If you are considering purchasing a hearing aid you have a number of choices to make as regards types of hearing aids. The first is whether to go for for a traditional analogue aid or a modern digital one. Digital hearing aids are definitely superior but prices are much higher.
Analogue hearing aids are basically just a microphone, amplifier and speaker. A volume control allows you to decide how loud it is but that is all. The problem with this is that hearing does not deteriorate evenly. Most people who start having trouble hearing are actually only having problems with high frequencies so amplifying all sounds does not solve the problem (although it will probably help). Digital hearing aids are more like small computers can be programmed to process sounds to match an individual’s hearing loss. As such they can produce much better results in difficult situations where there is a lot of background noise.
You will find numerous models available to select from and, assuming that your hearing loss is caused by aging and is not severe, it will be a case of balancing costs and reliability with comfort and appearance. As you can’t know in advance what you will find comfortable or acceptable it is vital that there is a trial period during which you can return the device.
There are two basic types of hearing aids, those that fit externally behind the ear and those that fit internally. On the whole hearing aids cost increases as they get smaller.
This type fits behind the ear and a tube, which is unobtrusive, links to an earmold which goes in the ear. This is usually the least costly type of hearing aid and its other benefits include:
- The earmold is separate from the device itself so it can be changed at will to find the most comfortable fit.
- It is larger so is easier to handle, will have easier to use controls and probably more features.
- Will use larger batteries so battery life will be better.
- Most visible type of hearing aid.
- Inconvenient when undertaking physical activity.
- Susceptible to perspiration and moisture.
- Some people do not like having to fit two pieces before use.
It is also possible to buy “open fit” over-the-ear types. These are usually smaller and use a comfortable ear piece rather than an earmold. Their size means that they are less noticeable which is a major factor for many wearers. However they are only suitable for mild/moderate hearing loss.
Here all parts of the device are contained in a shell that fits in the ear. These can fit:
- In the ear – These are made to fit the bowl-shaped area of the outer ear and will be visible in a face to face situation.
- In the canal -These are smaller and are made to fit in the ear canal, they are not obvious but are still visible to others.
- Completely in the canal. These very small aids fit deep into the ear and are virtually undetectable.
Note that in general the smaller a hearing aid is the fewer features it will have, the harder it will be to handle and the shorter its battery life will be.
If you are tempted by a completely in the canal model you might consider the following:
- Provides the best appearance, the smallest in ear devices will not be seen.
- Enables normal use of telephones.
- All in one unit is easy to use.
- Small size of some of these models makes them tricky to use for anyone with dexterity or vision issues.
- Generally less reliable that behind ear types.
- Can be affected by wax or moisture in the ears.
- May not fit well in smaller ears.
Hearing aids cost is an issue when bought from an audiologist but better deals can be found online.