Due to the rapidly changing technology associated with computers and digital hearing aids, it is essential that time be spent reviewing the wide spectrum of devices available. We will review options and appropriate styles and technologies recommended, to assist in the overall decision making process. Our goal is to provide the best instrument available for your listening needs and lifestyle.
Digital Hearing Aids
Manufacturers have converted their hearing aid product line to fully digital units. The devices are more efficient, provide increased programming flexibility and recently have added product lines that are priced lower than many traditional analog hearing aids.
The hearing device/s are connected to a PC via hard wire or wirelessly (depending on the product) to allow precise adjustments to be made. Sounds are received by the microphone of the hearing aid and sent to an A to D converter where the sound is changed to digital binary (numeric number 0 or 1) codes. It is then manipulated to more precisely fit the needs of the user, and passed on to a D to A converter where it is changed back to analog sound and sent to the receiver of the hearing aid. The complexity of the digital hearing aid will determine how much flexibility and extra options are available. Some units are fully automatic and capable of detecting background noise and reducing it without any assistance from the hearing aid user while others require the user to manually operate some of the controls. Digital hearing aids are the only hearing aids capable of providing effective feedback management (elimination of whistling).
Custom In-The-Ear Hearing Aids
To obtain a custom hearing aid, an impression is taken of your ear. The impression, which is then used to make the shell, is sent to the designated manufacturer. The shell, which can be ordered in various sizes, contains all the components of your hearing aid. Several manufacturers are now employing laser shell technology to more precisely replicate the shape of your ear as well as being able to store the information in their database.
Full-shell: This type fills the entire outer ear and can accommodate all options including a volume control. This unit is capable of utilizing a larger battery size than other in-the-ear models, therefore enabling a longer battery life. It can also provide the most power of all in-the-ear models.
Half-shell: This type fills half of the outer ear and most of the time can accommodate all options including a volume control.
Canal: This type fills approximately one-third of the outer ear. Typically, it cannot accommodate a manual volume control and relies on automatic volume adjustments.
Completely-in-canal (CIC): This type is the smallest hearing aid that fits entirely in the ear canal making it the most inconspicuous of the custom models. It does not have a volume control and requires a nylon cord for easy removal. The unit works very well with telephones (including cellular) because of the microphone placement deeper in the ear canal. It requires good manual dexterity due to the small battery and the need for frequent battery replacement.
Behind-The-Ear Hearing (BTE) Aids
These hearing aids, situated behind the ear, route sound to the ear through a tube and an earmold. These hearing aids can accommodate all ranges of hearing loss from mild to profound. They are also best suited for individuals who may have drainage in their ear canals from infections.
These devices are setting new standards in hearing health care as well as aesthetics. Designed with the most advanced digital technology available, these units are capable of making automatic adjustments for surrounding sounds while maintaining “open ear” insertion. The receiver (speaker) sits in the ear canal rather than in the hearing aid. The sound is sent from the hearing aid electronically through a small wire connected to the speaker in the ear. The end result is a comfortable, non-occluding fitting that maintains normal low frequency responses while amplifying high frequencies. These units are ideal for individuals who have high frequency hearing losses due to noise exposure or whose main complaint is not an inability to hear, but an INABILITY TO UNDERSTAND SPEECH. A traditional earmold is not required for this type of fitting, therefor a fitting can be completed generally within a week.