Which Hearing Aid Styles Are the Best?
Having the right type of hearing aid can significantly improve the quality of your life, but with so many to choose between, it can be difficult to know where to start!
If you’re not dealing with the right team of audiologists, the process of getting a hearing aid can feel overwhelming — so it’s no surprise that the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) reports that almost 48 million Americans experience hearing loss, but only 1 in 5 people actually use a hearing aid.
With the right experts helping you, coming forward to have your hearing tested is the first step you’ll need to take on your hearing loss journey — the rest can be easy!
What is a hearing aid?
A hearing aid is a small electronic device that sits behind or inside your ear, enabling you to hear sounds better and improve the overall quality of your audio communication. For a hearing aid to work, external sounds move through a tiny microphone and are converted into a digital signal that the hearing aid user receives directly into their ear.
A professional audiologist will be able to identify what kind of hearing loss you’re experiencing and customize your hearing aid to ensure that the miniature loudspeaker fitted inside the device transmits the best quality sound for you.
What hearing aid styles are available?
Despite many variations in style and specifications, hearing aids can be split into two main categories. One type of hearing aid goes behind the ear, and the other is a custom hearing aid that’s designed to sit inside the ear canal. Both categories of hearing aid are now commonly seen, but many patients (including 95% of our patients) opt to use the behind-the-ear style.
The on-the-ear style is also known as a “receiver-in-canal” (RIC) hearing aid and sits on top of your ear with a tiny wire running discreetly into the ear canal. The tiny wire has an in-built microphone that delivers sound directly to the user, offering clarity and volume to suit your hearing requirements. As far as comfort goes, RIC devices have been significantly improved in recent years to ensure that users almost forget that they’re wearing anything on their ears at all!
Custom hearing aids sit inside the ear canal and are noticeably smaller than RIC hearing aids. Unlike RIC hearing aids, custom hearing aids will require an audiologist to take an impression of your ear and send it to a manufacturer to be built. Users of this type of hearing aid also claim to forget that they’re wearing a device, but it’s important that your audiologist correctly carries out the impression to ensure a snug fit.
To identify the best type of hearing aid for you, an audiologist will evaluate your individual needs and recommend an option that works best for your lifestyle and level of hearing loss.
What are the benefits of RIC hearing aids?
In addition to significant improvements in comfort, hearing aids now offer more advanced technological features than ever before. Some models can even withstand water, making it possible for you to enjoy everyday activities while using a hearing aid.
In the case of RIC hearing aids, users can avail of many benefits that have been fine-tuned in recent years.
Some of these benefits include:
- RIC hearing aids are less prone to feedback or “squealing”
- More space is available for technological features, including Bluetooth and T coil antennas (more about those later!)
- RIC devices can replace your landline phone by offering much clearer calls via cell phone streaming and eliminating interference
- The device doesn’t block the ear canal, creating a more natural sound for users
- For mild to moderate hearing loss, RIC devices offer great clarity of sound for music lovers by capturing a full range of sound
Bluetooth features and compatibility with your phone
The Bluetooth and wireless capabilities of RIC hearing aids mean that they are compatible with an app on your smartphone that you can use to adjust your hearing aids to best suit your environment. The phone app that connects with your RIC hearing aid is designed to be extremely user-friendly, helping you get the most out of your hearing aid at the touch of a button.
One of the biggest benefits of having an app on your smartphone to control your hearing aids is that it can also be used as a remote microphone. The remote microphone mode picks up sounds via your phone and delivers them straight to your hearing aids from a distance — a popular feature for those attending events where there is a lot of background noise or when a speaker is far away.
If you don’t own a smartphone or are unsure about how to use such a device, your audiologist will be able to advise you on a more suitable way to manage your hearing aids in-between appointments.
Do top-rated RIC hearing aids use more batteries?
The good news is, even with all of the high-tech features that RIC devices offer, their batteries are rechargeable! It only takes about 3 hours to charge the lithium-ion batteries inside the device, and with every charge lasting about 24 hours, you don’t have to worry about your device letting you down. There are also portable charging packs available that will keep your device going for 3 to 6 days if you know you’ll be without a power outlet for a few days.
Can RIC hearing aids be connected to sound in public venues?
One of the best features to be developed in hearing aids in recent years is the ability to connect some RIC models to T coil loop systems. T coils are used in public venues such as theaters, auditoriums, court rooms, public transportation, airports and more. By changing the program on your hearing aid, you can gain access to a specific venue's sound system. This allows for important information to become more accessible to those experiencing hearing loss and helps configure the clarity of entertainment-based sounds.
Some people even choose to have a loop system installed in their living room to connect to their entertainment devices automatically!
Should I choose a custom hearing aid instead of the RIC device?
If the RIC hearing device is not suitable for your needs, your audiologist might recommend a custom, in-ear hearing aid.
In most cases, custom hearing aids are recommended for people who:
- Have less space behind their ears for an external device to sit
- Experience issues with dexterity or numbness and would struggle to take the RIC device on and off
- Would prefer an almost undetectable hearing device
While there are several benefits for users with specific needs, it’s also worth remembering that smaller devices will offer less space for wireless features. Due to the small size of custom hearing aids, less of these devices are able to effectively house many of the features that RIC devices currently offer. Some manufacturers have recently made it possible to control smaller devices via a specific phone app, but the level of features will depend on how large your custom hearing aid can be made.
Custom hearing aids can also only hold the smallest battery size, lasting approximately 3 to 5 days — but some manufacturers are now offering rechargeable batteries for larger custom devices. As hearing aid devices are constantly being updated by manufacturers, further improvements to custom hearing aids (even for small ears!) are no doubt imminent.
If you found this blog helpful and you’d still like to know more about the type of hearing aid that might be best for you, you can schedule a hearing test.
Click here to schedule an appointment or call 916-646-2471.
Your hearing doesn’t have to hold you back!
Interested in learning more? Attend one of our regular hearing solution events to learn more about our unique approach to hearing loss or give us a call at 916-646-2471.Contact Us Now