The Ins and Outs of Hearing Aids

Different styles of hearing aids

There are three basic styles of hearing aids. The styles differ by size, their placement on or inside the ear and the degree to which they amplify sound.

Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids have a hard plastic case worn behind the ear that holds the electronic parts. The case connects to a plastic ear piece that fits inside the outer ear. Sound travels from the hearing aid through the ear piece and into the ear. This type of hearing aid can be used by people of all ages for mild to profound hearing loss.

A new kind of BTE aid is an open-fit hearing aid, with only a narrow tube inserted into the ear canal, enabling the canal to remain open. The open-fit hearing aids may be a good choice for people who experience a buildup of earwax, since this type of aid is less likely to be damaged by such substances.

RFS - hearing aids2In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids fit completely inside the outer ear and are used for mild to severe hearing loss. The case holding the electronic components is made of hard plastic. Some ITE aids have added features installed, such as a telecoil. A telecoil is a small magnetic coil that allows users to receive sound through the circuitry of the hearing aid, rather than through its microphone. This feature makes it easier to hear conversations over the telephone and use induction loop systems [link to assistive hearing device article]. ITE aids are not worn by young children because the casings need to be replaced as the ear grows.

Canalaids fit directly into the ear canal and are available in two styles. The in-the-canal (ITC) hearing aid is made to fit the size and shape of a person’s ear canal. A completely-in-canal (CIC) hearing aid is nearly hidden in the ear canal. Because they are small, canal aids may be difficult for a person to adjust and remove. In addition, canal aids have less space available for batteries and additional devices, such as a telecoil.

Both types are used for mild to moderately severe hearing loss. These types of aids usually are not recommended for young children because of the need to be replaced as the child grows; or, for people with severe to profound hearing loss because their reduced size limits their power and volume.

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