Our hearing aid comparison delves into the many styles and features you'll encounter on the hearing aid market today.
And have we ever come a long way since the clunky devices of days gone by! Nowadays, your research will discover that these devices are really tiny, wearable toolboxes, with microprocessors making split-second decisions so that your hearing is more natural and comfortable.
Understanding which tools you might want in which toolbox helps you make a good choice, which is really the intention of this hearing aid comparison article.
First, we discuss the toolboxes...
The latest advancements in the hearing aid field includes the new Invisible in the Canal, or IIC, segment, which has a plethora of new products coming out for people who feel the need to not have their hearing aids be seen.
As the name implies, these sit so far down the ear canal as to not be seen, or barely be seen, from the outside. More info about this latest niche can be found in our invisible hearing aids roundup.
The least expensive, easiest-to-fit, and longest-wearing hearing aids are BTE, or behind-the-ear, style. A plastic housing sits above and behind the ear, containing all the working parts. A clear tubular extension of the housing aims the sound ear-ward, or a thin plastic tube carries it to an earmold inside the ear. BTEs serve most types of hearing loss, are least vulnerable to moisture and earwax, and come in the greatest variety of colors and decorative options.
A variation on the BTE, the receiver-in-canal (RIC) style offers a cosmetic advantage by putting the receiver in the ear, resulting in smaller behind-the-ear housing. The housing modulates the sound and sends it through a very thin wire to be emitted in the ear.
The BTE and RIC styles can be open-fitted, allowing air to pass and reduce the clogged-ear feeling. Over-the-ear (OTE) hearing aids are explicitly designed as open-fit and, like RIC, have a very small housing over the ear.
Hearing aid styles that reside entirely within the ear are custom-fitted and more expensive. Large ones filling the outermost ear (ITE or in-the-ear) help most levels of hearing loss. Smaller ones (in-the-canal or ITC) sit low in the outer ear and are less visible. Mini-canal (MIC) and completely-in-canal (CIC) designs are virtually invisible. ITC, MIC, and CIC hearing aids are for mild to moderate hearing losses.
Now you know about the toolboxes. Lets talk about the tools that we've been exposed to in our hearing aid comparison, many of which are different mini-programs to modulate sound in different ways. Inexpensive hearing aids may have just a few programs of merely adequate quality. A higher price implies more features and automation. For example, you may want to assess your own environments and choose appropriate hearing aid programs, or you might prefer to have the device do it automatically.
From one provider to another, the names of features are similar enough that you can compare and contrast devices. For example, special circuits to detect and enhance speech may be called Speech Enhancement, SpeechGuard, or Speech Preservation by different makers. Other programs reduce crowd noise, feedback or wind noise, optimize the telephone or music listening, or damp out sharp, jarring sounds. Twin hearing aids may communicate and adjust separately for best effect. Adaptive directional microphones turn to face sounds of interest. Streamers plug into audio devices and transmit directly to nearby hearing aids. Use your telephone to adjust hearing aids, or order a remote control. Batteries come in several color-coded sizes; ensure that you can change them.
Your lifestyle, your budget and the type of your hearing loss should guide you in selecting which little toolbox and tools you need to help your hearing. The plethora of hearing aid models found here in our hearing aid comparison should give you much more confidence in knowing what's out there.