Perhaps you've thought about getting a hearing aid, but you're worried about how it will look or whether it will really help. It may help ease your concerns to know more about:
Hearing aids can't restore normal hearing. They can improve your hearing by amplifying sounds that you've had trouble hearing.
All hearing aids use the same basic parts to carry sounds from the environment into your ear and make them louder. Most hearing aids are digital, and all are powered with a traditional hearing aid battery or a rechargeable battery.
Small microphones collect sounds from the environment. A computer chip with an amplifier converts the incoming sound into digital code. It analyzes and adjusts the sound based on your hearing loss, listening needs and the level of the sounds around you. The amplified signals are then converted back into sound waves and delivered to your ears through speakers, sometimes called receivers.
Hearing aids use these parts to help channel and amplify sound from your environment into your ear — microphone (detects sound), amplifier (makes sound stronger), speaker (sends sound into your ear), battery (provides power). Some also have a volume control or a program button.
Hearing aids vary a great deal in price, size, special features and the way they're placed in your ear.
The following are common hearing aid styles, beginning with the smallest, least visible in the ear. Hearing aid designers keep making smaller hearing aids to meet the demand for a hearing aid that is not very noticeable. But the smaller aids may not have the power to give you the improved hearing you may expect.
A completely-in-the-canal hearing aid is molded to fit inside your ear canal. It improves mild to moderate hearing loss in adults.
A completely-in-the-canal hearing aid:
An in-the-canal (ITC) hearing aid is custom molded and fits partly in the ear canal. This style can improve mild to moderate hearing loss in adults.
An in-the-canal hearing aid:
An in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aid is custom made in two styles — one that fills most of the bowl-shaped area of your outer ear (full shell) and one that fills only the lower part (half shell). Both are helpful for people with mild to severe hearing loss and are available with directional microphones (two microphones for better hearing in noise).
An in-the-ear hearing aid:
A behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid hooks over the top of your ear and rests behind the ear. A tube connects the hearing aid to a custom earpiece called an ear mold that fits in your ear canal. This type is appropriate for people of all ages and those with almost any type of hearing loss.
A behind-the-ear hearing aid:
The receiver-in-canal (RIC) and receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) styles are similar to a behind-the-ear hearing aid with the speaker or receiver that sits in the ear canal. A tiny wire, rather than tubing, connects the piece behind the ear to the speaker or receiver.
A receiver-in-canal hearing aid:
An open-fit hearing aid is a variation of the behind-the-ear hearing aid with a thin tube or the receiver-in-the-canal or receiver-in-the-ear hearing aid with an open dome in the ear. This style keeps the ear canal very open, allowing for low-frequency sounds to enter the ear naturally and for high-frequency sounds to be amplified through the hearing aid. This makes the style a good choice for people with better low-frequency hearing and mild to moderate high-frequency hearing loss.
An open-fit hearing aid:
Many choices of hearing aid styles are available, including: completely in the canal (A), in the canal (B), in the ear (C), behind the ear (D), receiver in the canal or receiver in the ear (E), and open fit (F).
Some optional features of hearing aids improve your ability to hear in specific situations:
When looking for a hearing aid, explore your options to understand what type of hearing aid will work best for you. Also:
Plan for the expense. The cost of hearing aids varies widely — from about $1,500 to more than a few thousand dollars each. Professional fees, remote controls, hearing aid accessories and other hearing aid options may cost extra. Talk to your audiologist about your needs and expectations.
Some private insurance policies cover part or all of the cost of hearing aids — check your policy to be sure. Medicare doesn't cover the cost of hearing aids for adults. In many states, private insurers are required to pay for hearing aids for children. Medical assistance covers hearing aids in most states. If you're a veteran, you may be able to get your hearing aid at no cost through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Getting used to a hearing aid takes time. You'll likely notice that your listening skills improve gradually as you become accustomed to amplification. Even your own voice sounds different when you wear a hearing aid.
When first using a hearing aid, keep these points in mind:
Your success with hearing aids will be helped by wearing them regularly and taking good care of them. In addition, an audiologist can tell you about new hearing aids and devices that become available. He or she can also help you make changes to meet your needs. The goal is that, in time, you find a hearing aid you're comfortable with and that enhances your ability to hear and communicate.