Trying to navigate through the different hearing aids and solutions available can be a daunting task. While your healthcare clinician will provide guidance and advice, it’s important to arm yourself with information. Any hearing advice you receive should be tailored to your:
- Degree and type of hearing loss
- Anatomy and physiology of your outer ear and ear canal
- Your ability to hear speech with suitable amplification
- The ability for your brain and hearing system to process speech in the presence of competing background noise, vision, dexterity, cognitive capacity (memory and attention)
Anyone with a hearing concern should also talk to a rehabilitative audiological consultant about the different styles and benefits of different hearing aids. Before I go into the nitty gritty, there are three main features to consider:
- Directional microphones – designed to help facilitate hearing and comfort in background noise by focusing on sounds in front rather than sounds behind.
- Telecoils – a coil in a hearing aid that connects to telephones and induction loops at churches, cinemas, theatres, bank tellers etc. This increases clarity and allows you to only hear these signals.
- Bluetooth – similar to the telecoil except it works off a Bluetooth signal so is compatible with mobile phones, iPods, computers, lapel microphones etc.
There are many types of hearing aids which cater for different levels of hearing loss. Some hearing aids have benefits such as being positioned within the ear canal so they are cosmetically appealing and not subject to wind noise, or they could have Bluetooth capability. Here is a brief description of the most popular styles of hearing aids:
Invisible In the Canal (IIC)
The IIC is cosmetically appealing as it sits deep in the second bend of the ear canal, hidden from view. It is suitable for most mild to severe hearing losses. It has Bluetooth capability but no directional microphones, or telecoil, and can require good eyesight and dexterity to insert and maintain (clean and change batteries etc.).
Completely In the Canal (CIC)
The CIC is also hidden, positioned in the first bend of the ear canal at the entrance. It is considered more powerful than the IIC and is suitable for mild to profound hearing loss. Again the CIC has Bluetooth functionality, but no directional microphones or telecoil.
In the Canal / In the Ear (ITC/ITE)
Slightly larger than a CIC, the ITC sits in the entrance and external portion of the ear canal. It is suitable for mild to profound losses and can be fitted with a directional microphone which helps facilitate hearing in background noise. The ITC has both telecoil and Bluetooth capability and the larger size makes it easier to insert and manage.
Receiver in the Canal (RIC), Over the Ear (OTE), Behind the Ear (BTE)
This virtually invisible device is suitable for any type of hearing loss. It has an external directional microphone and is fitted with an open dome coupling for those with industrial deafness and early-stage age-related hearing loss. The RIC has telecoil and Bluetooth capability.
Lyric Hearing Aid
The Lyric hearing aid is a semi-permanent invisible deep canal non-surgical implanted device. Like a contact lens for the ear, it is implanted by an accredited audiologist deep in the ear canal and replaced every two months. It is suitable for mild to severe hearing loss and doesn’t require any form of battery maintenance allowing the recipient to sleep, shower and swim wearing the Lyric. The Lyric has no directional microphones, no telecoil, nor Bluetooth capability.
When hearing aids are no longer enough
When a hearing aid isn’t enough, there are implantable hearing solutions to consider:
A Cochlear Implant is an electronic medical device which replaces the function of the damaged inner ear and can be a long term solution for those with moderate to profound hearing loss (in one or both ears). Unlike hearing aids, which make sounds louder, Cochlear Implants do the work of damaged parts of the inner ear (cochlea) to provide sound signals to the brain allowing recipients to hear sounds they may not have heard for a long time, such as birdsong, music or conversations in a noisy restaurant.
A Cochlear Baha is a bone conduction implant system. It is best suited to people who have single-sided deafness, conductive hearing losses, and those with mixed hearing losses who cannot otherwise wear “in the ear” or “behind the ear” hearing aids because of ear infections and irritation. The Baha picks up sounds coming from the hearing loss side and transfers them to the good ear, making speech easier to understand, with crisp, clear sound.
Tell us, did you find this information useful? Have you been struggling with finding the appropriate hearing aid solution?