Choosing a hearing aid can be a daunting and complicated process, with countless styles, available features and price points to consider. An easy way to start this process is to first figure out what your hearing lifestyle is.
There are four categories of hearing lifestyles: Private, quiet, active and dynamic. A private lifestyle involves limited background noise and the least daunting listening situations. You may need your hearing aid to participate in quiet conversations, to hear the phone ringing, an alarm going off or the doorbell. This lifestyle requires the lowest level of technology and additional features.
A quiet lifestyle involves occasional background noise. Those with this lifestyle must be able to hear in environments with minimal to moderate activity, such as a religious service, a quiet restaurant or a small family gathering.
An active lifestyle is ideal for those who require flexibility, often moving between different environments with a moderate level of background noise. People with this lifestyle often visit movie theaters, health clubs and shopping malls.
A dynamic lifestyle is the most complicated variety. Those with this lifestyle are exposed to environments with frequent background noise, such as a busy restaurant, concerts and airports. Their hearing aid must be powerful enough to easily switch between loud venues. This lifestyle requires the most additional features and highest level of technology available.
The next decision you will have to make is which style of hearing aid you want. The styles range in size from practically invisible to a two-part model that sits outside the ear. Keep in mind, the smaller the device, the fewer features it can contain and the smaller battery it can fit—a smaller battery needs to be replaced much more often.
Completely-in-the-canal (CIC) is the smallest style; it fits inside the ear canal, making it practically invisible. Since this device sits inside the ear it is less likely to pick up wind noise but is susceptible to earwax. Because of its size it cannot contain any additional features and takes the smallest battery. This style works for those with mild to moderate hearing loss.
In-the-canal (ITC) is slightly larger. It sits half inside the canal and half outside. Since it is a little bigger it may contain a few additional features and has a longer battery life. This style works for those with moderate hearing loss.
In-the-ear (ITE) styles sit within the outer part of the ear and come in two varieties, full shell, which takes up the whole outer ear, and half shell, which fills only the lower part. This style can fit even more features and contains a larger battery. Since it is sitting outside the ear, it can pick up more wind noises and is still susceptible to earwax. This style works for those with mild to severe hearing loss.
Behind-the-ear (BTE) is the most popular style of hearing aid. It contains two pieces, one that sits inside the ear canal and one that sits behind the ear. These parts are connected with tubing. Since this is the largest style it can fit the most amount of additional features and has the largest battery. This style works for all types of hearing loss.
Receiver-in-canal (RIC) is similar to the BTE and is made up of two parts, one that sits inside the ear canal and one that sits behind the ear. This style is slightly less visible than the BTE because the parts are connected with a thin wire instead of tubing.
Open fit is the final style of hearing aids. Similar to the RIC, the two parts are connected with a thin wire. The difference is in the piece that sits in the ear canal. Instead of a plug which takes up the whole canal, this open fit style uses a smaller plug. This allows low-frequency sounds to enter the ear naturally, while high-frequency sounds must still be processed through the hearing aid. This style works for those with mild to moderate hearing loss.
Pricing for hearing aids may vary on models and features. You and your audiologist will be able to determine the best level of technology to best meet your financial needs.
Even with all the helpful information we’ve provided on how to choose a hearing aid, the best way to truly figure out what device is right for you is to try them on. This lets you figure out what feels the most comfortable and works best with your degree of hearing loss. Keep in mind when trying on hearing aids that your audiologist may not have fine-tuned the settings yet. Once you do decide on a style your audiologist will program the device to match your hearing profile.
The first thing you should listen for when testing out hearing aids is the sound of your own voice. With any hearing aid, your voice will sound louder at first. After a while, you brain will get used to the hearing aid and your voice will sound normal. To test apples to apples, you should read the same line from a book, recite a poem you know or repeat the same sentence over and over. This ensures that you are comparing the same type of speech with each hearing aid.
The next thing you should do is try the hearing aid out in different sound environments. Your audiologist will show you how you switch between programs on your hearing aid so you can effortlessly switch between a quiet office and a noisy waiting room. This can be tested by walking around the office and finding places with different levels of noise and talking out loud.
Once you have figured out how well the hearing aid can switch between environments, you should try using the device while talking on the phone. In the past, many would experience feedback when using the telephone, prompting them to remove their hearing aids before making a phone call. Making sure can hear a phone call clearly with your hearing aid still in is important.
Once you have narrowed down which hearing aid works best for you, don’t forget to ask about any accessories your audiologist would recommend. With the increase in technology, game-changing accessories are being developed daily. They can be as simple as a remote control, which would eliminate having to fumble with small buttons to change the program, to entire telephones that wirelessly connect with the hearing aid to stream calls directly into your ear.
There are six major styles of hearing aids. The larger the style, the more visible it is and the more additional features it can contain.
Behind-the-ear (BTE) is the most popular style of hearing aid. It contains two pieces, one that sits inside the ear canal and one that sits behind the ear, they are connected with tubing. Since this is the largest style it can fit the most amount of additional features and has the largest battery. This style works for all types of hearing loss.
Receiver-in-canal (RIC) is similar to the BTE. It is made up of two parts, one that sits inside the ear canal and one that sits behind the ear. This style is slightly less visible than the BTE because the parts are connected with a thin wire instead of tubing.
Open fit is similar to the RIC style, with two parts connected via a thin wire. The difference is in the piece that sits in the ear canal. Instead of a plug which takes up the whole canal, this open fit style uses a smaller device. This allows low-frequency sounds to enter the ear naturally, while high-frequency sounds must still be processed through the hearing aid. This style works for those with mild to moderate hearing loss.
In-the-ear (ITE) aids sit within the outer part of the ear and come in two styles, full shell, which takes up the whole outer ear, and half shell, which fills only the lower part. This style can fit a fair amount of additional features and contains a smaller battery. Since it is sitting outside of the ear, it can pick up more wind noises and is still susceptible to earwax. This style works for those with mild to severe hearing loss.
In-the-canal (ITC) is slightly smaller, sitting half inside the canal and half outside. Since it is smaller it may contain fewer additional features and requires a smaller battery. This style works for those with moderate hearing loss.
Completely-in-the-canal (CIC) is the smallest style. It fits inside the ear canal, making it practically invisible. Since this device sits inside the ear it is less likely to pick up wind noise but is susceptible to earwax. Since this is the smallest style it cannot contain any additional features and requires the smallest battery. This style only works for those with mild to moderate hearing loss.
There are a number of hearing aid accessories on the market. You should work with your audiologist to determine which ones will improve your hearing aid experience. A few that many find useful are:
A clip-on microphone. This small microphone is wirelessly connected to your hearing aid. Your conversation partner can either clip it on their shirt of wear it around their neck. Everything they say will be broadcast directly to your hearing aid, thus eliminating any background noise that could impact the flow of communication.
Remote control. This small pocket-sized remote is wirelessly connected to your hearing aid. You can use the remote to turn on and off the power, change the volume and switch between programs, without having to fiddle with small buttons or remove the device from your ear.
Dehumidifier. Since your hearing aid sits in your ear all day, it easily traps moisture. Moisture can be harmful to any electronic device, especially such a tiny and complex one, so it is important to remove any excess moisture as soon as possible. A dehumidifier is a small box that you can place your hearing aid in overnight. All the moisture that was trapped throughout the day will be removed by the time you wake up.
While those with hearing loss can utilize the use of a hearing aid as their primary treatment, there are so some environments where even the best hearing aid could benefit from a little help. In these situations, a hearing loop is able to provide the additional support you need.
The most important component of a hearing aid used to connect with assistive listening devices is a telecoil, or t-coil. A t-coil is a small wire that works as a wireless receiver. Most hearing aids are already t-coil enabled; if yours is not you can buy an adapter that is worn around the neck. The t-coil is able to receive an electrical, infrared or FM signal and turn that signal back into sound within the hearing aid; this allows you to hear the speaker without the distracting background noise getting in the way.
A hearing loop utilizes electromagnetic energy to transmit sound and consists of four parts: a sound source, an amplifier, a thin wipe loop that encircles the room and a receiver worn in the ear. The amplified sound travels through the wire loop and is picked up by the t-coil. As long as you are within or nearby the loop your hearing aid can pick up and process the sound. A hearing loop is usually used at conference centers or large meetings rooms.
An FM system uses radio signals to transmit sounds. The speaker wears a small microphone which is connected to a transmitter. Sound is broadcast through FM waves and picked up by a t-coil enabled hearing aid. This system is ideal for classrooms.
An infrared system uses infrared light to transmit sound. Just like the other two systems, the signal is picked up by the t-coil enabled hearing aid and changed back into sound. Infrared light cannot pass through walls so this system is ideal for courtrooms.
Hearing aids are expensive pieces of technology. In order to ensure they last as long as possible you must take proper care of them.
Properly cleaning your hearing aid is probably the most important thing you can do for your device. Since the hearing aid spends hours in your ear, earwax and other debris can become trapped in the small holes. A clean, dry cloth, a soft-bristled toothbrush and a wax pick can all be used to properly clean your device.
If you begin to experience trouble with your hearing aid, there are steps you should take before bringing the device into the office for further testing.
Make sure the hearing aid is on. This may seem like common sense but for those who are just getting started wearing a hearing aid, this can often be easily overlooked. Next, turn the volume up. With such small buttons one can accidently turn down the volume without meaning to. Check the battery. The batteries used in hearing aids do not act the same as the batteries you are used to; these batteries can go from full power to dead in an instant. Those with a two-part model (such as BTE or RIC) should inspect the tubing or wire connections for any tears or breaks.
If you run through all of these steps and your hearing aid is still not working, you should contact our office for an immediate appointment. One of our experts will look at your hearing aid and run a few diagnostic tests to determine the cause of the problem.
The batteries used in hearing aids are different from those that you are used to. These batteries are zinc air batteries, which use air as a source of power. Because of this, they are sold in a sealed container. Once their backing is removed they begin to drain. You should only take the batteries out of their packaging when you are going to use them right away. Batteries should be stored at room temperature and protected from humidity. If you spend a lot of time in a humid climate, think of purchasing a dry kit to keep your batteries in.
How long a battery lasts in your hearing aid is completely dependent on how many hours a day you use the device, how much amplification your degree of hearing loss requires and any additional features in your hearing aid. An easy way to figure this out is to keep track on the back of a package of batteries the date you take out a battery. Once the package is used up, you can count up the days and divide by the number of batteries in the package to get your average.
There are four main sizes of batteries: 10, 312, 13 and 675. The 675 size is typically blue and is the largest, working in BTE models. 13 is orange and can be used in some BTE and ITE styles. The orange battery is 312 and can be used in some BTE, RIC and ITC units. The smallest battery is yellow number 10 and can be used in CIC styles. Hearing aid manufacturers usually include what color battery the model takes as well as the number to make it easier.
The size of the battery is correlated to how long the battery will last. The largest battery, number 675, can last up to 20 days. The smallest battery, number 10, may only last for a few days.
Clean your hearing aid every night. Use a dry, soft cloth to remove any grime or debris. To remove any earwax buildup you can use specialty tools such as a wax pick or a soft bristled toothbrush. The earmold portion of the hearing aid can be dried with a damp cloth. Make sure it has been removed from the rest of the hearing aid and is completely dry before it is reattached.
Listening and battery tests should be performed daily. The listening test, which uses a listening tube, ensures that your hearing aid is working as it should. Your audiologist will show you how to perform this test. Since the batteries used in hearing aids drain quicker than regular batteries, a battery tester is needed to make sure your hearing aid will last the whole day. As a safety precaution, you should always carry extra batteries with you in case your hearing aid does die unexpectedly.
There are a few key points to keep in mind while flying. You should not need to remove your hearing aids to go through security; usually it is fine to just let TSA know you are wearing them. If for some reason they insist they be removed, the x-ray used in security will not harm them. When on the airplane you do not need to turn your hearing aids off when the announcement is made requesting all electronic devices be turned off. Some do find flying without their hearing aids more comfortable because of the pressure in the cabin. You should let the flight attendant know you have hearing loss; that way if there are any overhead announcements they can come let you know in person.
If you are driving to your destination instead of flying there are some helpful hints to keep in mind. Make sure all your mirrors are positioned correctly; some find an extended rearview mirror helpful to see more of the road. Keep the radio to a quiet volume to ensure you are able to hear a car horn. Do not roll the windows down when driving quickly, as doing so will create a lot of background noise that will impede your ability to hear other drivers.
Most importantly, always pack extra hearing aid supplies, specifically batteries and tubing (if using a BTE model). You should never assume that you will be able to find the supplies you need while on vacation.