Which Hearing Aid Style is Right for You?
Over the years, manufacturers have experimented with a variety of hearing aid designs. All along, their goal has been to provide people with hearing loss the best experience possible, ensuring that they can live their lives to the full. As technology improves, so too do assistive hearing devices.
What is an air-conduction hearing aid?
In general, you can divide hearing aids into two categories: those that work via air conduction and those that are bone anchored.
Most hearing aids fall into the air conduction category. These hearing aids pipe amplified sounds through the air in the canal, acting like an earphone.
Some people, however, are unable to wear these kinds of hearing aids because of chronic ear infections or malformed ear canals. Hearing professionals, therefore, may recommend that they wear bone conduction hearing aids instead. These surgically implanted devices take sound information from the environment and then transmit it through tiny vibrations in the skull. The ear learns to interpret these, helping to reverse hearing loss.
Bone-anchored hearing aids are rare compared to their air conduction counterparts. While they are essential in a minority of cases, most people with hearing loss use standard devices.
Air conduction hearing aids
Air conduction hearing aids come in several varieties, all designed to meet the needs of specific patients.
Historically, the most common type of air conduction device was the behind-the-ear hearing (BTE) aid. These assistive hearing devices have three components: A speaker that fits in the ear, a battery case that hangs behind the ear, and a tube running between them.
For many years, technology and miniaturization only allowed this design. But today, miniaturization has made a host of other form factors possible. Now audiologists reserve BTE devices for those with profound hearing loss. Most people have the choice to use different form factors.
In-the-ear (ITE) devices are those that combine the battery, processor and speaker on a single unit that fits in the ear canal. There’s no loop around the back.
Like BTE air conduction devices, these use an earmold for comfort, but they are far more discreet. For the most part, people will not notice that you’re wearing one of these.
There’s also another category of air conduction device called completely in the canal or CIC. These advanced hearing aids sit deep in the canal and are often invisible from the outside. People who wear them need to use special tools to remove them. Typically, they do not offer any external controls.
Are air conduction hearing aids right for you?
Whether air conduction hearing aids are right for you comes down to your medical needs.
Most people with hearing loss do not have chronic infections or malformed ear canals. For this reason, they are free to wear devices that use air conduction to transfer sound signals to the ears.
Sensorineural hearing loss is a catch-all term that refers to problems with the machinery of the ear itself. Most commonly, people experience damage to the tiny hairs that line the inner ear, weakening the sound signals that go to the brain. Other people encounter issues with the eardrum or the cochlear.
Air conduction hearing aids amplify the sounds reaching the ear, helping to boost the signal to the brain. In turn, the processing centers of the brain strengthen in response to the new stimulation, helping to improve overall hearing capacity.
When should I use an air-conduction hearing aid?
When it comes to using an air-conduction hearing aid, you should follow the advice of your hearing instrument specialist. Bone-anchored hearing aids are only suitable in specific circumstances. Ideally, you would prefer to have a removable rather than implanted hearing aid if you can avoid it.
Which you need will depend very much on the results of your hearing test and physical exam. Calibrating a bone-anchored hearing aid can be a challenge. It is much easier for an air conduction version.
Air-conduction hearing aids are devices that use air as the medium to transfer sound to the inner ear. For most people, they are the best choice. Not only are they removable, but some are also discreet, allowing you to wear them without anybody noticing. Some people, though, will inevitably have to consider alternative solutions.
Choosing the right hearing aid, however, is not always straightforward. If you’d like to find out more, then please get in touch with our friendly team today at Stanwood Hearing to assess your needs. Call at 360-502-4644 to arrange a consultation or to get a professional fitting.