Nonimplantable (external) hearing aids detect and amplify sound. Although hearing aids cannot restore hearing to perfection, they improve a person's ability to understand speech and distinguish between a variety of sounds. Hearing aids have far-reaching benefits, including allowing the wearer to participate in conversation, engage in meaningful social interactions, work at a variety of occupations, and integrate with the hearing community, among others. In addition, many people suggest their self esteem improves after they receive a hearing aid.
Important General Information About Hearing Aids
- There is an adjustment period with hearing aids
- Properly fitted hearing aids will not cause additional hearing loss
- If you have hearing loss in both ears, you will benefit from having an aid in each ear
- Not all hearing aids are well suited to every listener; your audiologist can help you decide which aid will work best for you
- Hearing aid batteries usually need replacing every 7 to 10 days
Licensed audiologists at the Summit Health Ear Specialty Center can meet all your hearing aid needs and provide:
Evaluation and Consultation
After your hearing test, an audiologist will discuss the extent of your hearing loss, expectations, hearing aid options, and costs. Once you have chosen a hearing aid, your audiologist might make an impression of your ear canals for molding and properly fitting the aid. One to two weeks later, your hearing aid will be ready to be fitted to your ear, carefully checked, and programmed. You also will be given instructions about how to place and use the aid.
After 2 weeks, you will return for another doctor’s visit to have your aid checked and adjusted. Your audiologist also will determine whether you are getting the most benefit from it.
If you are dissatisfied with your aid, you may return it within 30 days for a refund. The dispensing fee, however, is not refundable. Most hearing aids come with a 1-year warranty for loss, damage, and repair. Be sure to keep the purchase agreement you receive when your aid is fitted. It will include the refund policy.
Nonimplantable Hearing Aids
Behind-the-ear Hearing Aid
Behind-the-ear (BTE) aids are enclosed in a small plastic case that rests behind the ear. The case is connected to an ear mold or ear piece with a small tube. Available in traditional and mini sizes, BTEs are suitable for children and adults and can be used in patients with all levels of hearing loss. They are easy to clean and handle and they are relatively durable.
Receiver-in-the-canal Hearing Aid
A relatively new, smaller, and more cosmetically discreet behind-the-ear hearing device, the receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) aid connects to a receiver in the ear canal with a thin, almost invisible wire. The receiver may use a comfortable ear piece (or dome) or it may use a custom-fitted ear mold. RIC aids have the advantage of not making the wearer feel plugged up. In addition, they produce less feedback than some other hearing aids. For these reasons, people who use them suggest they are more comfortable than some other hearing aids.
In-the-ear Hearing Aids
All parts of ITE aids are encased in a shell that fills the outer ear. ITE aids are larger than in-the-canal and completely-in-the-canal aids. For this reason, some people find them easier to handle.
In-the-canal and Completely-in-the-canal Hearing Aids
In-the-canal (ITC) and completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids are contained in tiny cases that partly or completely fit in the ear canal. The smallest of hearing aids, they are cosmetically discreet. Wearers of ITC and CIC aids suggest these aids make them feel plugged up. Because they are so small, some people find ITC and CIC aids difficult to handle.
Digital Hearing Aids
Digital hearing aids convert sound waves into digital signals before they are amplified. Using computer technology to program and accurately control sound reception in the ear, digital hearing aids:
- Are available in all hearing aids
- Can be finely tuned to correct or improve hearing loss, with focus on pitch, volume, and frequency
- Offer limitless modifications to improve hearing
- Allow programming that accommodates evolving hearing needs
- Provide multiple listening programs that can be used in quiet environments, noisy settings, and over the telephone
- Offer accessories that enhance listening
Hearing Aid Features
Directional microphones are among the most important advances in hearing aid technology. When they are placed to capture desired sound(s), they help minimize background noise. Patients with hearing loss often suggest that directional microphones are particularly useful in public settings.
The telecoil (t-coil or t-switch) allows listeners to switch from a normal microphone to a device with a tiny coil to hear better through the telephone. In addition, the t-coil reduces or eliminates background sounds. All wired telephones made today accommodate the t-coil. It also works well in theaters, auditoriums, or other large rooms where listeners must hear at a distance. Some hearing aids have a combination microphone and telephone switch that allows listeners to hear conversation from a distance as well as nearby.
Remote controls allow listeners to change programs, raise and lower volume, direct the microphone, and connect to other devices.
Bluetooth® technology allows wireless communication between hearing aids and other devices, including cellular phones, computers, televisions, frequency modulation (FM) systems, and digital audio (MP3) players.
This technology suppresses whistling when an object is too close to the hearing aid or if the ear mold fits poorly.