Living aids are a small device that spend their time in most cases inside and behind the ear of an individual who has a hearing impairment. The small device is used to amplify noises to increase the probability of an individual who is hard of hearing in distinguishing a sound. Technology over the past decade has greatly increased both the effectiveness of hearing aids as well as greatly reduced the obtrusiveness of a hearing aid. It used to be that an individual would have to wear an “ear trumpet” or “ear horn”, which was a larger and very noticeable way of aiding hearing. Now many times you won’t even notice that a hearing aid is being used until you look closely as they are very compact in size and will often times blend right in with the ear of an individual. With the increased technology in batteries and power conservation, there is no longer a need for cables and pocket battery packets, instead the battery is concealed in the device itself! It’s like James Bond, but this device is actually useful.
There is several different types of hearing aids, which will vary in many ways among size, cost and power. Before making a choice on any different model or function, I would first recommend talking to your medical professional. Always put functionality ahead of all your other choices. A hearing aid that looks great, but doesn’t help your hearing, isn’t going to be much of an aid at all. Same with one that you are constantly changing the battery out of. Functionality and practicality go a long way in the purchase of a hearing aid.
Types of Hearing Aids
There are several types of hearing aids. Each type offers different advantages, depending on its design, levels of amplification, and size. Before purchasing any hearing aid, ask whether it has a warranty that will allow you to try it out. Most manufacturers allow a 30- to 60-day trial period during which aids can be returned for a refund. There are four basic styles of hearing aids for people with sensorineural hearing loss:
- In-the-Ear (ITE) hearing aids fit completely in the outer ear and are used for mild to severe hearing loss. The case, which holds the components, is made of hard plastic. ITE aids can accommodate added technical mechanisms such as a telecoil, a small magnetic coil contained in the hearing aid that improves sound transmission during telephone calls. ITE aids can be damaged by earwax and ear drainage, and their small size can cause adjustment problems and feedback. They are not usually worn by children because the casings need to be replaced as the ear grows.
- Behind-the-Ear (BTE) hearing aids are worn behind the ear and are connected to a plastic earmold that fits inside the outer ear. The components are held in a case behind the ear. Sound travels through the earmold into the ear. BTE aids are used by people of all ages for mild to profound hearing loss. Poorly fitting BTE earmolds may cause feedback, a whistle sound caused by the fit of the hearing aid or by buildup of earwax or fluid. Canal Aids fit into the ear canal and are available in two sizes.
- The In-the-Canal (ITC) hearing aid is customized to fit the size and shape of the ear canal and is used for mild or moderately severe hearing loss.
- A Completely-in-Canal (CIC) hearing aid is largely concealed in the ear canal and is used for mild to moderately severe hearing loss. Because of their small size, canal aids may be difficult for the user to adjust and remove, and may not be able to hold additional devices, such as a telecoil. Canal aids can also be damaged by earwax and ear drainage. They are not typically recommended for children.
- Body Aids are used by people with profound hearing loss. The aid is attached to a belt or a pocket and connected to the ear by a wire. Because of its large size, it is able to incorporate many signal processing options, but it is usually used only when other types of aids cannot be used.
On the basis of the hearing test results, the audiologist can determine whether hearing aids will help. Hearing aids are particularly useful in improving the hearing and speech comprehension of people with sensorineural hearing loss. When choosing a hearing aid, the audiologist will consider your hearing ability, work and home activities, physical limitations, medical conditions, and cosmetic preferences. For many people, cost is also an important factor. You and your audiologist must decide whether one or two hearing aids will be best for you. Wearing two hearing aids may help balance sounds, improve your understanding of words in noisy situations, and make it easier to locate the source of sounds.