Choosing a Hearing Aid

Betsey Bell, Au.D., FAAA is Heritage First ENT’s audiologist and hearing aid provider. She earned a Doctorate in Audiology and has spent the last 20 years working with Dr. Abram. She specializes in diagnostic testing for children and adults in addition to hearing aid fittings. Dr. Bell is passionate about matching every patient with the best hearing aid for their hearing needs and lifestyle. Unlike other hearing aid specialists, she does not receive a higher commission for selling a hearing aid that is more expensive. Her primary work interest is in fitting and counseling adult with hearing loss on the latest options available to them while keeping it as affordable as possible.

There are an endless number of different kinds and styles of hearing aids. Determining which one works best for your type and degree of hearing loss may seem overwhelming at first. Using this two-step process will make choosing a hearing aid much more manageable.

Step one – Determine your listening lifestyle.

The four main categories of lifestyles are private, quiet, active and dynamic. Those that fall under the private category are exposed to very minimal background noise. They participate in quiet conversations and need their hearing aid to amplify a ringing phone or an alarm. The hearing aids used in this category use entry-level technology, which provides appropriate performance.

Those that fall into the quiet category require a hearing aid with economy-level technology. This provides appropriate performance for communication in quiet, less demanding listening situations with minimal background noise. Members of this category will attend small family gatherings and visit quiet restaurants.

An active lifestyle describes those that experience moderate background noise from busy restaurants, movie theaters and health clubs. The hearing aids in this category require advanced technology with excellent flexibility and performance in a variety of listening environments.

The final, and most advanced, category is dynamic. Those in this category require the highest level of technology to provide optimum flexibility and performance in a broad range of demanding listening environments. Frequent background noise from outdoor activities, entertainment venues and airplane travel are all common occurrences for those in this category.

Step two – Determine the style.

Once you have decided which hearing lifestyle fits you best, you will then need to figure out what style of hearing aid you want. There are six major styles ranging from practically invisible to a two-part design that sits on the back of the ear. As the hearing aids get larger they are able to contain more additional features and use a larger battery, which results in a longer battery life. The styles are:

Completely in the canal (CIC)

  • Smallest style, essentially invisible
  • Shortest battery life
  • Contains no additional features
  • Works for those with mild to moderate hearing loss

In the canal (ITC)

  • Sits partially in the ear canal and partially outside of it
  • Works for those with mild to moderate hearing loss

In the ear (ITE)

  • Sits in the outer ear and depending on the style either takes up the entire outer ear (called full shell) or one that only takes up half of the outer ear (called half shell)
  • Works for those with mild to severe hearing loss

Behind the ear (BTE)

  • Largest and most visible style
  • Has two parts; one that sits within the ear canal and one that sits behind the ear. The parts are connected with tubing
  • Works with all ages and types of hearing loss

Receiver in canal (RIC)

  • Similar to the BTE, it has two pieces that are connected with wire instead of tubing
  • More discrete than BTE
  • Works with all ages and types of hearing loss

Open Fit

  • Similar to RIC, except the piece in the ear canal does not plug the whole canal, leaving part of it open. This lets low-frequency sounds enter the ear naturally while high-frequency sounds are still amplified by the hearing aid
  • Works for those with mild to moderate hearing loss