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Hearing aids: all about them

To find out how to choose the right hearing aid, let’s take a look at the market, where we can find a multitude of hearing aid models, but which one is right for you? In this article, we intend to show you some details to take into account before choosing one.

Many of our patients come to the Hearing Centre in Alicante, Calpe and Torrevieja, worried about how the hearing aid will look, or whether it will actually help them. We always inform you about the following:

First of all, it is important to consider which are the best options for the customer, as not all models are suitable for everyone.

Of course, we always give advice on the steps to take to get used to the hearing aid, as each person and each device is different, and this information is provided on an individual basis.

How they work

In general, hearing aids use the same basic parts to transmit sound from the environment to the ear and magnify it. The vast majority of hearing aids are digital and many are powered by a traditional battery or a rechargeable battery – special hearing aid batteries, of course.

These include tiny microphones that are used to pick up sound from the environment. A state-of-the-art microchip with an amplifier that transforms incoming sound into digital code. This chip is responsible for analysing and adjusting the sound, depending on the patient’s hearing loss, their hearing needs and the quality of the level of all sounds around them at that moment. These signals, which have been amplified, are then converted back into sound waves to be sent to the ears through the receivers.

Types of hearing aids

There is a wide range of types of hearing aids, which vary in price, size, features and, of course, the way they are placed in the ear.

Hearing aid manufacturers are making hearing aids smaller and more sophisticated to meet customer demand, so that you hardly notice you are wearing them.

Fully in-duct (CIC) or mini CIC

They are indicated for mild to moderate hearing loss in adults and are designed to fit inside the ear canal.

A hearing aid completely in the canal:

  • Very small and less visible.
  • Wind noise? very unlikely to catch on.
  • Their batteries are very small.
  • Additional features, such as volume control or directional microphone, are not usually included.
  • Wax can sometimes clog the earpiece.

In the duct or ITC

The in-the-canal hearing system is custom-made and fits partially into the patient’s ear canal. It is a model that can greatly improve mild to moderate hearing loss in adults.

A hearing aid in the duct:

  • Much less visible than the larger models.
  • They include some functions that do not fit in the aforementioned hearing aids, but can be difficult to adjust due to their small size.
  • They are also susceptible to wax clogging the speaker.

Intra-atrial or ITE

The in-the-ear hearing system is custom-made for the patient in two unique models: one that covers most of the bowl-shaped area of the outer ear and one that covers the lower part of the outer ear. In both cases, they are of real use for people with mild to severe hearing loss and can be found with directional microphones (i.e. they have two microphones for better hearing in somewhat noisy environments).

A hearing aid in the ear:

  • It includes functions such as volume control.
  • It is easy to use.
  • It uses a larger, and therefore longer-lasting, battery and different rechargeable options.
  • Susceptible to wax clogging of the loudspeaker.
  • It may be able to pick up more wind than smaller hearing aids.
  • It is more visible than smaller hearing aids.

Behind the ear or BTE

The behind-the-ear hearing aid is a model that sits behind the ear and clips onto the top of the ear. A small tube connects the device to an earmould that fits snugly into the ear canal. And it is suitable for people of all ages and all hearing losses.

A behind-the-ear hearing aid:

  • It has always been one of the largest hearing aids, but some new designs are more streamlined and barely visible.
  • It has directional microphones.
  • Amplifies sounds, much more than other models…
  • A rechargeable battery is sometimes available.

In-duct receiver or RITE (RIC)

These models are similar to the BTE hearing aid with the speaker or receiver placed in the ear canal. It contains a very small wire, instead of the familiar tube, which connects the behind-the-ear piece to the speaker or receiver.

A hearing aid with a receiver in the canal:

  • It usually has a part behind the ear, much less visible than others.
  • Contains directional microphones.
  • Manual control options.
  • Available with rechargeable battery.

Additional features

There are some specific situations that can be seen, notably improved, thanks to certain additional features.

  • Noise reduction. This is something that comes with all hearing aids, to a greater or lesser extent. It should be noted that the amount of noise reduction varies and that some include wind noise reduction.
  • Directional microphones. They are aligned in the hearing aid, thus picking up sounds coming from the front with some reduction of sounds coming from the side or behind. Some hearing aids will be able to focus in one direction. It is important to note that when in an environment with a lot of background noise, directional microphones may improve the ability to hear.
  • Rechargeable batteries. This option is available for some hearing aids and significantly eliminates the need for periodic battery replacement and facilitates maintenance.
  • Telecoils. When talking on a telecoil compatible telephone, it makes hearing easier. This function reduces ambient sounds and picks up sounds from the compatible phone. Importantly, the telecoil also picks up signals from public induction loop systems, which are found in some theatres or religious places such as churches, allowing for filming, better listening to the speaker or playing games.
  • Wireless connectivity. Today, many of the hearing aids on the market can interact wirelessly with Bluetooth-enabled devices such as mobile phones, mp3 players, computers, smart TVs, etc. However, an intermediary device may have to be used between the phone and the hearing aid. They are available in a wide range of characteristics and conditions, so that the customer can choose.
  • Remote controls. They will be able to adjust any function, without touching the hearing system, which is nowadays possible with some hearing systems that are wirelessly connected to a mobile phone, which has the App installed for remote control operation.
  • Direct audio input. With a cable, they can be connected to the audio of a computer, TV or mp3 device.
  • Variable programming. Several hearing instruments have the possibility to store various settings for different environments and hearing needs.
  • Synchronisation. When two hearing instruments are used, they can be programmed to synchronise so that adjustments made in one instrument (volume control or programme changes) are also made in the other instrument, simplifying control.

Before you buy

When we are looking for information on how to choose the right hearing aid, we should explore the options to find out the most suitable type of hearing aid, as well as the most appropriate one:

  • Have a check-up. Come to our centre and our Audiologists will give you a free hearing test.
  • Qualified audiologists. At Cai Salud, our Hearing Care Technicians will assess your hearing, and we will help you choose the most suitable hearing aid and fit the device that best suits your needs. If the hearing loss is in both ears, we always recommend two hearing aids for best results.
  • Think about future needs. If your hearing loss worsens in the future, ask if you will be able to increase the power of your chosen hearing aid, as hearing aids last a long time and this may happen.
  • Check that there is a guarantee. Make sure that the hearing instrument comes with a warranty, which covers parts and labour for a certain period of time.
  • Beware of misleading advertising. Not all hearing aids restore normal hearing and not all hearing aids eliminate background noise. Beware of advertisements that claim otherwise.
  • Plan for spending. The cost of the hearing aids on the market varies greatly, ask us for an estimate without obligation. Talk to our audiologists about your needs and expectations.

There are some private insurance policies, which cover part or all of the cost of hearing aids. Check your policy to make sure.

Adapting to the hearing aid

Adapting to wearing hearing aids may take some time. You will probably notice that your listening ability improves progressively as you become accustomed to the magnification. Even your own voice will sound different when you wear hearing aids.

When using hearing aids for the first time, it is important to bear in mind that:

  • You have to give yourself some time to get used to it. Adapting to the new hearing aid may take some time, but the more it is used, the faster the process of adapting to the amplified sounds will be.
  • It is good to practice using hearing aids, in different environments. The sounds will be somewhat different in different places, so try them out.
  • Seek support and always try to maintain a positive attitude. Family support and a willingness to practice will help you to adapt to your new hearing aid successfully.
  • Come back for follow-up. Good follow-up of the fitting is important and may require some adjustment to ensure that the new hearing aid works.

Regular use of hearing aids and proper care of the hearing aids is always helpful for successful hearing aid use. In addition, the audiologist can keep you informed about new hearing aids or devices that become available.

The goal is that, over time, you will find a hearing aid that is comfortable for you and that will improve your hearing and communication with your loved ones.

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