Understanding Hearing Aid Technology Levels
A common way of classifying hearing aid technology is into “best,” “better,” “good,” “economy” and “basic” categories. The prices vary accordingly. The “best” technology has all the top of the line features and turns most of the features on and off automatically as needed; think of it like a fancy computer. Features may include multichannel adjustable noise reduction, feedback cancellation, lots of frequency bands for fine-tuning, binaural (both ears) synchronization and adaptive directional microphones, wireless connectivity, self-learning and several others. “Better” technology has a few less features, which may be less sophisticated or adjustable. “Good” technology has even fewer features and may require you to push a button to activate them, but usually has some type of noise reduction, feedback cancellation, an automatic directional microphone, binaural synchronization, and wireless connectivity. “Economy” technology is similar to but less adjustable than “good” technology, may not have wireless connectivity, and is sometimes from the previous chip-set generation. “Basic” is quite simple but typically has a fixed directional microphone, feedback cancellation, and non-adjustable noise reduction.
As technology rapidly improves, features are often added at the “best” level, and older features may trickle down to the other levels. Most technology is available in multiple styles. The technology level impacts the price much more than the style.
To help with the technology level decision, hearing aid manufacturers suggest that the level should be matched to your lifestyle—that a very active, noisy lifestyle needs “best” level, and that “good” level technology (or below) is only appropriate for a simple, quiet lifestyle. Of course, budget is always a factor, but hearing as well as possible shouldn’t be thought of as a luxury reserved for the jet-setting executive. Everyone always deserves to hear as well as possible but only you can decide how important this is. Yes, any technology can sound great in a quiet room, and you can “get by” with a lower level of technology—to the degree that you are willing and able to remember to manually activate some features for extra help in challenging listening situations (and/or to the degree that you are willing to miss out at times).
Hearing Aid Styles
The hearing aid industry offers patients more options than ever before, yet all devices find themselves in one of two categories: Behind-the-ear (BTE) and In-the-ear (ITE). Keep reading to learn about these styles and discover which design might work best for you.
Behind-the-ear (BTE) Hearing Aids
Sitting behind or on top of the outer ear, a BTE design utilizes a tube that connects to an ear mold or tip inside of your ear canal. With the widest selection of colors, sizes, features, degrees of power, and battery types, BTE’s are so small that they are often unnoticeable to others. Some of the various BTE styles include:
The smallest BTE option on the market, a Mini BTE creates a natural hearing experience through a soft tip at the end of its tubing. This encourages airflow and sound to enter into the ear along with amplified sounds.
Receiver-in-canal (RIC) or Receiver-in-the ear (RITE):
The very popular RIC style has a speaker built into the ear tip instead of the body of the device, allowing them to be small but powerful. Their size is like that of a Mini BTE and they are nearly invisible to others. Mini RICs are also an option in some cases. Custom earmolds or soft tips can be used.
BTEs with Earmolds
Patients can enjoy more features and a longer battery life with a BTE with Earmold. It uses a custom-shaped earmold at the tip of its tubing, directing sound straight to the ear canal. These devices are slightly larger and use a shape that follows the contour of your ear.
In-the-ear (ITE) Hearing Aids
Instead of resting behind the ear, ITE hearing aids sit inside of the ear using an impression for a custom fit. We offer many types of ITE styles including:
Invisible in-the-canal (IIC):
Sitting deep within the ear canal, IIC devices are the smallest hearing aids on the market and are nearly invisible to the naked eye.
Completely in-the-canal (CIC):
These devices are slightly larger than the IIC yet are still quite discreet. CIC hearing aids fit inside of your ear canal in a shallower fashion than other styles.
In-the-canal (ITC) or Half Shell:
Patients looking for features like volume control, directional microphones, and a larger battery will benefit from an ITC device. These typically sit in the lower portion of the outer ear bowl and are slightly larger than a CIC.
In-the-ear (ITE) or Full Shell:
Best for individuals with more severe hearing loss, an ITE device fills the entire outer bowl of the ear. Patients can enjoy advanced features like volume controls and longer battery life due to their larger size.
Which Hearing Aid is Right for You?
With the ever-growing list of options these days, selecting the best hearing aid for your needs can seem daunting. Many factors will be considered before determining the best model of hearing aid for you, such as:
- Your unique hearing ability
- Lifestyle requirements
- Preferences for specific features and styles
At Sound Care Audiology, we’re experts at making this an easy and straightforward process so you can find a hearing aid that best suits you.
The first step to finding the right hearing aids for you comes with a hearing evaluation. It’s our goal to reconnect you with the world again and provide clear hearing day in and day out.