When growing older and wiser, there are some indisputable ways your body begins to retire. Whilst many issues that are irreversible and can simply be managed, hearing loss is one problem that can be addressed relatively easily via the use of hearing aids.
Hearing Aids: Are They the Right Choice?
Hearing loss is gradual, so it can be incredibly hard to pinpoint exactly how degraded your hearing has become yourself. It manifests as a difficulty in keeping up with conversations for some. Not understanding what others are saying can be incredibly frustrating, which can build up significantly. Ringing in your ears can be another sign of acute hearing loss, but it’s actually usually friends and family members that notice hearing loss first.
It’s important not to ignore the signs. If you regularly need to TV on louder than your family does, or if it feels like you’re constantly asking friends to repeat themselves, then it may be a good idea to get your ears tested.
An audiologist is the first step to figuring out hearing loss. He or she will conduct a comprehensive examination of your ears and your hearing ability, assessing the impact and limitations you may now face. Be prepared to pen up and discuss any difficultes, as the better idea the audiologist has, the sooner you can enjoy normal conversations again.
During the appointment, your audiologist will check your ears for any physical blockages from earwax, and discuss any ringing in your ears, balance issues. The goal is to clarify exactly which type of hearing loss you struggle with, and how that affects your quality of life.
If it’s something akin to an ear infection, he or she will refer you on to an ear, nose and throat doctor for antibiotics or other medication; if it’s bog-standard old-age hearing loss, then he will evaluate the extremity of loss you face. Once hearing aids are established as an effective option, you’ll be presented with some choices.
Behind the Ear vs In-ear
Behind the Ear hearing aids see the main body of the hearing aid sit – unsurprisingly! – behind the ear. This is held in place with a small plastic arm, connected to an earmold or reciever that sits in your ear canal.
This style is suitable for mid to severe heating loss; because the body of the hearing aid sits outside of the ear canal, ambient sound can still pass into the ear naturally. This makes adapting to a hearing aid a little easier, and means your own voice still sounds roughly the same.
In the Ear designs, however, fit entirely within the ear. These are only visible in the outer ear, but retain very low profile. These can also fix mild to severe hearing loss – for anything worse than severe hearing loss, options such as bone conductive aids may be better suited.
Behind the Ear Styles
BTE Style 1: With Ear Mold
This style of ear mold connects snugly to your ear with a silicone or plastic ear mold. This in turn is connected to the tube attached to the device’s body. The earmold is uually custom-fit, perfectly matching the shape of your ear canal. This style provides comfort and excellent sound transmission.
BTE hearing aids with earmold designs are fantastic at delivering sound and are very suitable for people with low to high-frequency hearing loss.
However, it’s worth bearing in mind that these styles can feel bulkier, and be difficult to get used to. The earmolds may also need to be changed, as your ear shape changes with age. It also has a tendency to cause earwax buildup. Finally, if the ear mold style is not fitted properly, it has a tendency to make your voice sound too loud.
BTE Style 2: Reciever in Canal
Reciever in canal devices keep the reciever behind the ear. However, in this design, the speaker is placed right inside the ear canal itself. The speaker looks like a small dome; not audible to any others around you except yourself. This design suits people who struggle discerning quiet noises.
Reciever in canal devices are usually less noticeable than regular earmold versions, making it one of the better choice for the more fashion conscious. It’s also less expensive to get the speaker repaired thanks to its external placement. It still allows ambient noise past the speaker too, which many find easier to get to grips with when starting out.
Despite its excellent sound quality, it should also be noted that the speaker can be damaged by inner ear moisture.
In the Ear Styles
ITE Style 1: Low Profile
This design of ear hearing aids usually fill all or part of your outer ear, and also completely cover the entrance to your ear canal. For less visible styles, these devices are usually available in a range of shades to match the wearer’s skin tone.
They are larger in size, which gives them a longer a battery life and more functions, such as remote control. They’re also easy to insert and remove, with no fiddling around with over-ear supports. They do also support directional microphones, which can help enormously with shutting out that background chatter.
However, they are more noticeable than other ITE styles, and can feel uncomfortable at first – like they’re blocking your ear.
ITE Style 2: In the Canal
In the ear canal (ITC) hearing aids sit protruding into your ear canal; part of it remains visible in the outer ear. These are suitable for mild to moderate hearing loss, and also support directional microphones. They are very discreet, and still abel to be controlled manually. However, they’re unsuitable for profound hearing loss.
ITC Style 3: Completely in the Canal
Completely in the canal designs are one of the most discreet styles available. Here, the entire device sits inside your ear canal and are absolutely tiny. Despite their size, they still apck a punch, able to treat mild to moderately severe heating loss. They are also less proen to wind interference than many other models; though their size comes at the expense of battery life.
ITE Style 4: Invisible in the Canal
Finally, invisible-in-canal aids are even smaller than the completely-in-the-canal models. They sit even deeper inside the ear canal itself, operable purely via remote or smart phone app. This position – incredibly close to the eardrum – also provides incredible sound clarity and removes almost all interference.
They are completely invisible. However, the small size has an impact on the battery life, and they’re not quite as powerful as larger makes: they’re only suitable for mild to moderate hearing loss.