Hearing Aid Styles and Features

Over the last few decades, hearing aid technology has made leaps and bounds in effectiveness and availability.

No matter what your hearing profile, lifestyle, personal style preferences, or budget – there will likely be a hearing aid that meets your needs.

While the expansion of technology and abundance of choice is great, it can also make researching and choosing a hearing aid feel a bit overwhelming.

At Wisconsin Hearing Aids, we will work with you every step of the way to help you make the best decision for your hearing health and needs. Although we will be there to guide you, it is helpful to understand some hearing aid basics before getting the process started. Here, we provide a brief overview of hearing aid styles and features.

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Hearing Aid Components

All hearing aids use the same basic parts to pick up sounds from your environment, amplify them, and process them to assist with hearing. Small microphones collect sounds from the environment. A computer chip with an amplifier converts the incoming sound into digital code. It analyzes and adjusts the sound based on your hearing loss, listening needs and the level of the sounds around you. The amplified signals are then converted back into sound waves and delivered to your ears through speakers.

In terms of power source, hearing aids are powered by battery. With traditional hearing aids, batteries will vary depending on the style of hearing aid. Rechargeable hearing aids use lithium-ion technology and are becoming more popular, as they provide users with convenient charging stations and more confidence in battery life.

Hearing Aid Styles

Hearing aid styles are categorized by their size, visibility, and the way they are worn. The following are the most common types of hearing aid styles.

Invisible-In-The-Canal (IIC)

This custom-fitted style is inserted farther into the ear canal than other styles, so it is invisible when worn. IIC hearing aids are designed to be removed daily to promote good ear health. This style is often used to treat mild to moderate hearing loss.

Completely-In-Canal (CIC)

CIC hearing instruments are custom-made to fit completely in the ear canal. Only the tip of a small plastic “handle” shows outside the canal, which is used to insert and remove the instrument. Like IIC hearing aids, CIC aids are most commonly used to treat mild to moderate hearing loss.

In-The-Ear (ITE)

ITE hearing instruments are custom-made to fit in the ear canal with a smaller portion of the hearing aid showing in the outer ear. ITE hearing aids may be full shell or half shell, and they are designed for mild to mildly severe hearing loss.

Receiver-In-Canal (RIC)

Barely visible when worn, RIC hearing aids are designed with the receiver, or speaker, to be placed inside the ear canal. Thin electrical wires are used instead of a plastic acoustical tube, reducing distortion. RIC hearing aids provide a comfortable, open fit and are best suited to treat mild to moderate hearing loss.
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Behind-The-Ear (BTE)

With BTE hearing aids, the electrical components are housed in a casing that rests behind the ear. A clear plastic acoustical tube directs amplified sound into a customized ear-mold that is fitted inside the ear canal. BTE hearing aids are designed to treat a wide range of degrees of hearing loss, from moderate to severe.

Hearing Aid Features

Regardless of the style, hearing aids offer a number of features and advanced technology that work together to assist with hearing. Most major manufacturers introduce “families” or “series” of hearing aids, where the same name and features are shared across the spectrum of styles. We’ve outlined a few of the common, sought-after features and technologies here.

Speech Understanding

Every modern hearing aid includes some type of technology to help improve speech understanding for people with hearing loss. These technologies are the same in that their goal is to make conversing with others – even in noisy environments – easier and more enjoyable. Manufacturers differ in the technology they create to accomplish this goal. Most manufacturers have patented their technology and many have hosted independent studies to measure their effectiveness against their competitors.

Tinnitus Therapy

Many people with hearing loss also experience tinnitus, an annoying ringing or buzzing in one or both of your ears. To help combat this issue, many manufacturers have included tinnitus therapy technologies that work to mask the sounds and improve your listening experience.

Rechargeable Batteries

In recent years, the popularity of rechargeable hearing aids has grown substantially. Most manufacturers offer at least one option for rechargeable hearing aids. Just like your cell phone or your laptop, these hearing aids charge while you sleep and allow for a full day of operation. Portable battery chargers are also available to give you a quick charge on the go.

Direct Connectivity

Many people seek hearing aids that are able to stream music or conversations from their smartphone or TV to their hearing aids. Some manufacturers offer special connectivity devices to stream, while others employ Bluetooth technology. Direct connectivity also allows you to control your program preferences, making it easier to switch between programs.