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Hearing Aids and Tinnitus Management Options

Hearing Aid Technology

Individuals with hearing loss may be candidates for hearing aids and/or assistive listening devices. There are numerous types of hearing aids that vary in size, circuit, and user-features. The circuits include those that are digital (all components are digital and have the greatest programming flexibility for specific hearing needs) and analog (the traditional circuit which is not programmable and has the least circuit flexibility).

Types and styles of aids vary ranging from the custom fit IIC (invisible-in-the-canal) hearing aids that fit deeply into the ear canal, to the behind-the-ear hearing (BTE) aids that fit behind the ear and are coupled to the ear with the use of a custom fit ear mold. The degree and type of hearing loss, size and condition of the ear canal, dexterity, and communication needs are taken into consideration when selecting the type and circuit.

After the appropriate hearing aid(s) have been selected, impressions are taken of each ear and sent to the manufacturer. When the hearing aid(s) are delivered to the office, the patient is seen for a fitting. During that time the aids are checked for fit, comfort, communication benefit, and the patient is shown how to use the aids. Follow-up visits during the first month of use will be necessary to check communication ability and user comfort.

Hearing aids are electrical devices that may, with use or due to normal wear and tear, require repairs. Some repairs may need to occur at the manufacturer while less complex repairs may be done in the office.  These services may include: hearing aid cleaning, adjustments to the shell for fitting difficulties, changing earmold tubing and other regular maintenance. It is recommended that hearing aids be evaulated for proper function every 6 months.

We work with a variety of manufacturers to find the best sound qualtiy and options to meet specific patient needs.  This section does not highlight all of our company accounts.

A wide range of technology and a host of features are available in each hearing aid style. The cost of hearing aids generally depends on the technology and the number of features the instrument has and not necessarily on the style selected. Today's digital hearing aids are typically offered in various levels such as basic or entry-level to advanced or premium-level. Within each level, different technology and features are available.

Basic digital hearing aids generally require the wearer to make some manual adjustments in certain listening environments such as turning a volume control up or down, or pushing a button to change listening programs. In contrast, a premium or more advanced hearing aid responds automatically to changes in the listener's environment, making changes based on the signals being detected by the hearing aid. The hearing aid wearer is not required to make any manual changes. As the level of the technology increases in hearing aids, so do the availability of advanced features.

When selecting a style the following is considered:

  • The degree of the hearing loss (power requirements)
  • Manual dexterity & visual abilities
  • Patient budget
  • Cosmetics
  • Skin sensitivities
  • Anatomical/medical considerations

Styles of Hearing Aids

Hearing aids are available in many different sizes and styles thanks to advancements in digital technology and miniaturization of the internal components. Many of today's hearing aids are considered sleek, compact, and innovative - offering solutions to a wide range of hearing aid wearers.

In-the-Ear Styles

Hearing aids worn in the ear are usually custom-fit, based on a cast or impression of the ear.  There are several styles – each is listed below, ranging from smallest to largest.

IIC

Invisible In-The-Canal (IIC)

The smallest custom style, IIC instruments sit invisibly in or past the second bend of the ear canal. IIC are specifically designed for mild to moderate hearing loss.

Completely-in-the-Canal (CIC)

The second smallest custom style, CIC instruments fit deeply and entirely within the ear canal. They fit mild to moderate hearing losses and offer high cosmetic appeal as they’re nearly invisible when worn.

ITC

In-the-Canal (ITC)

ITC instruments sit in the lower portion of the outer ear bowl, making them comfortable and easy to use. Because they’re slightly larger than CIC models, they have a longer battery life, and can host additional features such as directional microphones for better understanding in noisy environments, and controls such as volume controls. They fit mild and moderate hearing losses.

Full Shell or ITE

Full Shell or In-the-Ear (ITE)

Full shell models sit flush within the outer ear bowl. Their size allows the maximum number of additional controls and features such as directional microphones, which require space on the outer portion of the instrument. They use a larger battery size than the smaller styles, and can fit a larger receiver with enough power for even some severe hearing losses. Because of their flexibility, they’re widely recommended for mild to severe hearing loss.

Behind-the-Ear Styles

Behind-the-Ear (BTE) models sit behind or on top of the outer ear, with tubing that routes sounds down into the ear that connects to an ear tip or earmold to secure them in the ear canal. BTEs come in colors to blend with hair or skin tones, and even chrome colors, leopard print and other funky designs to suit personal styles. Different BTE sizes accommodate different features, controls, battery types and degrees of power (larger instruments generally have more power than smaller ones). While many people choose discreet BTEs that are unnoticeable when worn, others are tempted to show off the cool designs.

Mini BTE

Mini BTE with slim tube and tip

Mini BTEs are designed to hide behind the outer ear, and have ultra-thin tubing to discreetly route sound into the ear. The tubing connects to a soft tip that sits in the ear canal but doesn’t occlude it. The result is a natural, open feeling as airflow and sound enter the ear naturally around the tip, while amplified sound enters through the tip. This is known as “open fitting” and is recommended for mild to moderate high frequency losses.

Receiver in the ear (RITE)

Receiver in the ear (RITE)

RITE models, also known as RIC (receiver-in-canal) models, are mini BTEs that have the speaker of the instrument incorporated in the ear tip, instead of in the main body of the instrument. RITE instruments fit mild to severe hearing losses. This hearing aid style looks similar to the Mini BTE when worn on the ear.

BTE

BTE with earmold

BTEs with earmolds fit mild through profound hearing losses. Their longer shape follows the contour behind the outer ear and can house many features such as a program button and volume control. The earmold color and style, as well as the wearer’s hairstyle, determine exactly how they’ll look on each person.