The sound amplifying devices designed especially for helping people with hearing impairment, are known as hearing aids. There are various types of hearing aids available today with varied range of features added to them. In this article we will take a look on the different types of hearing aids.
What are Hearing Aids?
As mentioned above, hearing aids are actually the miniature amplification systems which are designed in a special way to help people having any kind of hearing impairment. The technological advancements in digital hearing aids that are rechargeable have made it possible for people with significant hearing loss to use them comfortably and hear conveniently. There are different types of hearing aids which mostly differ by their design, technology used to achieve amplification which may include digital and analogue hearing aids, and some other special features. Apart from this, there are also some hearing aids which have earpieces or earmolds which aids in directing the flow of sound in to the ear and improve the sound quality. You can select the type of hearing aid as per the severity of your condition, listening needs and your lifestyle.
Common Components of Hearing Aids:
There are various components in the different types of hearing aids which are similar and common in all the types. Let us take a look on the features of hearing aids.
- Microphone: It picks up the sound
- Amplifier circuitry: It is the electronic component that makes the sound louder
- Receiver or a miniature loudspeaker: This component delivers the amplified sound in to the ear canal
- Batteries: The batteries power the electronic parts of the hearing aids.
Some Optional Features Built in Hearing Aids:
There are some optional features added in hearing aids in order to assist in different communication situations. Below are some of the features.
- Directional Microphone: This feature may aid you converse in noisy environments, It specifically allows sound coming from a specific direction to be amplified to a greater level as compared to the sound from other directions. If the directional microphone is activated then the sound from in front of you (while you are in a face to face conversation), is amplified to a greater level than sounds coming from behind.
- T-Coil or Telephone Switch: This is one feature in the hearing aids that scopes you to switch from the normal microphone setting to a T-coil setting so as to hear better on the telephone. In this setting, the environmental sounds are eliminated and sound is picked up from the telephone. Apart from this, it also turns off the microphone on your hearing aid so that you can listen and talk properly without your hearing aid “whistling”.
- Feedback Suppression: This feature aids you suppress squeals when a hearing aid gets too close to the telephone or when it has a loose fitting earmold.
- Direct Audio Input: This feature allows you to plug in a remote microphone or in an FM assistive listening system, connect directly to a television, or other devices like a CD player, tape player, computer, radio etc.
Different Types of Hearing Aids:
Hearing Aids Based on Technology Used to Achieve Amplification: Analogue Hearing Aids and Digital Hearing Aids
We have mentioned earlier about the digital hearing aids and analogue hearing aids. So, here we shall be taking a brief look on both these types of hearing aids.
Analog Hearing Aids: These types of hearing aids make continuous sound waves louder. Such kinds of hearing aids amplify all types of sound (that may include speech as well as noise) in the same manner. There are some kinds of analog hearing aids which are programmable, having a microchip which allows the device to have settings programmed for different listening environments; like in a quiet place, or in a noisy are, or in a large area etc. such programmable analog hearing aids can store multiple programs for the various environments.
Digital Hearing Aids: These types of hearing aids have all the features of the analog programmable hearing aids; however they convert sound waves in to digital signals and produce an exact duplication of the sound. Here, the computer chips analyze speech and other environmental sounds. Digital hearing aids allow for more complex processing of sound during the amplification process. Such types of hearing aids have greater flexibility in the programming of hearing aid which aids in better hearing. Apart from this, digital hearing aids also provide multiple program memories in them.
Hearing Aids Based on Design and Special Features:
Here we will know about the different types of hearing aids based on their specific design and special features added:
- ITE or In-The-Ear Hearing Aids: ITE or In-the-ear hearing aids are the types of hearing aids which are used primarily for mild to severe hearing loss. These hearing aids sit entirely within the ear. You will need to have an impression taken of your ear for using this, as they are made to fit you snugly.
- ITC or In-The-Canal Hearing Aids: Such types of hearing aids are where all the parts of the device are contained in a shell that fills in the outer part of the ear. They are larger than the in-the-canal hearing aid and the completely in-the canal hearing aids. One drawback of such type of hearing aid may be that some people may find it difficult to use because of their size and may prefer handling smaller hearing aids.
- CIC or Completely In-The Canal Hearing Aids: CIC or completely in the canal hearing aids are contained in a tiny case that fits either partly or completely in to the ear canal. Being smallest of the hearing aid types, they offer some cosmetic and listening advantages.
- BTE or Behind the Ear Hearing Aids: BTE hearing aids have their most parts contained in a small plastic case that rests behind the ear of the user. The plastic case is connected to an earmold or an earpiece by a piece of clear tubing. As it can accommodate various earmold types; this style of hearing aid is chosen mostly for the young children which can be replaced as the child using the device grows. One best part of BTE hearing aids is that they are easy to clean and handle.
- Mini BTE or On-The-Ear Hearing Aids: This is one new type of BTE and known as mini BTE or on-the-ear BTE hearing aid. It is comparatively a smaller hearing aid than BTE aid. Here, an extremely thin, almost an invisible tube is used to connect the hearing aid to the ear canal. They have a comfortable ear piece for insertion, but at times may also have a traditional earmold.
- RITE or Receiver in the Ear Hearing Aids: These are also known as loudspeaker in the ear hearing aids and they often are smaller than the BTE or behind the ear hearing aids because some part of the hearing device sits inside the ear. These types of hearing aids can be easier to put in than an earmould if you find fiddly tasks awkward. There are various types of RITE hearing aids for varied levels of hearing loss.
Some Other Special Types Of Hearing Aids:
Bone Conduction Hearing Aids: Bone conduction hearing aids are specifically built to handle specific type of hearing loss where the individuals have no ear canal or no outer ear. These types of hearing aids make use of a headband and a bone vibrator. These hearing devices bypass the outer and middle ear and stimulate the cochlea directly.
Osseointegrated Hearing Aid or Bone Anchored Hearing Aid: This is a newer innovation of its kind which is implanted in the skull for improving hearing. This device has mainly three parts, namely a titanium implant, a detachable sound processor and an external abutment.
Middle Ear Implants: Such types of hearing aids are implanted in the space behind the eardrum that mechanically vibrates the middle ear structure. Middle ear implants are made of two parts namely, an external part and an implanted part.
CROS Hearing Aids: In such type of hearing aids, the route sounds come to one ear over to the other ear. These hearing devices are for use by individuals who have no hearing in one ear.
Body Wearing Hearing Aids: Such types of hearing aids have small box that can be clipped to your clothes or put in the pockets. This small box in the device is connected by a lead to the earphone. These type hearing aids are very powerful.
It is obvious that hearing aids cannot restore your normal hearing ability. However, they can help you amplify the sound and help you in better hearing. We discussed about different types of hearing aids in the article. If you or your known ones are having issues in hearing then kindly reach a medical professional nearby for an expert advice about the best type of hearing aids for you.