Today's Hearing Aids
We've all heard the phrase good things come in small packages, and today's hearing aids are no exception. Twenty-first-century hearing aids are so small, they're virtually undetectable when worn. In fact, a pair of hearing aids can sit on a fingertip.
The tiny size of modern hearing instruments is deceiving; their ability to simulate natural hearing in numerous environments makes them true technological giants.
As with many electronic devices on the market today from smart phones to laptop computers-hearing aids utilize sophisticated microprocessor technology. Miniature computer chips use advanced algorithms to automatically adjust sound as wearers move through the day. By acting more like human ears, hearing aids allow people to enjoy a comfortable listening experience wherever they go.
In fact, progress has been so impressive in recent years, first-time hearing aid wearers report a satisfaction rating exceeding 90%. That's significant because in the vast majority of hearing loss cases, hearing aids are the only available remedy.
Hearing Aids-A Brief Anatomy
Hearing aids are small, lightweight electronic devices that sit in the outer ear, within the ear canal, or behind the ear. Their main function is to amplify sound in a natural and comfortable way.
The physical components that make up most hearing aids include one or more microphones to gather sound, an amplifier designed to process a wide range of sounds, a receiver or speaker that transmits the sound signal from the amplifier to the ear, and a battery to fuel the process.
The most advanced hearing aids are protected from the effects of daily wear by a microscopic coating that's molecularly bonded to the inner circuitry and outer casing. This increases the life and performance of hearing aids, and also reduces maintenance.
The delicate inner workings of custom hearing aids are contained in coverings known as shells. Shells come in a variety of shapes, styles and colors to better fit the user's hearing loss, daily routine and cosmetic needs.
Hearing Aid Shell Styles:
[Receiver-in-Canal hearing aid] Receiver-in-Ear (RIC An RIC hearing aid is comprised of a very small casing that sits behind the ear. The casing houses all of the electronic components of the hearing aid except for the receiver (also called the speaker). This allows the casing to be extremely tiny, so it's barely visible. A narrow transparent tube carries very thin wires from the casing to the receiver, which rests in your ear canal.
[Behind-the-Ear hearing aids] Behind-the-Ear (BTE) As a result of technological advances, BTE style hearing aids account for roughly 60% of hearing aids sold in the United States today, and the category is growing. A BTE instrument is curved to rest directly behind the ear. By matching flesh tone or hair color, BTE shells are easy to hide. A BTE instrument connects to the ear canal via a thin transparent tube or a custom-designed ear mold.
[Microphone-in-Concha hearing aids] Microphone-in-Concha (MIC) Designed to “disappear” from view and provide extremely natural sound, the MIC style hearing aid represents the latest innovation in “custom” hearing aid technology. The main part of an MIC hearing aid hides in your ear canal. This piece is custom-manufactured based on an ear canal impression taken during your visit, so it's very comfortable. The hearing aid microphone is a separate component, and is worn within the concha, or curved groove, of your external ear—where it stays out of sight. A tiny transparent tube sends sound from the microphone in your concha to the component in your ear canal.
[Completely-in-Canal hearing aids] Completely-in-Canal (CIC) Entirely hidden within the ear canal, tiny CIC models leverage the ear's natural ability to collect sound. By taking impressions, CIC hearing aids are tailored to the dimensions of a patient's ear canal. CIC models use very small batteries, so good manual dexterity is required.
[In-the-Canal hearing aids] In-the-Canal (ITC) ITC style hearing aids are worn in the lower portion of the outer ear, by the ear canal. Their medium size makes them relatively discreet while offering a secure fit, easy insertion and removal, and longer battery life.
[In-the-Ear hearing aids] In-the-Ear (ITE) ITE style hearing devices fully fill the outer ear. Their larger size accommodates special controls often located on the outside of the hearing aid, such as directional microphones. The larger battery can power a bigger receiver, making this style ideal for more profound hearing losses.