Important Hearing Aid Terms Defined

By: Kelly Calkins

You've known you've had a hearing loss for quite some time now and you finally get up the nerve to get your hearing tested. They tell you that you need a hearing aid and you cant help but think, Why did this have to happen to me?? Then they start telling you about hearing aids and use tons of terminology that just goes right over your head. Dont they know that you are in shock??! How can you make an informed decision about anything when you dont even know what they are talking about!?

There are hundreds of different hearing aids. It can be a very complicated world of technilogical terms. Sometimes those of us that work with hearing aids all the time can forget just how foreign they can sound to you. To make matters worse, the manufacturers like to call things different names, so they sound like something different. No wonder there's so much confusion!

I am going to try to unravel some of the mystery for you. When you get down to it, there are really only a few terms you need to understand. These features are the ones that really matter, and the model or the style of the hearing aid.

There are seven primary styles of hearing aids: ITE, Half Shell, ITC, Mini Canal, CIC, BTE, and Open Ear.

In the Ear (ITE) ITE hearing aids are the largest custom style of hearing aid, filling the bowl of your ear, and can have the most power and features available for in the ear hearing aids.

Half Shell (HS) The Half Shell is a custom hearing aid that only fills about half the bowl of your ear. They are able to have a good deal of power and features, use a smaller battery, but are more cosmetically appealing.

In the Canal (ITC) The next smallest size is the custom ITC hearing aid. Harder to see than the larger hearing aids, but also not able to have as much power or as many features.

Mini Canal (MC) Smaller than the ITC hearing aid, the custom mini canal uses a smaller battery and has even less power available. Features can also be more limited.

Completely in the Canal (CIC) The CIC is the smallest custom in the ear hearing aid and very popular due to its cosmetic appeal and ease of use. There are usually no manual controls on a CIC, telephone usage is often better because they are less likely to whistle. Lack of power is the main reason people cannot use this style of hearing aid, though a small ear canal may keep you from being able to wear one also.

Behind the Ear (BTE) A BTE hearing aid sits behind your ear and is connected to your ear by a tube with an earmold attached. BTE hearing aids have the most power and features available.

Open Ear (OE) and Receiver in Canal (RIC) This hearing aid is a fairly new style of BTE made available in recent years and are much smaller then a traditional BTE. They are meant primarily for high frequency hearing loss. The hearing aid is connected to your ear by a very thin tube or wire with a small earbud on the tip. They are called Open Ear because they leave the ear canal less blocked than other styles of hearing aid.

Important Features:

Directional Microphones - These are available on most BTE, OE, ITE, Half Shell, and ITC styles of hearing aids. They are the best feature you can have on your hearing aid for hearing in noisy places, such as restaurants. This means they reduce all the sounds that are behind you so that it doesnt get in the way of sounds that are in front of you. Directional microphones can be automatic meaning that the hearing aid automatically decides when to turn them on once the sound level in the room gets too loud. Some are also be adaptive, which means they can follow moving sounds, or reduce several different sounds at the same time.

Noise Reduction - Noise reduction doesn't really reduce noise, it reduces amplification in the frequencies where there is noise and no speech. If there is a fan running in the background, the hearing aid will not amplify it as much as it will speech. When the hearing aid finds both speech and noise at a frequency, you still get both. More advanced the hearing aids manage noise better by breaking the frequencies up into smaller pieces.

Memories - There are two types of memories available on a hearing aid, manual and automatic. Many hearing aids have a push button that allows you to have different settings (memories) for different situations such as quiet places, noisy places, and music or telephone. The hearing aid beeps when you push the button to let you know which memory you are using. Advanced hearing aids can have memories that are automatic. Instead of pushing a button, the hearing aid does it for you! Some hearing aids have a combination of both.

Feedback Cancellation - Feedback (or that annoying whistling sound) is the number one compaint people have about hearing aids. Most hearing aid wearers experience feedback when they put their hand over their ear, or use the phone. Feedback Cancellation will take down the amount of feedback (whistling) that you hear.

Bands / Channels - Bands are what we use to adjust the volume in a hearing aid. More bands means more control when we program the hearing aid to your hearing loss.

Channels are used to adjust the part of the hearing aid that keeps the sound from getting too loud. Channels can also refer to the hearing aid noise reduction system. For noise reduction, more channels is definitely better because the hearing aid can break the sound up into smaller pieces and isolate noise from speech.

These are the main things you need to understand about your hearing aid. If you really want the best hearing aid for you I recommend you focus on telling the hearing professional what benefits you want from your hearing aid. Tell them what frustrates you most and give them a better picture of how they can help you. Their goal is to help you hear better, and when that happens, everyone wins.

Ear Nose and Throat
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