In the past, analogue hearing aids were bulky and could perform only basic changes to incoming sounds — like increasing sound overall or boosting treble and bass sounds.
Nowadays, we have digital hearing aids. These modern hearing aids shape the sound more precisely to fit your hearing loss. They can filter out noise in order to help you better understand everyday sounds and they’re also much smaller and more discreet than the old hearing aids.
Almost all hearing aids today are digital, and there is such a variety now that it can be hard to know which type of hearing aid to choose.
We’ve put together this guide to explain the different types of modern hearing aids to help make your choice a little easier.
Receiver in the canal (RIC)
These hearing aids have a small case that fits behind the ear. The case contains the microphone and amplifier. A wire conducts electrical signals to a speaker that fits inside the ear, where it produces the sound.
Behind the ear (BTE)
BTE aids are similar to RIC aids except that the speaker is not inside the ear. Instead, the speaker is in the case behind the ear, and the sound travels into a plastic tube. The plastic tube transmits sound into the ear. These hearing aids are available on the NHS.
In the ear (ITE)
If you look at someone’s ear, you will see a bowl-shaped dipped area. This is called the concha. In-the-ear aids fit the microphone, amplifier, and speaker into a shell that fits within the concha and ear canal.
Completely in the canal and instant fit (CIC)
People who are looking for something smaller may opt for CIC aids that only fill the ear canal. They may be seen if you look directly at the person’s ear canal opening, but are otherwise unnoticeable. These aids do not fill the concha of the outer ear.
Invisible in canal (IIC)
The smallest hearing aids fit deeply in the ear canal. They usually have a darker colouring so that they are not easily seen and are the most discreet type of hearing aid available.
Digital hearing aid features
When you and your audiologist select your hearing aids, it’s important to think about how they are going to be used to improve your hearing and quality of life.
If you are someone who enjoys music or watching TV, you might be best suited with a hearing aid that has Bluetooth® connectivity. Or, if you are someone who loves social situations and conversations, you might consider a hearing aid that incorporates premium sound-filtering technology.
Apps and Bluetooth®-enabled hearing aids
Today’s hearing aids can connect directly to many Bluetooth compatible mobile phones, TV and other audio devices, so you can enjoy clear sound streamed straight into your ears. An app on your smartphone can transform it into a control centre where you can change your hearing aid settings and check your battery life.
If you don’t have a smartphone, you can still control your hearing settings easily by using a wireless remote control. This is available with many modern hearing aids, simply ask your hearing aid audiologist for advice.
Rechargeable batteries provide an environmentally-friendly alternative to disposable hearing aid batteries. Many people love the convenience of popping their hearing aids in and out of a charger every night. Rechargeable hearing aids also eliminate the difficulty of changing small and fiddly hearing aid batteries.
Hearing aids come in technology levels ranging from basic to premium. The exterior portion of the hearing aids will not change, but the technology may be different. Hearing aids with more advanced technology have computer chips embedded in them that provide more features. Premium hearing aids offer the most sophisticated programs for helping you hear better in background noise. These features may be important to you if you lead an active lifestyle.
Speciality hearing devices
There are also speciality hearing devices that work for people with particular or more advanced conditions.
Extended-wear hearing aids are placed in the ear canal and worn for several weeks at a time. They are removed and replaced by a hearing care professional.
These hearing aids systems prescribed when someone has one ear that is close to normal and one ear that has severe to profound hearing loss (unilateral hearing loss). A microphone worn on the poorer hearing side transmits sound to a receiver placed on the good ear. The receiver sends the sound into the good ear.
Bi-CROS hearing aids systems similar to CROS hearing systems, except that the better ear also has some hearing loss. The device on the ear with poorer hearing amplifies sounds to compensate for the hearing loss before transmitting the sound into the better ear.
These are surgical devices inserted into the inner ear of people who have severe to profound hearing loss. When someone has more severe hearing loss, traditional hearing aids may not work well enough, so cochlear implants may be considered.
What brands of hearing aids are available at Specsavers?
We offer hearing aids from some of the leading manufacturers: Signia, Phonak and Philips.
We also offer the advance line, our own range of hearing aids. These are built by leading manufacturers specifically for Specsavers and offer some of the latest technology, including rechargeable Bluetooth®.