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Finding the Right Hearing Aid For You

If you’re thinking about getting hearing aids you’re probably concerned about how they will look and whether they will really help. The first step in addressing your hearing loss is to have your hearing tested by an audiologist or other qualified hearing care provider. At Santa Cruz Ear, Nose and Throat Medical Group, we have a variety of professionals, including ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialists and audiologists ready to help you find the perfect hearing aid!

The Hearing Loss Association of America reports that approximately 20 percent of Americans currently live with some degree of hearing loss. Hearing aids can't restore normal hearing, but they can improve your hearing by amplifying soft sounds, enabling you to hear sounds that you have trouble hearing.

If you are considering getting hearing aids, it's helpful to understand the different types of hearing aids and how they specifically provide distinct levels of hearing ability.

How hearing aids work

All hearing aids use the same basic components to amplify sounds from the environment and carry them into your ear. Small microphones collect sounds and a computer chip with an amplifier convert it into digital code. The hearing aid analyzes and adjusts the sound based on your hearing loss, listening needs and the noise levels around you. The amplified signals are then converted back into sound waves and carried to your ears.

Best Hearing Aids

Hearing aids vary in price, size, special features and the way they're placed in your ear. The following are some common hearing aid styles – starting with the smallest, least visible in the ear. Hearing aid designers are making hearing aids increasingly smaller to meet the demand for a discreet hearing aid that is not too noticeable in the ear. That said, smaller hearing aids may not be strong enough to give you the improved hearing you may need.

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Completely in the canal (CIC) or mini CIC

A completely-in-the-canal hearing aid is made to fit the size and shape of a person’s ear canal and is nearly hidden in the canal. A CIC improves mild to moderately severe hearing loss in adults. A completely-in-the-canal hearing aid:

  • Is the smallest and most discreet in the ear
  • Is less likely to pick up wind noise
  • Requires very small batteries, which do not last as long and can be difficult to manage
  • Does not have added features (e.g. volume control, directional microphone)
  • Is prone to earwax blocking the speaker

In the canal

An in-the-canal (ITC) hearing aid is custom fit partly in the ear canal and can improve mild to moderate hearing loss in many adults. An in-the-canal hearing aid:

  • Is less visible in the ear than the larger, in-the-ear style
  • Includes features that don't fit on completely-in-the-canal aids (e.g. volume control), but components could be difficult to adjust due to the small size
  • Is prone to earwax blocking the speaker

In the ear

An in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aid is custom-made to fit the ear. There are two styles — the full shell fills most of the outer ear; the half shell other fills only the lower part. Both help people with mild to severe hearing loss. An in-the-ear hearing aid:

  • Contains features that don't fit on smaller devices (e.g. volume control)
  • Is easier to handle due to larger size
  • Uses a larger battery resulting in longer battery life
  • Is prone to earwax blocking the speaker
  • Is more visible in the ear than smaller canal devices

Behind the ear

A behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid hooks over the ear and rests behind it. A tube connects the hearing aid to a custom earmold that fits in the ear canal. This type of hearing aid is appropriate for people of all ages with almost any type of hearing loss. A behind-the-ear hearing aid:

  • Has traditionally been the largest type of hearing aid, however, some newer mini styles are streamlined and much less visible
  • Is capable of more amplification than the smaller devices
  • May pick up more wind noise than other styles

Receiver in canal

The receiver-in-canal (RIC) hearing aids are similar in design to a behind-the-ear hearing aid. However, the speaker or receiver sits in the canal or in the ear rather than behind the ear. A tiny wire (rather than tubing) connects the components. An RIC hearing aid:

  • Is less obvious behind the ear
  • Is prone to earwax blocking the speaker

Open fit

An open-fit hearing aid is similar to the behind-the-ear hearing aid, with a thin tube that sits in the ear canal. This design keeps the ear canal very open, allowing low-frequency sounds to enter the ear naturally and for the hearing aid to amplify softer high-frequency sounds. This style is a good choice for people with mild to moderate hearing loss. An open-fit hearing aid:

  • Is less noticeable
  • Doesn't plug the ear, making your own voice sound more natural to you
  • May be more difficult to handle due to the small parts

Additional hearing aid features and accessories

The following are optional hearing aid features and accessories that can improve your ability to hear in a variety of situations:

  • Noise reduction: All hearing aids provide some degree of noise reduction, although the amount of noise reduction varies. Some hearing aids have noise cancellation, which helps block out background noise. Some also offer wind noise reduction.
  • Directional microphones: Microphones are aligned for improved pick up of sounds coming from in front of you with some reduction of sounds coming from behind. Directional microphones can improve your ability to hear in environments with a lot of background noise.
  • Rechargeable batteries: Some hearing aids have rechargeable batteries that make maintenance easier by eliminating the need to regularly change the battery.
  • Telecoils: Telecoils eliminate extraneous environmental sounds (i.e. background noise). They improve sound quality by picking up signals directly from public induction loop systems available in many churches and theaters, allowing you to better hear the speaker, play or movie.
  • Wireless connectivity: More and more hearing aids are able to wirelessly connect with Bluetooth-compatible devices, such as cellphones, MP3 players and TVs.
  • Remote controls: Some hearing aids include a remote control to adjust features without touching the hearing aid.

Extended-wear Lyric hearing aids

Referred to as the “contact lens for the ear” the Lyric hearing aid improves hearing capability without being cumbersome. According to manufacturer Phonak, it is 100% invisible, provides clear, natural sound, does not require batteries and avoids the daily hassle of inserting it into the ear. Meant for mild to moderate hearing loss, Lyric hearing aids are placed deep in the ear canal and take advantage of the ear's natural structure to minimize background noise and deliver natural sound quality.

Wear it anytime, anywhere

Most other hearing aids, regardless of style, have wearing limitations; they shouldn’t be worn at night, around water or during vigorous activity. The Lyric uses a moisture-protected battery, so it can be worn in the shower, when working out and while sleeping. The hearing aid can be worn up to four months at a time; once the battery drains, the Lyric Hearing Aid is discarded for a new one (just like contact lenses).

If you’re ready to find the perfect hearing aid for you, or it’s time to update your current device, call our office to schedule a consultation with one of our qualified professionals!

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Oticon Hearing Aids

Oticon was founded on a compassion for people — and a deep understanding of the role that hearing plays in living a richer and fuller life. People First is our promise to empower people to communicate freely, interact naturally and participate actively.

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