It is estimated that about 30 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss, making it one of the country’s most common health conditions. About 90 percent of all hearing loss can be helped with hearing aids, and the other 10 percent can be treated with medical attention.
Choosing a hearing professional is one of the most important decisions a hearing impaired person can make. A successful hearing aid fitting is highly dependent upon the judgment, skill, and experience of the professional who provides it. Dr. O’Bell will help you choose the right amplification for your needs.
A wide range of technologies and features are available in any hearing aid style. The actual cost of hearing devices is related to the technology and the number of advanced features of the device and not necessarily on the style selected. Today’s digital hearing aids are typically offered in various levels such as basic or entry-level to advanced or premium-level. Within each level, different technology and features are available.
Basic digital hearing aids generally require the wearer to make some manual adjustments in certain listening environments such as pushing a button to change listening programs. In contrast, a premium or more advanced hearing aid responds automatically to changes in the listener’s environment, making changes based on the signals being detected by the hearing aid. The hearing aid wearer is not required to make any manual changes. As the level of the technology increases in hearing aids, so do the availability of advanced features.
Some examples of advanced features include:
- Directional Microphones: Two microphones on the devices work together to give preference to sounds in front of the wearer and to reduce sound from behind the wearer –especially in the presence of background noise. Studies have proven that directional microphone technology improves speech understanding in background noise.
- Noise Reduction: The circuitry determines if the input contains unwanted background noise and reduces the level of the background noise if present. This feature is most effective in attenuating
steady state noise, such as a fan or road noise.
- Feedback Management: Reduces or eliminates the annoying whistling that can occur with hearing aid use.
- Wind Noise Reduction: Reduces the noise created when wind blows across the hearing aid microphones improving comfort in outdoor environments.
- Data Logging: The ability of the device to track and learn the user’s preferences in specific listening environments. Also used to fine tune programs based on the user’s preferences.
- Bluetooth Compatibility: Enables wireless connectivity between cell phones, computers, televisions and other Bluetooth compatible devices.
Hearing Aid Styles
There are many styles of hearing aids. The degree of the hearing loss, power and options required, visual acuity, manual dexterity abilities, cost factors, anatomical/medical conditions and cosmetic concerns are some of the factors that will determine the style the patient will use. Hearing aids can be described as either in the ear or behind the ear styles. In-the-Ear hearing aids are typically custom fit based on a mold or cast of the ear.
The smallest of the custom products. It is designed to sit invisibly deep into the ear canal affording the highest cosmetic appeal as they are invisible when worn.
Completely-in-the-Canal hearing aids fit deeply into the ear canal. One of the smallest custom designs, they are cosmetically appealing with limitations due to size.
In-the Ear (ITE)
In the Ear hearing aids comfortable fit in the bowl of the patient’s ear. This custom style is ideal for patients with limited manual dexterity or visual acuity.
RITE models, also known as RIC (receiver-in-canal) models, are mini BTEs that have the speaker of the instrument incorporated in the ear tip, instead of in the main body of the instrument. They are comfortable and cosmetically appealing.
Mini Behind-the-Ear (Mini BTE)
These are designed to hide behind the outer ear, and have ultra-thin tubing to discreetly route sound into the ear. The tubing connects to a soft tip that sits in the ear canal but doesn’t occlude it. This is known as “open fitting” and is recommended for mild to moderate high frequency losses.
BTEs with earmolds are traditional hearing aids that allow for a custom fitted earmold which delivers the sound from the hearing aid which is seated behind the ear. These devices can contain the most powerful circuits for severe hearing losses.