A hearing aid is an electroacoustic device that can help sound be amplified for the wearer of the hearing aid. It corrects impaired hearing and successfully makes speech more intelligible. These medical devices are FDA-regulated and go back all the way back to the seventeenth century, with the invention of the first hearing aid, the ear trumpet. These external hearing aids blocked out other noises and directed sound towards the ear more efficiently using its funnel shape and would go in or behind the ear. The first electric hearing aid was invented in 1898. Carbon microphones, digital signal processing chips, transmitters, and computer technology have all made the hearing aid what it is today.
Different Types of Hearing Aids
To help you decide which hearing aid to use, here are the different types of hearing aids, along with the pros and cons of each one, according to WebMD.
Body Worn Aids
Body worn aids were invented by Harvey Fletcher at Bell Laboratories and were the first hearing aid invented. They are made up of a case and earmold attached by wire. The case holds the battery, controls, and amplifier components and the earmold has a mini loudspeaker. The size of playing cards, this aid can be carried or worn on a belt.
Pros: These aids can provide long battery life and amplification at a lower cost
Cons: Larger than other aids
Behind The Ear Aids
These aids are made up of a case, earmold/dome and connection between them. The case has the electronics, the controls, the microphone and sometimes loudspeaker. The case is behind the pinna and the connection of the case goes down the front of the ear. The sound is routed acoustically or electrically to the ear.
Pros: Reduced chance of moisture damaging components, greater durability
Easily connected to assistive listening devices
Good hearing aid for children
Cons: Users may not like the way the BTE aids look
On The Ear Aids(Mini BTEs)
This is a new type of mini BTE aid that goes on the ear. It can also fit behind or on the ear. Thin, invisible tubes connect the aid to the ear canal. Mini BTEs have an ear piece for insertion called an open fit. But they can also utilize traditional ear molds. They reduce the sensation of occlusion in the ear canal and reduce feedback.
Pros: Smaller, uses comfortable ear piece insert
Receiver In The Canal/Ear
These hearing aids have a loudspeaker in the ear using soft ear inserts that are usually made of silicone to place the loudspeaker in the patient’s ear. Many patients find that they prefer the open fit technology of the RITC hearing aid over others.
Pros: Improved sound quality with reduced case size
Cons: No fitted earmold
BTE Cross System/ BTE Bi Cross System
This cross system is used for those with hearing loss in one ear and allows users to wear a microphone in one ear. The speech goes to a speaker in the good ear and allows for normal hearing. The Bi Cross system enhances hearing in the good ear by enhancing volume input, increasing clarity and volume.
Pros: Helps user hear normally
In The Ear Aids
These aids fit the concha, or outer ear bowl and are custom made for each ear. They are used in mild to severe hearing loss. Feedback may be a problem, but regulation is available on modern circuits. This ITE aid has a vent placed to provide pressure equalization, with different styles and sizes. These units can b e connected to FM systems wirelessly as well.
Pros: Now available for children due to new silicone-like material that doesn’t have to replaced as child grows
They are smaller than other aids
Cons: Visible sometimes when facing someone
Feedback from sound may happen for severe hearing loss
More expensive than aids worn behind ear due to custom fittings
Invisible In Canal Hearing Aids (IIC)
IIC aids fit inside the ear canal, and are not visible as hearing aids. The shell is custom made to the ear canal and use venting and deep placement to make the hearing experience more natural. The IIC aid does not block the ear with a large plastic shell. Sound is collected naturally by the ear’s shape and travels down to the ear canal with unassisted hearing. Models allow the aid wearer to use their cell phone as a remote control for the volume and memory settings.
Pros: Not visible due to internal insertion
Cons: Do not work well for older people
Extended Wear Hearing Aids
These hearing devices are placed in the ear without surgery. They are the first invisible hearing aid that can be worn for up to three months at a time without having to be removed. Made of soft material, these aids contour to each user and result in improved sound direction and localization as well as improved high frequency gain and reduced feedback. These aids are worn by people who have mild to moderate severe hearing loss. Settings can be altered without professional help and the aids are worn until they are replaced with another in three months or less.
Pros: Reduced feedback, soft material, high frequency
Protect against moisture and earwax so can be worn for multiple activities such as showering
Cons: Have to be replaced every three months
Must be removed and reinserted when the battery dies and cannot go underwater
Slightly uncomfortable with the fit sometimes as is deeply inserted into canal
Open Fit Devices
Over The Ear or Open Fit Devices are small and fit behind the ear. They have a small case behind the ear and a small clear tube that runs into the ear canal. The acrylic tip or soft silicone dome holds the tube in place and reduces the occlusion effect.
Pros: Does not feel like it is plugged in the ear
Cons: Open fit devices can have issues when connected to Assistive Listening Devices
Disposable Hearing Aids
These aids have a battery that cannot be replaced. These aids do use power better than traditional hearing aids, and the battery lasts longer. They replace the task of battery replacement and other maintenance issues.
Pros: Battery lasts longer than other hearing aids
Removes maintenance and battery replacement tasks
Cons: Must continually buy new hearing aids
Bone Anchored Hearing Aids
This is an auditory prosthetic that can be surgically implanted and uses the skull for sound travel to the inner ear. This is good for people who have conductive or unilateral hearing loss. Patients can experience numbness around their implant, but this usually disappears with time. The BAHA does not restrict users from active or outdoor activities and can connect to an FM system using a mini FM receiver attachment.
Pros: Children can wear it
Low risk for surgery and minimal pain
Cons: Requires surgery