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Types of Hearing Aids

Hearing aid technology has come a long way in the last few years, thanks to the computer microchip and digital circuitry. Here are some of the latest innovations.

Digital technology helps you hear clearly
Why does music from a CD sound more crisp, clear, and distortion-free than music from a record or tape? The answer, at least in part, is the difference between analog and digital sound processing.

Digital hearing aids have one or more microchip processors inside them that convert analog sound waves into the zeros and ones of computer language. Sound in this format can be processed more quickly and more efficiently than analog sound waves; in fact, incoming sounds are sampled at a rate of a million or more times per second. The digital aid’s circuitry analyzes these sound levels and frequencies, manipulating them to provide a more efficient match to an individual’s hearing profile.

Programmable technology
Digitally programmable hearing aids are different from fully digital aids in that they’re not equipped to process all incoming sound digitally.

How does feedback reduction help?
Feedback has long been a problem for hearing aid wearers. Now we know a lot more about feedback, and have developed ways to deal with it. Feedback happens when amplified sound waves escape back out through the ear canal and are then re-amplified by the hearing aid—resulting in the high-pitched squeals that set your teeth on edge. Smaller, in-the-canal styles of hearing aids place components closer to the eardrum, preventing sound waves from escaping, thereby reducing, and often eliminating, feedback. Some new aids are also able to detect these sounds before they become audible and cancel them out, greatly reducing this frustrating problem.

Why is Bluetooth connectivity so important?
Today, a number of hearing aids come with a Bluetooth® device that serves as a gateway between your hearing instruments and electronic devices such as Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones or external audio sources. The audio signal is picked up by the Bluetooth device, and streamed directly into the hearing instruments. In addition to enjoying hands-free binaural connection to phones, you are able to connect to TVs, PCs, mp3 players and car navigation systems; and hear those sounds through your hearing aids.

What are the most popular hearing aid styles?

Receiver-in-the-Ear (RITE) hearing devices are comfortable because they keep the ear canal open to reduce any plugged-up sensation. The appropriateness of these hearing devices depends on the patient’s degree of hearing loss. Advanced features may include Bluetooth compatibility.

Behind-the-Ear (BTE) instruments are more powerful than smaller devices because they can accommodate a larger battery and a stronger amplifier. Directional microphones, multiple listening programs, tele-coil, and Bluetooth compatibility are available features. This traditional style is a good choice for children and individuals with excessive moisture and accumulative cerumen (earwax).

In-the-Ear (ITE) instruments rest inside the ear rather than behind it. These instruments can be used for a wide range of hearing losses. Due to their size, ITEs can accommodate larger amplifiers and more features, such as a telephone switch. Their size makes them easier to handle.

In-the-Canal (ITC) and Completely-in-the-Canal (CIC) instruments are smaller than ITE devices. These devices are smaller and more discrete than other devices. They require good manual dexterity and are not effective with all losses.

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