing loss associated with age or noise exposure and is compounded with a past history of ear infections and ear surgery. The most common complaint we hear with this type of hearing loss is: “I seem to feel that some days I hear better than others but overall I have a lot of ear pressure and difficulty both hearing and understanding what people say.”

Your Hearing Aids Questions Answered

How can hearing aids help? 

One question we often get when people call to seek help for their hearing loss is: “how can hearing aids help?” 

Naturally this is a great question. How would you know if you can receive the type of help you are looking to correct with hearing aids? We have a long history of working with people with hearing loss and this long history has proven time and time again to provide solutions to people with hearing loss with the use of hearing aids. 

Hearing aids are like tiny little computers in your ear. They take sound that is softer and not only make that louder for you to hear but they also process the voices you are seeking to understand to be louder while simultaneously decreasing the surrounding noise. This is simply not possible with your own natural ear when you have hearing loss and distortion of sound. Wouldn’t it be nice to know there IS a solution to your hearing loss that includes clarity of sound and reduction of noise?

Hearing aids, when worn consistently, also provide the ability for your brain to receive information from your ears. This consistent use allows for new pathways of hearing to be created and for you to be able to hear and process sound more efficiently. 

If you think of a tree in the fall, the tree has missing areas from leaves that have fallen to the ground. Your brain is hearing sentences and sounds with this kind of missing information. When the tree begins to grow and the leaves return in the summer, that is a visual picture of what your brain is doing when you provide it sound through hearing aids. The hearing aids provide missing information, giving your brain the entire picture of words being spoken, and the result is an easier ability to process sound and a quicker response to spoken information. 

Do all hearing aids work the same way?

All hearing aids are capable of working the same way, when your audiologist specializes in making the hearing aids work effectively for your unique needs. However, there are a few guidelines to consider when looking at purchasing hearing aids for the first time.

One thing to consider is the size of the hearing aid. If the size of the hearing aid will prevent you from wearing the hearing aid, be sure to address that concern before all others. The size of the hearing aid is a temporary bridge to overcome. When you start using hearing aids, you feel everyone is noticing that you have a hearing aid on. It is like getting glasses for the first time. You feel everyone is looking at you in glasses when in reality they are only seeing you. Once you start to use the hearing aids and you see the benefit of using hearing aids, the size of the hearing aid will be a distant concern. What will be a bigger joy is the idea of hearing people speaking to you in a clear and distinct manner. 

A lot of the hearing aids these days have the ability to have bluetooth capabilities. This means that the hearing aids will allow you to hear phone conversations and media sounds like youtube, spotify and pandora, right into your hearing aids. In general, the bluetooth takes up space in a hearing aid and is therefore most common in these models: RIC, BTE, ITE, ITC. 

Many modern hearing aids also have the ability to be rechargeable. This means that you don’t have to change the battery every 3-7 days. Instead, you put the hearing aids on a charging unit that charges the hearing aids while you sleep. The advantage is that you don’t have to change batteries, purchase batteries, or worry about not hearing at an important event because the aids are always charged and ready for any situation. 
Other types of hearing aids are small and inconspicuous so that you will feel comfortable to use the hearing aids when you are younger or in environments where appearance is of the utmost importance. 

The RIC style of hearing aids are often used for more mild hearing losses and hearing loss where you hear better in the low frequencies. They allow for the ear canal to stay as open as possible to make sound as natural as possible. 

All hearing aids will benefit you, but choosing the best one for you should start with an honest conversation with your audiologist.

How can I adjust to my hearing aid?

The hearing aids are highly computerized and miniaturized so that we at Optimum Audiology can tailor the sound quality that you hear to your hearing loss. Once your test is completed, the hearing aids would be wirelessly programmed to your hearing loss. Therefore, each frequency that is tested in the booth is strategically increased to a target benefit for that hearing loss and that frequency. 

In addition, the computerized technology allows Optimum Audiology to reduce background noise, increase clarity, add special feature sets like tinnitus masking and extra memories to help you in diverse environments. The hearing aids also have features like noise management, wind noise reduction and AI or artificial intelligence. They can also have feature sets like fall detection for a loved one where the hearing aids alert you if your loved one falls down and is unable to tell anyone. 

At Optimum Audiology we will adjust your hearing aids using best practices and use of probe microphone or Real Ear technology to exactly correct your hearing loss using objective measures of testing.

The individual using hearing aids also has the ability to adjust for volume, not unlike a TV remote control. You can increase the volume for certain voices and certain situations and you can decrease volume for unwanted sounds.  You can also change memories, which is like glasses where you can look out one portion of the glasses to see far and another portion of the glasses to see close. With hearing aids, they have back end settings that allow for the ability to hear better in groups, noisy situations, television and restaurants. 

A large number of hearing aids can be finely tuned with an APP on both Android and iPhone platforms that allow for the individual to make memory, volume and equalizer changes of volume. Many apps also allow for accessory devices for television, conference room environments and remote streaming of a distant voice. They also allow for things like translating languages from the person talking into the hearing aids. For example, you can go to a foreign country where someone is speaking Spanish and the hearing aids are telling you what the person is saying in English into the hearing aids. Since we are well versed in Bluetooth technology at Optimum Audiology, we can easily help you adapt to using your hearing aids with your phone.

There are some truly amazing changes in hearing aids, with technology constantly being updated and improved. 

Individuals with normal hearing can't say their hearing has improved, but you can when your hearing aids allow for updates to the technology even after the original purchase. 

We look forward to answering your individual questions and concerns when you visit us here at Optimum Audiology.