Our hearing is something most of us take for granted – until we start to lose it. Those seemingly small warning signs, like having to ask people to repeat what they said, raising the volume on your TV, and missing important pieces of conversations, add up to potentially significant hearing loss.
Luckily, we live in an era where technology makes it possible to adjust to this loss with hearing aids. These gadgets have been a part of society for decades, but unlike the cumbersome, obvious designs from years ago, today’s hearing aids come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles.
The kind of hearing aid you need depends on factors such as how severe your hearing loss is, your ability to use your fingers to manipulate the device, and the size and shape of your ear.
If you’re considering investing in hearing aids to improve your lifestyle and ability to function, here are 5 types you should know before you make your decision.
1. Behind-the-ear (BTE)
The traditional hearing aid sits behind the ear, settled into place using a mold or tube that is held snugly by the ear itself. It does take a little careful finagling to insert the device into place, so you’ll need to be able to use your fingers. These types of hearing aids are also more visible to others, although the bulky, cumbersome devices are rarely used today.
2. In-the-canal (ITC)
For less visible hearing aid devices, the in-the-canal option may suit you. These are small enough to sit deeply in the ear canal. They use tiny batteries to power them. Some are so tiny that they are called completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids. The downside to these devices is that they require almost perfect finger dexterity to place.
3. In-the-Ear (ITE)
For those who need a hearing aid that can easily settle into place without the use of manoeuvring fingers, the in-the-ear device works well. These are designed to fill the ear (full-shell) or slide into place, filling half the ear (half-shell). They are ideal for people who have moderate or severe hearing loss and limited dexterity in their hands.
4. Receiver-in-the-ear (RITE)
RITE hearing aids are receivers that sit behind your ear like the BTE hearing aid does. The difference is that a thin wire connects the body of the hearing aid to your ear canal. These work well for mild to severe hearing loss. The placement of the soft tip in the ear canal gives you a natural sound without all the amplified noises.
In some individuals, the hearing loss is predominantly one-sided. For those people, the CROS/BiCROS hearing aids are ideal. “Contralateral Routing of Signals” or CROS and “Bilateral Contralateral Routing of Signals” (BiCROS) aid in work by transferring the sounds from one ear to the other. These aids are worn on the side of the ear that has better hearing. Another microphone is on the second side, bringing the sound from the side with the most loss over to the better ear.
Choosing the hearing aid that’s right for you is a vital decision that should be made with the help of an expert who knows your situation. Regardless of the kind of device you need, when you invest in a hearing aid to improve your sense of sound, you take the next step in improving your quality of life, too.
Ellen Diamond, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.